Have you heard the statement that ‘they didn’t hear what I said’. This happens more often than you think in a job interview, or on a phone interview. The problem is, the interviewer has no intention of clarifying the situation. It is your responsibility to ‘say what you mean, and mean what you say.’

The problem arises when cultural, age, and education differences change our perspective. The younger generations are more concerned with emotions. The older generations are more concerned with financial matters. Many people gain their greatest value from family. Others value things acquired. Others value experiences. Each of these base values alter how we hear the message behind someone’s words.

Another problem is repeating clichés. Every Miss America wants world peace and to help the sick children. The message has been said so often that it has become ‘white noise.’ No one really believes it anymore, because no Miss America has ever taken an active stand to fight for either of these causes.

The same happens within a job interview. Certain topics are discussed so often that the listener tunes out as soon as you start talking.

1. Make It Better

Most of the time when a management candidate says ‘make _______ better’ they are talking about something emotional. While this may be important between a waitress or cleaning team, it dilutes a manager’s ability to focus on the financial aspect of the business.

I always want to counter this statement with ‘nice guys finish last.’ I am as committed to improving the world as the next person. But the job interview is not the place to take a stand.

2. Social life

I admire anyone who is committed to their family. Not so impressed if your loyalty is to friends. Either way, when you talk about your friends or family to me I hear ‘I am more committed to my _______ than I am to the job. I am just giving you notice of my priorities now.’

That said, if you talk about your pets or vacation then you immediately drop your resume to the bottom of the stack.

I do want to know that you have a network, a support group, and people to help you stay balanced. Also tell me that you can leave them at home. I want to know that you won’t spend ¼ of the day texting your friends and family instead of working to make deadlines.

3. Social Issues

I believe the country needs more child care and to lower taxes. I don’t want to hear about it in a job interview unless it is to tell me how you organized a rally to raise funds for an inner city child care facility.

Politics is touchy. If you tell me about a great project you managed for the local candidate, helping them get elected I may be impressed. I may also worry because a federal election is coming up in 8 months so campaigning will start soon.

If you are going to talk about successes with social issues set your limits. Do not say ‘it won’t interfere with work. Never be vague when you are in a job interview. Instead, tell me that your social issues usually take less than 5 hours a week, and that they are flexible enough to accommodate staying at work late to complete a project.

4. Leisure Time

I catch a lot of people here, usually on social media. If your social media reveals a tight group of friends who are always together then I will believe that you will probably leave work early to attend a party, or take time off for a group vacation.

I also am wary of people who plaster vacation pictures and plans on their social media. Everyone needs a vacation.  I ask about vacations and candidates either ramble on about how wonderful your last vacation was, or worse, remain elusive. When this happens I hear, ‘I spend hours at work scoping out locations for my next vacation.’

Avoid these four things in a job interview and you will avoid my personal biggest red flags.


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