The people you call in for a face-to-face interview have been vetted. You’ve read their cover letters, pored over their résumés, googled their names. They have the experience, education, skills and clean social media profiles you require and desire. They made the cut into the final round.
Now you have them in one-on-one for the purpose of digging deeper, to determine whether they could not only do the job, but do it in harmony with a workforce that you would privately admit is a little off-kilter itself. Hey, we’re all human.
But there’s something else going on here. You’re noticing, analyzing and marveling at their quirks, foibles and missteps. Not that any of these are necessarily deal-breakers. These peculiarities are just fodder to feed your imagination of what you might be dealing with down the road should you put them on the payroll.
In a way, you’re a way-off-base, woefully amateurish, armchair psychologist, reading and forming snap opinions of another human being you know very little about. It’s human nature to judge, especially in the high-stakes game of hiring.
Here are the job-seekers’ idiosyncrasies that play with your mind, and can twist your judgment:
Shake it up, baby: When it feels right, you give the handshake little thought. But there are three types that send your brain’s neurons into overdrive: (1) feeble (he’s not a take-charge guy); (2) the vice grip (she’s going to be a steamroller); (3) the chicken claw (are you a zombie?). Three pumps will do; when it hits four, five or six, you’ve got a serial something on your hands. Don’t read too much into the handshake; most people have never worked a rope line before.
Eye-robot: Are they windows to the soul or just peepholes into your own dark suspicions? Job candidates are nervous and it’s usually telegraphed through the eyes. So here comes Blinky, his lids batting .500. Is it a nervous tic? Is he tired? Is he looney? Why is she bug-eyed? Ah, you can see a lawsuit on the horizon, where her unflinching, distant agates gaze. And the bags under his eyes? He must be sleepy and you don’t want sleepy people. (But, take a look around your office.) Your candidates could be sleep-deprived, anxious or are just trying to put on a job-winning charade that just isn’t cutting it.
Giggles the Clown: Job candidates put in extra effort to appear likeable. And what’s more likeable than an audible smile, which is a chuckle, giggle or a laugh punctuating a sentence or two? But every sentence, even yours? The excessive heh-hehs and ho-hos begin to not only grind you down, but make you wonder why this person thinks everything needs to be laughed at. Will she find her job comical and not take it seriously? What about customers, clients, co-workers? For most, it’s just nerves or a manufactured attempt to come off as amicable. They’ll shed it once hired.
Wardrobe mal-cluelessness: From pinstripe navy-blue suits to high-water khakis exposing Kelly green socks, you’ll get them all. The conventional thinking is that a job candidate should dress for the ultimate respect for the job he or she seeks. Anything less, you’re dissed, but what’s worse, the company’s dissed. And you don’t diss our company! You can usually tell the difference between those who lack respect and those who lack fashion sense. In the long run, everyone dresses pretty much within the acceptable range of your workplace. The pin stripes and green socks will be long forgotten. Well, maybe not the green socks.
Ooh ooh that smell: Nothing. That’s the scent you want from a job candidate. But unfortunately, sometimes you inhale the aromas of androgynous cologne, or the odors of neglected armpits. Smells are powerful and often conjure up strong thoughts and opinions. You think they’re either fresh off a date (or heading out for one right after the interview, so hurry up!) or hygiene is not a top priority. Maybe there’s something else at play, like trying too hard to impress a hiring manager or perfuse sweating due to nervousness.
Just one yawn: This is a near deal-breaker. You say something, and the job candidate yawns—a long, gaping, eye-closing yawn, followed by “ ‘scuse me.” Worse yet, he does this right before answering your prized psycho-babble question: “How many ping-pong balls can you stuff into a 1965 VW micro bus?”
Yawwwwwwn! “1,434,” he guesses. He’s off by at least 4,000.
But he yawned. HE YAWNED! Like a zoo lion!
Maybe he’s tired. Couldn’t sleep last night because of the big interview for the job he really wants.
Maybe you’re boring him.
Which is it? You’re the expert.
Cal Butera is the editor of Business Management Daily’s Office Manager Today, Manager’s Legal Bulletin, Managing People at Work and Communication Briefings newsletters. He has been with Business Management Daily since 2007 and worked 22 years for midsize daily newspapers as sports writer, news reporter, layout and design editor, copy editor and city editor.