As a hiring manager, this is the one question I wish I could ask, straight up: “Are you a jerk?”. That’s because, frankly, in the hundreds of interviews I’ve conducted, I’ve frequently met applicants with serious attitude problems.
In fact, in my 25 years as a Hiring Manager, I’ve occasionally hired someone who was eminently qualified as far as the specific technical skills were concerned, but who later turned out to be, well…a jerk.
And the thing about jerks is that they can be very good at concealing that trait in a job interview, especially if they’re otherwise very qualified.
Even if the “jerk factor” comes through in the interview, if they are the most experienced and qualified applicant it’s still very tempting form me to overlook problem personalities and hire them for their experience.
And it’s always ended up being a mistake.
It’s a mistake because jerks, once their true color comes out after you’ve hired them, will invariably create morale issues for your group. They can also quickly destroy the reputation that the Hiring Manager has so carefully built up with customers. You can have a department full of angels and it only takes one jerk to make them all look bad.
This is why Hiring Managers try very hard to avoid these types of people, but we can be fooled. Some applicants are extremely good at coming across as sincere and likable during the interview, even though their true personality is the exact opposite. We’ve all met people like this. They are very pleasant and personable…until you get to really know them.
The thing is, a good Hiring Manager can pretty easily pick up whether or not you have the specific experience and technical skills for the job. Whether it’s a high-level technology position or a simple administrative assistant position, we know the right questions to ask to probe for the proper skills and expertise. An experienced Hiring Manager will usually be able to pretty accurately assess if you have the specific job skills needed to perform the required duties.
Ah, but the soft skills, that’s a much more difficult thing to assess in an interview.
This is where you have to go based on your gut instinct and how the applicant comes across in person. Many Hiring Managers call this the “likability factor”, which of course is the opposite of the “jerk factor”.
• Have a good attitude?
• Have a positive outlook on things?
• Come across as friendly?
• Get along well with people?
• Come across as dependable?
• Come across as trustworthy?
These are the soft skills that all hiring managers want.
Most experienced Hiring Managers who have been burned by hiring jerks are particularly tuned in to trying to get a read on these soft skills in the interview. They know that if you are light on the technical skills but solid otherwise, you can always be trained.
But you pretty much either have the soft skills or you don’t. You can’t really teach someone to be positive and get along well with people. In other words, you can’t teach a jerk to not be one.
Most experienced Hiring Managers would rather miss a good person than hire a bad one.
So the question is, how do you show the hiring manager that you aren’t a jerk?
Simply put, avoid demonstrating any of these three personality traits in your interview:
• Being arrogant
• Being condescending
• Being patronizing
These three traits will be the kiss of death in an interview with an experienced Hiring Manager.
No matter how much more you think you know than the Hiring Manager, no matter how much better you perceive yourself to be than the Hiring Manger, you simply cannot display that in an interview.
The Hiring Manager will automatically assume that if you come across this way in the interview, when a job rides on the outcome, you will come across even stronger to your co-workers and customers once you are on the job.