Deal breakers

Seven things recruiters hate and why they hate them

  1. Taking notes during an interview is fine, but keep your pen holstered unless absolutely necessary. Excessive scribbling indicates an inability to think on your feet. “When I hire somebody, I’m looking for them to be able to represent me at meetings,” says Wasserman, “not take dictation.”
  2. Shoes that aren’t shined. Details matter.
  3. Interviewer: We’re opening a new office in Charlottesville.
    Candidate: Oh, I’ve heard it’s great there.
    Interviewer: Really? I’m from there. What have you heard about it?
    Candidate: [Pauses. Starts to cry.]

    If you don’t mean it, don’t say it. “If I mention that travel is a big part of the job, and someone immediately says that they love to travel, well, I hate that,” says Rob Britton, a PricewaterhouseCoopers consultant. A pointed follow-up question will show you’re simply spitting out what you think he wants to hear.

  4. Some candidates have their rap so well practiced that instead of responding to specific questions, they churn out prepackaged answers, no matter what the interviewer asks. “It’s frustrating when people don’t answer the question because they didn’t listen to it,” says Bristol-Myers Squibb’s Mamet. “Don’t just pull out your favorite response. It’s easy for us to tell when it’s rehearsed.”
  5. “Never swear during an interview,” says a former Goldman Sachs recruiter. “I can only assume you’d do it in the first meeting with a client, too, and I can’t take that risk.”
  6. Answering questions the way everybody else does. “If I ask, ‘What’s your biggest weakness?’ don’t say, ‘I pay too much attention to detail,'” advises Mark Golin, a VP and creative director at AOL. “People don’t realize that the recruiter has done this 400 more times than they have. If you stop and think about that, your answers will change–they’ll become what they should be: unique.”
  7. There’s standing out from the pack because you’re unique, and then there’s standing out because you blare your trombone louder than everyone else just to make noise. “I was once scheduling a second interview for lunch, and I suggested a restaurant,” remembers one media executive. “The candidate said, ‘No, I don’t like the food there.’ I could tell he wanted to rebuff my choice just to prove he could. The interview was over before it started.”

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