Our story starts in a meeting room. The situation, an interview, the candidate represented by the Recruitment Agency of which I was a Partner, the client a leading multi – national organisation (Company X).
All started as you might expect. The candidate was met in the reception area, the interviewer and interviewee greeted each other with a firm, business – like friendly handshake and a smile and made polite small talk about the weather and the candidates journey whilst taking the short walk to the meeting room. The candidate waited to be offered a seat (good manners all the way, always a strong start at interview, courtesy ought not to be underestimated on both sides of the interview equation) and promptly sat down. Another employee of company X appeared in the room to offer a drink. Our well-behaved candidate opted for a glass of water (sensible as unlikely to be distracted by a too hot cup of coffee, fraught with all sorts of dangers!). The glass of water was placed on the table in front of the candidate and the interview started the conversation, “right let’s get underway……..”.
“Could you excuse me for one minute” interrupted our superstar, “why of course” came the slightly surprised response. It is here, despite a promising start, that this particular interview and any chance this candidate had of getting the job took a significant turn in the wrong direction.
Our candidate went on to explain to the interviewer that he was having the most awful trouble with his false teeth. In itself not necessarily so bad, he was in some discomfort and wanted to ensure he could focus on the task at hand. However, he proceeded to remove the offending gnashers and place them in the glass of water in front of the interviewer, where they sat for the next 20 minutes (it was a very short interview from this point on) as the focal point of the discussion, whilst our interviewee struggled to answer questions with any clarity of diction!
Suffice to say when feedback was forthcoming post interview our candidate had not been succesful. Feeding back to the candidate concerned was a little difficult, but it was only right to question as to whether he felt his actions had been appropriate for the occasion. Suffice to say he could not see why what he had done had a negative effect on how he was perceived by the interviewer. However he had succeeded in leaving a lasting impression.
I have many other examples of inappropriate interview behaviour fed back to me from a multitude of sources over the years. Examples include the candidate who when asked what the most adventurous thing she had ever done answered “having sex on a beach”. The candidate who when asked to describe his biggest challenge, answered “dealing with a serious hangover after a 24 hour drinking binge on his first day in a new job without anyone having noticed”. Fortunately such events are few and far between.
Interview etiquette is simple. Be clean, well-groomed, smart (invest in some shoe polish, you’ll be surprised as to its impact), polite, well-mannered, courteous, sober. Give intelligent, well thought through, relevant responses to questions and take your time if you need it. And oh yes, leave your teeth in.