There are some clichés that, though old and somewhat tired, still ring true in the workplace. A company’s greatest assets do ride up and down the elevator every morning. And a few rotten apples do spoil the barrel.
As the co-founder of a 100-plus person strategic communications firm, I’ve conducted hundreds, if not thousands, of job interviews over the years. And with each passing year, I seem to get a little bit better at spotting a potentially toxic hire. So here, with the assistance of my crack intern committee managers Samantha Bruno, Jason Green, Julie Hoang, and Kristin Davie, are 13 types of interviewees you should avoid at all costs.
1. The Helicopter Millennial
This is the young lady whose mother accompanies her to the interview, waits patiently in the reception area, and then asks Buffy how it went afterward. Thanks for coming, mom, but my business needs fully formed and functioning adults.
2. The “What’s in It for Me?” Guy
He’s the man who’s more interested in vacation time, sick days, raises, titles, and promotions than in making a contribution to Peppercomm. Sorry, pal, but there’s no I in team.
3. The Sports-Analogy Asshole
For some reason, people assume I love all sports simply because I climb mountains. As a result, I receive job inquiries that use phrases such as “I can hit the ball out of the park for you” and “I’m the missing piece in Peppercomm’s Super Bowl team.” I also get emails from people who tell me they’re the “sherpa” who will “lead my business to the summit.” I don’t hire people who assume they know me when they don’t.
4. The Guilt Tripper
“Hi. My name’s Bob Smith, and I’ve been out of work for 18 months. Having read about your culture, I know I’d fit in perfectly. When can we meet?” Guilt may work in other settings, but not in the workplace. We hire winners. As for the actual meeting date, how does the 12th of never strike you, Bob?
5. The Blank Expressionist
This job applicant lacks the drive to research our firm in advance and is unable to formulate at least one intelligent question during an interview. As a result, she answers our questions but responds with a blank stare when we ask if she has questions of her own. Sorry, but we aren’t looking to hire toll booth collectors at the moment.
6. The Chatterbox
Some candidates simply never stop talking during an interview. Though we appreciate their need to highlight their skills and achievements, the chatterboxes do need to hit the Pause button every once in a while. Some will go so far off on a tangent that they’ll actually say, “I’m sorry, what was the question again?” The Chatterbox really should be interviewing for a telemarketing gig at Publishers Clearing House.
7. The Minimalist
This guy is also known as One-Word-Answer Andy. We respect good listeners. But we also appreciate a more in-depth response than, “Yup.” Prying answers out of the Minimalist is like pulling teeth. And as of today, we have no plans to expand into the oral care field.
This is the woman who tends to stretch the truth just a wee bit in her résumé. It’s relatively simple to spot the Hyperbolist and even easier to out her on a purported “major accomplishment” during the interview. When pushed, she’ll always back down and confess to far more modest credentials. Braggarts belong in boxing, basketball, and inside the Beltway. Not in business.
9. The Chameleon
My firm now features many new and evolving service offerings. And that’s just fine with the Chameleon, because he’ll accept any job in any division. Though we value open-mindedness, we also tend to hire prospective employees who know exactly what they like and dislike. We don’t try to be all things to all people, and we won’t hire candidates who think that way. Chameleons need not apply.
10. The Drama Queen
This is the job applicant who just casually drops by our office without an appointment and demands an interview right on the spot! Aggressiveness is prized in public relations, but the Drama Queen is clearly desperate and looking for attention. We typically suggest she pay a visit to the corner of Hollywood and Vine instead.
11. The Improvisation King
This is the dude who just strides into an interview completely unprepared to talk about his relevant work experience. He’s also a big fan of the words um, like, and totally. When asked to elaborate on an assignment with a previous employer, he’ll sigh and say, “Yeah. Hmmm. Like, I’m not even sure why I wrote that.” Yeah, and um, like, we’re not sure you’ll ever find a job anywhere, dude.
12. The Sloppy Joe
This guy simply cannot be bothered to double-check what he writes or says. After we acquired two smaller firms recently, one Sloppy Joe sent me a note congratulating me on our “accusations.” On another occasion, a Sloppy Joe mailed me a letter saying Peppercomm was “infamous” on his campus. In person, he’ll call my firm PepperCorn or, believe it or not, LeperComm. Sloppy Joes are true rotten apples whose laziness can be contagious and, if it spreads throughout the organization, potentially fatal.
13. The Mobile-Device Maven
This woman sits down alongside me, pulls out her mobile device, and places it between the two of us. She then proceeds to check it every few minutes or so to see if anything urgent may have occurred. Something urgent occurred, all right. The Mobile-Device Maven just lost her chance at a gig with my firm. In a job interview, it’s me or the mobile device. Take your pick.
So, there you have it. My baker’s (dirty) dozen of the workplace. Have I missed identifying any other suspicious characters? If so, please let me know. After all, an entrepreneur can never have too much knowledge on any subject, especially one as critical as hiring the right (or wrong) person.