Weird Applicants? Blame Mom and Dad, Expert Says

By Aliah D. Wright Apr 22, 2008
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The candidate looks good on paper. An early referral seems promising. And then she walks into the interview.

With her mother.

HR managers in Greece have had some jaw-dropping moments while interviewing potential hires, according to a recently released online survey. However, their experiences don’t surprise at least one American HR consultant.

Some candidates have engaged in odd and rude behaviors, like swearing during an interview, talking on their cell phones or trying to negotiate less work for more pay, according to a Harris Interactive poll commissioned by Greek job site Kariera.gr.

Employers also were asked about the most recurrent and harmful mistakes job seekers have made during interviews. Seventy-three percent of hiring managers cited appearing disinterested as the most damaging error a candidate can make during an interview. Seeming arrogant came in second (54 percent); speaking unfavorably about a previous or current employer ranked third (46 percent). The online poll was conducted among 143 Greek hiring managers and HR professionals in November and December of 2007.

Unbelievable Behavior

Slipping into believe-it-or-not territory, however, are behaviors that HR managers found particularly outrageous. When asked the most unusual things candidates did while seeking employment, respondents said:

  • Candidate asked interviewer how long the interview would take because the soccer team he supported was playing and the game was on TV.
  • Candidate stated that he did not have any hobbies or interests.
  • Candidate told interviewer that he would stay with the company until he could find something better.
  • Candidate couldn’t recall where he was trained.
  • Candidate tried to set rules for the interview.
  • Candidate shared confidential secrets from his previous employer.
  • Candidate wanted to work four hours per day instead of eight but still wanted to be paid the same wage.

Other mistakes included dressing tastelessly (31 percent) and not providing specific answers (26 percent).

Parents to Blame

Yet, such behavior is increasingly becoming less odd, especially among Generations X and Y, who HR consultant John Putzier said are “almost borderline self-absorbed and unaware … of the protocols that have been established by their predecessors.”

For example, “You’ll have someone reading a text message on their cell phone during an interview, and their contention is that they’re multi-tasking,” Putzier told SHRM Online.

Author of Weirdos in the Workplace (FT Press, 2004), he said outlandish behaviors are becoming more commonplace—particularly in light of “helicopter parenting,” where parents have repeatedly swooped in to rescue their children from “bad” grades, bad coaches and, apparently, bad bosses or work experiences. But what makes it worse, Putzier said, is that some employers have actually embraced parental involvement in the hiring process. “Which I think is ludicrous.”

Some Weirdness Welcomed

Conversely, Putzier added that some employers welcome unconventional job candidates.

Putzier told CNN that at Google “they hire everything from alligator wrestlers to puzzle champions. In their interview process they want to find out if they have wacky, weird pastimes and hobbies and, if so, they’re more desirable because they already know that kind of person wants to get out of the box.”

But there is a difference between thinking outside the box and not thinking at all.

“Interviews give employers an opportunity to see what it is really like to work with a candidate—how they react under pressure, what motivates them and how they interact with others,” Theofilos Vasileiadis, managing director of Kariera.gr said in a press release. “If a candidate is overly negative, is not prepared for the interview or is easily flustered, it can send up a red flag for an employer.”

He said job seekers should “be knowledgeable about the company, practice answers to potential questions and always maintain a professional manner.”​

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