When I published a book in 2000 saying that job hunting was like dating (Resumes the get shortlisted, by Jim Bright and Jo Earl, Allen & Unwin), I never expected the reverse situation to occur, but apparently my esteemed Herald colleague and expert in all matters sexual, Samantha Brett, thinks so. In a column in the Sydney Morning Herald in 2008 (Turn-offs on the first date, SMH, Friday 30th May), she begins “with first dates feeling more like gruelling job interviews…I’ve decided to help out singletons who are finding it a bit of a struggle”. (Since then a job hunting book based upon the metaphor of dating has been published too, and a google search of blogs finds the idea cropping up all over the place- this metaphor is the new careers socially transmitted disease!!). Now while glossing over why a happily married man like me should be reading Sam’s columns (I only read it for the pictures..), I realised that Sam may have a second career in the sexy world of careers advice, because her tips on dating turn offs all apply equally to job hunting. So lets get to grips with Sam’s tips.
1. Don’t be late. Almost guaranteed to kill your prospects at an interview. Saying you got caught out by traffic/public transport doesn’t cut it these days, savvy people expect it to be an ordeal getting anywhere in Sydney and leave the week before to arrive on time.
He’s rude to the waiters. Sam thinks such people have no respect or common decency, and recruiters are likely to think the same. In careers-speak this means don’t be rude to anyone associated with the organisation you are applying to, and more generally think twice about it in terms of reputational harm at any stage of your career.
He talks about his ex. First date conversations should always be devoid of ex-speak. Exactly the same goes for interviews. Getting into long and involved stories about how you were misunderstood, overlooked and generally done wrong to by your previous or current employer is not a sexy look in an interview. Better to say that all was great, but now is the time to find new challenges, and that you left on good terms.
Don’t go Dutch! Apparently men who don’t for dinner first up are emotionally stingy. In interview terms, don’t make a great fuss about claiming expenses associated with getting to the interview – sure if you are being flown interstate that is generally (but not always) at the employers expense, but demanding the reimbursement of a bus ticket is not a good look, unless you got on the bus in Perth…
Too needy. I have been on interview panels where the applicant has literally begged for the job. It is an unedifying and frankly unsettling experience, and is almost certain to raise questions in the minds of the recruiters.
Anti-feminine. This related to men apparently not liking women being inconsistent in their roles – i.e. wanting to be taken out to dinner (man pays) but not wanting to cook for him. The career equivalent is demonstrating an inconsistency in the role expectations you have of an employer. For instance demanding that you be given flexible hours but complaining that members of your team are “never there”.
Too ditzy. It is interview poison to present as immature, disorganised, eccentric or otherwise whacky. Interviewers haven’t got the time to look behind the ditziness or make allowances. It is not their role. Ditch the ditzy act.
The interviewer. While it is good, even essential to have some questions to ask of the interviewer, it can be a high risk strategy to try to turn the tables and fire a lot of pre-prepared questions at the recruiter. It is fine if you really want to come across as assertive – arrogant even – but appreciate that such behaviour is unusual and could be interpreted by insecure interviews as impertinent, up yourself or indifference.
Unhealthy. I can still to this day recall the applicant who insisted on sharing a blow by blow account of his piles with a panel desperately trying to get the conversation onto higher ground. Never offer comments about your health unless specifically asked.
Presentation. Sadly there is a lot of research suggesting that appearances at interview carry a lot of weight (not unlike me in fact!). Attending to your appearance is important, and getting clothes that fit properly and minimise bulges etc are a good investment in your career. Simple tips here include not wearing blue shirts if you perspire a lot – stick to white. Take a good quality deodorant with you and apply it in the lavatory before you interview. Wear a good quality subtle cologne.
Applying for a job is like dating, ultimately you want the employer at the end of the process to say, “where have you been all of my life”.