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Jul 07, 2015

What not to do during an interview (part I)

Confident vs. aggressive, relaxed vs. indifferent

Author: Oana Bucurica

As a recruiter, I feel in doubt about peoples’ attitudes during an interviewing or screening phase considerably more often than I do about their resumes. While I’m sure most people have the best intentions in mind, the way they behave can sometimes come-off as unprofessional without their knowing.

Confident vs. aggressive

A healthy dose of confidence endorses your self-confidence, but there’s a negative side to this, a side you don’t want to slip into.

I’ve recently had a candidate come into an interview chewing gum in a rather ostentatious manner. My first thought was ‘He must be nervous’, so I invited him to have a seat and eased into the interview with a bit of the usual harmless small talk. He sat down, legs spread out and hand to his chin, as if bored, and gave minimalistic, forced responses to my attempts at conversation, so I decided to get started.

I began explaining the interviewing process and the steps we were about to take. Just into my first sentence, there was a short beep sound. Without awarding me a single glance, he pulled out his phone and started texting, ignoring my explanations as if I were the radio in a mall. He refused to answer any of my technical questions, arguing that they’re too technical for a non-tech to understand – even though we recruiters thoroughly research our topics of interest. At this point, I must admit I felt rather confused.

Later on, the candidate confessed that he wasn’t really interested in a job change, nor does he know who we are and what we do – he was just there out of curiosity. While I do respect the sentiment, did I really need to know that? You might not be looking for a job right now – that doesn’t mean you won’t be looking for one sometime in the future, at which time, should your name come-up, I’ll be inclined not to take you seriously. If you’re not taking me seriously, it’s natural I’d later feel the same about a potential collaboration.

I appreciate a more confident candidate – you have skills and expertise, and you’re not ashamed to act like it. I don’t mind an introverted, more nervous candidate either – it’s possible meeting new people in a screening circumstance makes you a bit apprehensive, and that’s alright, it’s my job to know the difference between ‘slightly nervous’ and ‘inexperienced’. What I don’t appreciate, however, are aggressive candidates. Nobody does. It doesn’t make you look self-confident, it makes you look just the opposite. If you’re self-confident, you’ve got nothing to prove, so conversation is polite and natural.

Though admittedly a bit towards the extreme side of the spectrum regarding attitudes, I hope the story of my experience with this candidate illustrates how difficult it is to walk the fine line between confidence and aggression, in order not to appear unprofessional – too much of a good thing always ends-up being questionable. In the second part of this article, we’ll be looking at how being overly-relaxed about the interviewing process can make a candidate appear indifferent.

In the meantime, I’d like to know your thoughts on this: does exhibiting pleasant confidence come natural to you, or would you rather just let your resume do the convincing? Have you met people who were trying too hard at showing self-confidence? Share your thoughts with me, and follow us on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter or Google+ for more insights into our culture.

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