Constructive Criticism – Under Construction

We give students practice job interviews, give them advice on how to improve – how to dress professionally, what to say and what not to say, posture, handshake, etc. For the most part, the people I have interviewed have been pretty good. There’s always advice to give, no matter how well the interview went, but if the student is mature enough to accept that advice, we will all get something from the experience.

And then there are the others. The students who haven’t quite taken things as seriously as they should have, and as a result….well I have blogging material…and more advice! The following examples were inspired by a few recent, practice interviews:

When a potential employer asks you about your job, don’t say:

“I work my balls off!” or “I work my ass off!” Leave the anatomy out of this, mm kay? Don’t say, “I flip the shit around that place each day.” Don’t swear. I can’t believe I had to actually tell that to a student recently, but it’s true. He seemed shocked that I would bring attention to it, as if I was his drinking buddy.

When a potential employer asks you “What is your weakness?” Don’t say “Chocolate covered cherries.” Odds are their question needed a professional response that had nothing to do with your cravings. I mean hey, those are my weakness too, but there’s a time and place for those types of confessions and the interview situation is not it.

Also, don’t argue about what time you arrived when you were clearly late. Accept it and move on.

When I say to dress professionally, I mean you need to dress in a suit and yes….a tie (women should dress in a skirt or pant suit – a tie is not required, neither is a distracting display of cleavage). Bolo ties don’t count, please don’t wear those things. A cloth tie is the thing to wear. Avoid eyeball-scorching colors like lime green or neon yellow.

Don’t crinkle up your face and say, “I don’t do ties.” I’m asking you to wear a tie, not a lynch. You can take it off as soon as you leave my office if it really bothers you. Besides, I love ties…and chocolate covered cherries. But that last bit is irrelevant right now.

I do not hand out advice to students because I want to piss them off. Far from it. I’m not cynical, I don’t laugh at them, I just tell them as constructively as possible what they need to work on. Even when I had to tell the guy to not swear, I just told him “Don’t swear.”

Throughout my almost 8 years of doing those interviews, I have only had to turn one student away. He showed up in my office in jeans, baseball hat and a black T-shirt, sat back in the chair with his arms supporting the back of his head and didn’t have a trace of a resume or anything else he was supposed to bring. He grinned at me, I grinned back and said we needed to reschedule. The next time he came in he was all prepared, dressed in a sharp suit and interviewed really well. Go figure.

Anyway, the advice list could stretch on for miles, but those were the most recent ones that stuck out for me.

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15 thoughts on “Constructive Criticism – Under Construction

  1. Laura: Odd interviews do make for an interesting story, don’t they? I’m secretly thankful for them too!

    AlienCG: It was the first time I had ever heard that phrase while interviewing students. I think he thought he was the king of casual. So suave.

    BabyBull: Glad I could give you a needed laugh! :)

  2. Eros: Sometimes it’s awkward to give them certain advice. I had to tell a guy to ease up on the cologne one time. It was actually giving me a headache. But he was professional and took the advice well.

  3. I interview really well. Usually, if I can get an interview, I’m in. I’m pretty sure it’s because I’m enthusiastic about whatever job I’m applying for and bosses seem to like that. I can’t imagine swearing during an interview. Crazy.

  4. ‘Nuther tip: Don’t come stoned. Really. We can tell.

    True story.

    Yet another: Don’t hand over a hand written resume while proclaiming your fantastic computing abilities.

    True story…more than once.

  5. Seb: I’m surprised I didn’t laugh when he said that, but I think I was just thinking, “Did I just hear that?”

    Churlita: Enthusiasm is definitely a good thing to bring to an interview!

    KenV: Oh jeez yes those are perfect examples. Although I haven’t had the stoned or drunk person come in for an interview, I have had people who brag about their attention to detail and yet their cover letter and resume has several typos.

    Silver: You’ll find one that you really like! This one has its bad days too, but I like my coworkers.

  6. What a great post Tara and very relevant to my current lifestyle as an unemployed person (who is working her balls off to find a job).

    I’ve been told that I’m great in interviews and look sharp so I get very discouraged because I feel like I’m doing everything right and it still doesn’t matter.

    A couple of weeks ago I had a job interview at a company that one of my friends works for and at one point (for some reason) I got all nervous and started vomiting out totally ridiculous statements. I think I was trying to be funny but it all came out wrong and then the woman I was interviewing with mentioned that my friends name was familiar and I said that she looked like Sarah Palin (she really does). I practically had to pinch myself to shut up. But even that wasn’t as bad as cussing, wearing neon green and talking about my love for chocolate. I didn’t get the job.

  7. Abroad: I’m sure you look tip top when you’re interviewing! You will get a great job. I think the only way I could slip in a comment like “I love chocolate” or “I love chocolate covered cherries” would be if I was interviewing to work at a chocolate factory. But then maybe not because then they’d know who to accuse if their chocolate supply was running mysteriously low.

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