Job Interview Urban Legends

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As promised last time, I have heard a great deal of stories all around interview nightmares. I am not sure which are true and which aren't, though some can be checked online.

But true or not, they are all possible.

Swearing Interviewer

The interviewer starts off nice enough, but then starts to swear more and more during the interview. This is not at you, but just when describing aspects of the job and is not aggressive in any way.

This is a trick to see if you join in, and while it may make a certain sense to do not!

The person I heard this story from said they didn't swear, got the job and never heard the interviewer swear again!

Aftershave Hater

Strong aftershave bugs me, it bugs everyone except the wearer! And I have heard a story of an interviewer that would not hire anyone who wore aftershave. This seems one of the most outrageous of these stories and the only way I can imagine it being true is if the job was something which attracted a lot of applicants.

Long Hair Hater

An IT outsourcing company in England was taken to court after they told a candidate they would only hire him if he cut his long hair.

The role was not client facing, and the candidate kept it neatly tied back.

Unfortunately the company's stance was upheld in court...

"You Are Not Suitable"

I have heard a few variations of this story, but the crux of it is that the interviewers say something bad like “we no longer think you are suitable” or “give me one good reason to hire you” or any other outrageous statement or question.

The idea is to see how you react and if you are prepared to argue your side. This is more often a technique in sales interview where ignoring ‘no’ as an answer is of benefit.

Résumé Autopsy

This has happened to me a couple of times and both of them were painful.

Either, the interviewer has been hoodwinked by fictional résumés before, they are new to interviewing or they just don't believe your work experience. Whatever the reason, they go through every line of the résumés and question everything.

Or ask questions like “What date did you leave blah blah?” referring to a job from five years ago.

Unfair Testing

For a role within a government department the advertisement stated MS Access as being a key requirement.

The test given to candidates was ridiculously easy if they knew about a certain Access wizard, if not, it was a very complicated and time consuming SQL exercise.

No one knew about the wizard, but a couple of candidates wrote impressive SQL statements but did not have time to finish. No one was hired.

I have fallen foul of something similar with VB6 (this was some years ago!) when I was tested on something I had used previously. I used the time allocated for the exam to write a different (but similar) program using as much different functionality as I could fit in.

In doing so I demonstrated my overall expertise and was hired due to more aware interviewers than the ones mentioned previously!

What's in a Name?

Sadly enough, racism does exist and jobs can be refused solely on ethnicity.

I have seen an extreme example of this myself where an application form went in the bin despite being the strongest candidate because of a foreign name and coming from a notoriously bad area of the city.

Being discriminated against due to living address happens to all races and is one of the worst enemies of social mobility, but like all discrimination it is hard to police.

So what does this teach us?

Some of these stories seem quite outlandish events to happen in an interview, but if they can happen outside of work, they can happen inside work too.

Interviewers are people with all the hang-ups and bias that other people can have. But more importantly, with all these unknown parameters by which you are judged in interview, not getting selected for employment should never be taken as a personal rejection.

And of course, have some pity for the interviewers. Hiring a new member of staff is a huge investment and they are desperate to make them as perfect as possible.

A place I recently consulted for hired a guy before me who had seemed "a bit twitchy" in the interview. The interviewers had put this down to nerves and hired him.

Before he was fired he:

Accused his manager of torturing a child in the office (needless to say: he didn't!)

Stalked a female colleague

Responded to office conversations by silently showing newspaper clippings from a shoe box he kept under the desk.

And a pile of other crazy behaviour I was told about but cannot remember, but you get the idea. This is the risk every interviewer faces and any successes or failures by the hired applicant reflects on them for years afterwards.

The truth of interviews is that the interviewer is as scared of you as you are of them.

To give yourself the best chance of a successful IT career, learn all my top career secrets here.

By: Jason Dove

Jason Dove is a published author and a Business Intelligence expert who has worked as a consultant for over a decade providing top notch assistance for the world's leading companies.

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