It’s natural that job seekers want to make themselves look as good as possible. That desire can cause some strange, counterproductive, and even unethical behavior … as I learned from clients and colleagues in recent conversations!
Here are the lessons learned:
It’s common and quite natural to frame your stories to show yourself in the most favorable light. But be careful not to embellish, stretch, or misstate the facts. Even years after the fact, it can come back to haunt you. (Brian Williams comes to mind.)
KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE
A client was a candidate for a promotion that involved an interview with the board. “I walked into the room and realized I knew everyone there. And they knew me. I really had to watch what I was saying because I didn’t want to unintentionally offend anyone by overlooking their contributions. I certainly couldn’t say or even imply anything negative about the company, the board, or other executives. I was thrown off my game because I hadn’t prepared for that scenario.”
A similar situation could occur if you are interviewing with a close competitor – you’ll want to be careful how much you reveal about your company. Or perhaps you’re meeting with a hiring manager who is connected to your boss – you’ll need to think about how you portray him or her.
The lesson is to prepare ahead of time. Before every interview, think about who you’ll be talking to. Do you need to guard any information, protect any individuals, or change the tone of a particular story? Don’t wing it – practice and prepare.
MIND YOUR MANNERS
A friend was telling me about her experience interviewing candidates for a job with her company. One individual looked promising until he was introduced to the CEO. At that point he kept referring to my friend as “she” or “her” and never once referred to her by name. (She had been the main contact for the hiring process, had corresponded with the candidate by email, and had had both telephone and in-person meetings with him, so he certainly knew who she was.) “That was a deal-breaker for us,” said my friend.
At a party, I was chatting with a woman who is an administrative assistant at a company that is hiring aggressively. She schedules interviews for candidates, greets them when they arrive, and takes care of details like travel reimbursement and parking. “My boss always wants to know how a candidate treated me,” she said. “Anyone who is rude, crude, or dismissive is out of the running.”
DON’T WRITE YOUR OWN RESUME
Resumes are discarded every day because of careless errors and sloppiness. Just this week I reviewed a dozen or more resumes that had spacing and punctuation errors, spelling mistakes, and grammatical errors. Many others were poorly formatted and – frankly – amateurish. One resume I reviewed was 8 pages of dense, tiny type.
Your resume creates an indelible first impression. What is yours saying about you?
Not everyone is a great writer nor a great page designer. Others find it hard to be strategic in selecting just the most important information to create a 2-page resume. Know your strengths and get help where you need it.
SHOW SOME PERSONALITY
You are much more than a collection of qualifications! Don’t be afraid to let employers know some personal things about you that will make you more interesting and memorable. And sometimes more valuable as a candidate, too.
“We were hiring for the front office of our medical practice,” a friend told me. “I just made an offer to a candidate whose resume looked so great, I commented on it. She told me she had studied graphic design and loved doing it but not as a full-time job. I knew we could use her skills for our newsletter, patient information sheets, and other documents, even though that wasn’t something we had considered when we posted the job.”
Whether you list “interests” on your resume or LinkedIn profile, or share them during the interview, they can be what sets you apart from other candidates. Employers are hiring you, the individual, so it’s valuable to connect on a personal level.
BE YOURSELF … YOUR BEST SELF
That’s my ultimate piece of advice. You don’t need to fit into a cookie-cutter candidate mold, but never forget that everything you say, do, write, and share is being evaluated during the selection process.