TAO Self-help

Title:The 3 Most Used Words that End Job Interviews

Author:Reprinted with Permission: HRNASTY.com

Date:August 2013


Working in HR, I have a number of jobs. One of them is to interview candidates and the other is to work through challenges/opportunities that employees may face throughout their career. Yes, I said "opportunities". Very HR'esque of me but when you are being PAID to do a job, challenges are not problems. Challenges really are "opportunities", challenges are job security.

Premise 1:

As employees, we are paid to do a job. Your job is to solve your managers' problems and to solve your companies' problems. If you think your job is to get a promotion or a raise, think again. Every time you are presented with a problem, consider yourself lucky because you were just presented with job security. Problems may include shipping a product on schedule, putting together 'X' amount of widgets per hour, or coming up with the next revenue generating product the company will profit from. Make no mistake, these are all opportunities.

Premise 2:

If A equals B, and B equals C, then A must equal C.
Your manager is a human being. Human beings don't like messy problems. Your manager doesn't like messy people problems. Don't be a messy people problem.

The three words I don't appreciate hearing during interviews and when working on employee issues are "hate", "can't", "impossible", and "stupid".
Yeah, that is 4. Don't say I never gave you anything. "Stupid" is a freebie.

When I interview a candidate, if I hear the word "can't", "impossible" or "hate" in the course of the interview, the candidate is pretty much done. I am looking to present a problem solver to the hiring manger and not a problem "creator". The words "can't", "impossible", and "hate" are strong signs of problem creators and to me this is worst than dropping an F bomb. This is where I turn to the little children and exclaim "Earmuffs!!". Proper boys and girls don't drop F Bombs and employees that are constantly thinking about solving problems don't use language that includes "can't"; and "impossible". The word "stupid" used in most contexts will also end an interview. After I hear these words in an interview, I may still be asking you interview questions, but when you are answering, I am thinking about the White Sale at Walmart and wondering if they have 800-thread count on sale. Anytime I hear a candidate say something like "My prior manager always had stupid ideas" or "My manager was stupid", the interview is over. Elvis has left the building and so has the opportunity.

"Can't" and "Impossible" will end job interviews
  • "This can't be done"
  • "I can't do that"
  • "My manager is always asking more of the team than they can do"
  • "This idea is impossible"
  • "We are wasting our time, you are asking the impossible"
  • "My last manager always wanted the impossible"

For the record, we put a man on the moon in the 60's. If we could do that in the 60's, (that would be the 1960's, before computers), I don't think there is anything your manager can ask you that is "impossible" or "can't" be done.

"Hate" will end Job interviews:
  • "I hate the reporting part of my job"
  • "I hate it when someone cuts me off mid-sentence"
  • "I hate Johnny manager, he is a jerk"
  • "I hate Suzy co-worker, she is stupid" (double-whammy)

Years ago, I saw a clip of Oprah Winfrey interviewing Michael Jordan. She said something to the effect "Michael, you can have pretty much anything in the world. I want to know what you hate?" Michael responded with "Hate is a very strong word. I don't think I hate anything, I just haven't learned how to appreciate it yet. I don't hate anything". And the audience exploded. This is why everyone loves Mike.

The words "can't", "impossible", "hate", and "stupid" are all indications of a problem creator. A candidate who gives the indication that they are a problem creator won't get hired for a number of reasons. I am listing only two from what would be a very long list below:

  1. I work in HR. I am either the guy that is tasked to help the manager solve their messy people problems, or I am tasked to solve them myself. If I see a problem creator when looking to fill a position, I will look at the 100 other candidates I know are out there. That is one of the benefits of being the gatekeeper and wouldn't you do the same thing.
  2. Managers don't want naysayers on their team. Managers don't want to deal with problems. Many employees think that a manager's job is to solve employee problems. If that were the case, all the folks that are working in day cares would be perfectly qualified to work as managers in corporate America. Managers are people, and people don't like to work with problem creator.

I want to hire and promote employees that see the glass half full. I don't want to hang out with a naysayer. I don't want to work with someone that sees the glass half empty. If you think the world is going to come to an end, then go build a bunker and stockpile it with MRE's and guns. I don't need a cheerleader, but I don't want a naysayer. If I am going to err, I am going to err on the side of a cheerleader.

Anyone can be happy go lucky when times are good. I am not looking to hire employees who will only perform in the best of times. I am looking to hire someone to perform consistently in the worst of times, when deadlines create stress and lack of revenue creates panic.

The team that can function in these times will be the team that sees the light at the end of the tunnel. This will be the team that makes it through and the team that I want to be on. "Can't" and "impossible" won't be in this teams' vocabulary.

If you want to get hired, and more importantly if you want to receive more opportunity in your current gig, stay away from the use of the words "hate", "can't", "impossible" and "stupid".

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