Hardly a week goes by where we don’t have experienced candidates say something just downright stupid that cost him or her the job. This week a guy I’ve known for almost 20 years who is really a very good salesperson got into an interview with a hiring authority and in the process of talking about himself said, “Well, I do know that I have a few good years left in me.”
When I followed up with the hiring manager he said, “Tony, is this guy ready to retire? We aren’t looking for someone who has just a ‘few good years’ left in them. We are looking for a long-term commitment.” It didn’t even have to be sad that this candidate already had his age going against him. He’s in his 50s. But lots of guys and gals in their mid-50s and beyond get hired. But drawing attention to it as though you were on your last leg or just “a few more good years,” does not help your case of being hired.
Unfortunately, most folks don’t seem to think about, “How does this sound to a prospective employer?” They don’t seem to think about the fact that hiring authorities are looking for just as many reasons not to hire a candidate as they are reasons to hire a candidate. When a candidate gives even a minor reason not to be hired, it can be totally blown out of proportion. So, a smart candidate thinks about absolutely everything he or she says in light of how it appears to the potential employer.
Over the years, I’ve had some real doozies articulated by really good candidates:
One said, “I have just overcome a great battle with cancer, but I’ve sure learned a lot.” When asked what the biggest obstacle he has overcome, one of my candidates said that he had recently recovered from a nervous breakdown. I have had candidates, both male and female, explain that they were in the middle of an awful divorce, an awful child custody suit, and awful business or personal lawsuit and other kinds of terribly traumatic or distracting events. Some of these people even justified what they did by claiming, “They just want to be honest.” Well, you can be honest by saying, “Your baby’s ugly,” or you can be tactful and claim, “What a cute looking baby…looks just like you!”
The moral to all of this is really simple. Think about what you are saying and how it is going to come across to a prospective employer and if there is the slightest chance that it might hurt you or put you in a negative light, shut up!