You are Not a Trained Monkey. Stop Interviewing Like One.

Today, I dashed the hopes of someone who believed that following all the standard career service advice would get them a job. Folks, it’s a crapshoot. What impresses one hiring supervisor might piss off another. Just be yourself and at least then if you get the job, you know they hired you for you and not the carefully trained monkey you were trying to be.

I’m not saying it’s a waste of time to learn how to put together a good resume and proofread your cover letter, and learn things like don’t go to an interview drunk or dressed like a hooker. But most job-seeking advice overlooks one really important aspect of the process: the dude (or dudes) making the actual hiring decision. Job candidates seem to think that those of us who make hiring decisions are looking for and responding to the same things, in the same ways. That we are always in sync with what your career advisers are saying we want. We are the crazy variables that you cannot account for.

Example: I might love the candidate that came to the interview with a list of questions about where I work because I see they took the time to learn about us, and they want to know more. The other person interviewing might write them off because they wore a plain shirt and khakis instead of a suit, which to them indicates they aren’t serious about the job and/or aren’t professional. You are probably thinking, maybe a candidate should do both (as well as all the other little nuggets of interviewing wisdom out there). Then we get someone trying so hard to follow this mental checklist of candidate perfection that their personality doesn’t shine through and we think they have the soul of a bucket of dirt. Who wants to work with a bucket of dirt? Too much personality showing through? That’s either awesome if you connect with someone on your same wavelength or OHMYGOD, how could I stand to work with them!

What prompted all this today was a question about a phone interview a friend is going to do (or has done by now), and what kind of phone interview questions could be expected. As usual when she comes to me with job search advice, I was little help because I don’t believe in black and white answers to any of this. Even in one profession, each company will still have varying levels of standards, timelines, and interference from Human Resources. Some places are given a set of HR-approved questions to ask, others get to ask whatever they want (within legal reason). Some like the suit, some like the energy, some like your nose piercing, some like that you come from East Bejeezuzus Louisiana. There’s no way to tell.

I’m not saying to go into an interview not giving a shit, but to a certain extent, you have to not give a shit in order to relax and get your point across that you are the person for the job. Don’t try to be all things to all people, be yourself. Because living a lie that you are someone you are not will get exhausting real quick, not to mention disappointing for the people who hired you when you give up and let the freak flag fly.

Postscript after thinking about this a little more: Further reason to not interview like a monkey is that no one is going to hire someone who flings poo. Unless someone is hiring for poo flinging and if so, sign me up because I can sling some serious bullshit.


About deepfriedyankee

I am a parade of one. A seeker of bathtubmarys. A lover of Mardi Gras, bacon and marbles. I have the patience of a saint. A very, very flawed saint.
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3 Responses to You are Not a Trained Monkey. Stop Interviewing Like One.

  1. Mandy says:

    Very true. That’s why when people ask me how I’ve done on an interview, it’s hard for me to answer that. Because I have certainly had times when I thought it went well and I never heard from them again. Or times when I really couldn’t read it or didn’t think it went well at all and then got a call. Plus you never know what you’re up against from the competition.

  2. The last phone interview I did was for my job at the Boston Globe. And let me just confess that I wasn’t that great in the interview , and I stressed a lot afterwards about not getting the job. But, of course, I did get the job, which I think might be evidence that I write so much about career advice that I am becoming way too hard on myself.

  3. Kelley Bode says:

    Thank you for being the first person in your type of position to actually admit that! I am so tired of people telling me exactly what I need to say. I dress up and all, but if someone asks me a question, I will answer it honestly. I am incapable of doing the whole thing of listing perfectionist as a weakness.

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