Jul 21, 2015

What not to do during an interview (part II)

Confident vs. aggressive, relaxed vs. indifferent

Author: Oana Bucurica

In my last article, I’ve shared a recruiting experience that shows just how difficult it can be to exhibit self-confidence, without appearing aggressive; it’s probably best to just be yourself, whether you’re more introverted, or of a more talkative nature. But there’s another attitude I’d like to discuss, one which I’ve also often seen being misused during the interviewing process.

Relaxed vs. indifferent

Have you ever tried to look calm and relaxed when you were feeling nervous? I have. It’s nearly impossible. I was like a lagging computer, with slow internet connection, while loading a webpage with a lot of moving graphics. I was wondering if the other person perceived me as nervous as I felt. Probably every confident and experienced professional felt nervous some years back, when they attended their first-ever job interview. We’ve all been there. With time, most of us become less anxious about interviews, by gaining experience and having proof that we can add value – our level of interview-anxiety is mostly opposite to our level of experience. Of course, some people instinctively feel more relaxed than others during interviews, while the rest of us just sort of learn to deal with them as we go.

It’s reasonable to want to ‘fake carefreeness until it comes natural’ and not appear too nervous during your interview. However, while genuine easy-goingness is not in any way offensive in a professional environment, too much and too staged of a relaxed attitude might be perceived as indifference.

When candidates don’t return my calls, after having agreed to come to an interview, only to call me back three days later, claiming they don’t remember applying, I don’t feel like I’m talking to a busy professional who must be in high demand, I feel frustrated and dismissed. It takes less than five minutes of your busy business day to be polite and return my call or write me a few lines back on my email, after you yourself have agreed to take part in this conversation.

When candidates arrive late for an interview, sometimes as much as half an hour late, I don’t feel honored that they’ve fit a meeting with me in their extremely busy schedule, I feel like they don’t want the job, but have me invest my time anyway. I’m much more at ease with those nervous, junior candidates who arrive twenty minutes early – at least I can be certain that they’re eager to get the job.

If a candidate arrives completely unprepared, not knowing absolutely anything about the company s/he’s applied to, s/he doesn’t appear relaxed, but indifferent and dispassionate – after all, I do my side of the research, by reading your resume and trying to match you with the right project, it’s only legit that you’d show the same level of interest and motivation.

It’s true that being relaxed makes your conversation with the interviewer more fruitful, by making it easier for them to get to know you a little as a professional, but an indifferent attitude accomplishes nothing of the sort. Will I automatically conclude that you lack confidence in your skills if I notice you’re nervous during the interview? Not unless I’ve just begun my career as a recruiter yesterday, and I completely lack empathy. Even if you take a bit of time to find the right words, I know this has nothing to do with your actual development skills. Will I automatically conclude that your indifference means you don’t really want the job I’m recruiting for? Yes, absolutely, every single time. And if I had to choose between two candidates of identical expertise and seniority level, with one of them motivated and nervous, and the other one indifferent, I’d choose the motivated candidate every time. We all like to see passion in those we work with, and motivated people do a better job than their equally qualified, but disinterested counterparts – if you care, you look for the best solution, and never settle for anything short of your best.

Do you feel nervous about interviews? Have you met someone who was trying to appear relaxed to the point of indifference? Share your experience with me, and follow us on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter or Google+ for more insights into our culture.

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