TO NOT do in an Interview – Part 1

I almost murdered someone today.

I mean, I didn’t really, since he lives in Louisiana and I’m on the West Coast, but in my head, his skin was lampshade material and his teeth were halfway to a charmingly macabre necklace.

I work for a tutoring company.

I hire tutors.

I talk to a lot of people each day. Phone interviews are scheduled 4 to an hour and the idea is that 1 in 4 will miss their appointment, giving me time to complete three 15 minute screens with time left over to complete my notes and either schedule their second interview or justify and classify their rejection. I do about 3 face-to-face interviews a day (online of course, I work from home) and these should be about 40 minutes of screening, 15 minutes of walking them through next steps, and 5 minutes wrapping up notes, or preparing for my next appointment.

Now, I’m a pretty nice person. If I have time I will answer as many questions as possible. I will level with you on realistic expectations. I will allow moments for you to be human. I’ll encourage you and remind you that you can always add subjects you need to review back into your list at a later date. I genuinely enjoy most of the people that I interview on some level.

I used to be a tutor. They want to help kids learn which takes WAY more effort than flipping chemically separated patties. It awesome.

BUT some people just bend my last nerve, and once they hit that point, they are not going to be put through.

I may not turn them into lampshades, but I will denote every tiny grammar error in their application. I will give them no leeway on silly mistakes in their math problems. If they forget that a ball falling back to earth with have an acceleration of NEGATIVE 9.81m/s squared, I will list it as incorrect without hesitation or benefit of the doubt.

Now having conducted THOUSANDS (literally) of interviews and compared notes with my fellow recruiters, I consider myself something of an expert on the subject of interviews. To help anyone out there looking for work, I present the following list of things to never EVER, goddamn EVER (see where it says ever? EVER!) do in an interview:

Not showing up/showing up late with no excuse: This should go without saying and yet my company’s schedules are set up based on the fact that a solid 30% of people miss their interviews. We have 4 calls to make in an hour based on the idea that usually one of them doesn’t show. For phone interviews we call twice and leave a voicemail both times. For in person interviews we call twice, leave a voicemail, and resend your confirmation email.

My first reaction when someone misses an interview is always “In THIS economy??” My second is that it’s rude. We give people every opportunity to cancel or reschedule their appointments before the fact. They don’t even have to talk to us to do it. There are links built into your scheduling confirmations to do it over the internet. Its rude to us, and it takes up scheduling slots that could have gone to people who were serious about working with us. No shows get rejected, but we do consider rescheduling them if they call in. The bigger pet peeve here is people who show up late, or miss their first or even second call and call back in late and then DON’T EXPLAIN OR APOLOGIZE.

If you call in late and tell me you overslept, or your phone was on silent, or you forgot, okay, fine I will make a note and move on. It happens, you’re human, you may not be as reliable as I’d like, but we can move on. No explanation, to me, says you are unpunctual AND unrepentant about it. It says my time is not important. It says you’re unreliable and you’re not trying to do anything different. If you are not ON POINT in every other area of your interview, you’re not getting put through.

Clothing: I know, I know. I’m the last person who should be bashing people on what they wear given the towel with a cardigan episode. BUT. If I can manage to be professional from the waist up for ten hours a day, you can manage for 45 minutes for our interview. Speaking from experience, it does not take very much time or effort.

Being casual is one thing. If you’re overly casual it’s fine. Most people will be working with kids. You don’t need business casual to teach fractions at the local library. But if I see 50% or more of your boobs and you’re in spaghetti straps you had better be Florence freaking Nightingalesque with your science know-how. That goes for men, too. If you’re missing your sleeves or the ‘V’ in your tee shirt is so low I’m seeing nipple you are not getting put through. Gender equality, bitch!

If you are wear a hoodie and that hoodie is up, you are not getting through. This is not Freedom Writers, you are not Hilary Swank. I am not some hoodrat youth you are trying to convince of your street cred so they’ll learn from you. Get your act together.

And if you have something printed on your tee shirt that is not absolutely 100% G-rated I will not put you through. You would think this goes without saying but I have seen so many curse words and scantily clad (/not clad) women in interviews it is not even a joke anymore.

Involving your pets or children: It’s shocking how many times I have been made to greet small animals and children during my interview. Cats, chihuahuas, bunnies. One guy ran across his room to scoop up his cat before holding her up to the screen and demanding that I say hello and tell her she’s a pretty girl.

Similarly, I have had multiple applicants bring their children onscreen and have little Timmy or Susan beg me to give mommy or daddy the job. At which point I usually get to lie to small children and feel like an a$$hole for the rest of the day.

DONT DO IT. If you wouldn’t bring your pet into an office for an interview, don’t bring them onscreen. Same with children.

Cursing: I have a potty mouth. If you’ve read anything here, you know I curse like a landbound sailor and don’t feel too bad about it. But I worked with children for years as a nanny and as a tutor and I always managed to keep my swearing under wraps. I CERTAINLY never cursed in an interview. Yet, for some reason, people seem to think it’s acceptable to say everything from “oh sh-t” over not knowing an answer to “I’m pretty damn good at-” whatever subject we’re talking about.

In my line of work, the more casually the swear words slide off your tongue in front of me, the more horrified I become at the prospect of setting you up with a client. I used to do tutor matching. I have talked to irate customers whose tutor did or said something inappropriate. If you curse in front of me, I am going to assume you’ll slip up in front of them and that won’t be the MAIN reason I don’t put you through but the professionalism concern is going to lose you enough points that nothing else is going to save you.

Eating: Have you ever listened to someone eating something moist and chewy through iPhone earbuds while taking smacking pauses and then attempting to talk through and around whatever’s in their mouth? No? Lucky you. It’s part of my job on a daily basis.

And no matter how many times I find myself in a phone interview with an eater, I’ve never found myself not contemplating a murder.

It’s not even just the phone interviews, either. I’ve had people wrestle open a bag of Cheetos on screen and dig in. I see people drinking everything from water, to soda, to coffee, to beer and wine in the face to face interview. On what planet is that okay??

As a child I was taught not to eat in front of people. I was also taught to chew with my mouth closed and not talk with my mouth full. Most of the people who eat on their interviews with me do ALL THREE AT ONCE. Part of it peeves me because it’s annoying, another because it’s rude, and third because I cannot eat during interviews.

I will get in trouble if I’m caught eating or if my coffee cup is in frame on an interview. If a phone interview is recorded and I’m eating I would get written up so fast my head would spin. I’m literally trapped at my desk for most of the day unable to eat or drink outside of assigned break periods and these people can’t even suck it up for 15 minutes per phone screen or 50 minutes for an online interview. It bothers me to my core.

If you’re eating when you speak to me, unless you are God’s gift to tutoring from an Ivy League university with test prep experience and a teaching certificate your application is getting flagged as unprofessional and I will not put you through.

DON’T DO IT.

And we’re going to nip this one here and call it Part 1 because there are more things to not do in and interview, but we’re not even halfway through and I’m all agitated! So enjoy, don’t do this to your interviewers, and I’ll see you next time.

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