7 things to avoid saying during a selection interview

With the recovery of the recruitment market, I select more candidates than I have had for a long time. The majority of the candidates I speak to have not looked for a job in years. I don’t blame applicants for being a little rusty on their interview skills. I have to admit that I am a little frustrated with the responses I get from some people. You have to remember that I interview people for a living. The more I am in this industry, the more I am direct with applicants. I don’t try to piss off applicants as much as I try to help applicants. Last year, I wrote 10 Questions Recruiters Ask in a Job Interview, which is the most popular and most read article on Bulls Eye Recruiting to date. This year I have to go deeper and talk about some of the ridiculous things I hear and hope you don’t make the same mistakes.

There are things we just don’t say. There are some things you just don’t do in a screening interview. The examples I will give are TRUE. They have happened and, more importantly, they continue to happen. If you don’t move on to the next round of interviews, you might not even realize what you’re doing. I know you might be a perfect fit for a job, and as a third-party recruiter, I want to help. I know I’m not the only one calling you and I sincerely want to help you succeed.

  1. “I got fired” – Seriously – this shit happens. People, I know things are happening to you. We are in 2015. There are “layoffs of companies”, there are “restructurings”, companies “lose their funding”. All 3 are very good answers. Please for Moses’ sake don’t tell me you got fired. You are only reducing your credibility. I’m telling you, make it run a little better than that. You don’t have to lie, but getting fired is a very bad answer.
  2. “My boss sucks” – Okay, don’t be a fool here. Telling me that you can’t work with others isn’t the smartest thing you’ve ever done. Tell me about the things you learned. The good relationships you have built. Tell me about the positives of your work. Don’t start on a negative. Turn a negative into a positive.
  3. “I can speak after 5 or before 8” – Listen, I understand. You are busy. You have a life. You have a job. I am a recruiter and I take calls whenever I can. There is only a limited number of calls I can make before 8 am or after 5. If you don’t take the initiative, the next candidate who does will crush you in this candidate market. If you wait too many days to speak to a manager or recruiter, candidates who took the time during office hours will potentially get the job first.
  4. “I forgot” – There is nothing more like fingers on a board that I forgot. Believe me when I tell you, it makes you feel like you don’t have it together. If you have an interview scheduled, put it on your calendar and be available. I understand when things happen and if you have had a conflict. Life is coming. Don’t lie and try to go back. You are going to get caught. It will cost you a job opportunity and your credibility.
  5. “I don’t want” OR “I can’t” – I’m looking for the best of the best. I don’t want to hire people who say these things. Again, I would rather hear “I’m open to learning” or “here’s an example of what I did when I didn’t have the skills”. Don’t be defeatist. You are not my candidate if you say these things.
  6. “My LinkedIn Profile is My CV” – By 2015 you should have a great LinkedIn CV. You should also have an up-to-date CV. If you are passive or active looking for a new job, you should consider writing your CV. You never really know when a recruiter is going to call you and offer you the job of your dreams. In 2014, there were more jobs created than any year since 1999. You should always have your resume handy.
  7. “Sounds good. I’m interested” – So if you’re not interested in the job, don’t go ahead! Be honest with yourself. There’s nothing more that pisses me off than someone who goes through the screening interview and says he wants to take the next steps and is nowhere to be found after you’ve spoken. You don’t have to commit if you’re not sure. deal with someone who thinks about the opportunity and explores more.

Hope these things have helped. I know they seem basic, but they happen too often. Passing the selection interview is only the first step. Once you get past that, you have a plethora of additional questions. If you somehow skip to the next rounds and say these things, you won’t get very far. Believe me.



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