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Attitude During Your Job Interview (Are You a Jerk?)

My job as a hiring manager would be much easier if I could simply ask each candidate at the start of the interview one question: “Are you a jerk?” And get an honest answer!

This would have saved me a lot of grief over the years because in the couple of thousand interviews I’ve conducted, there have been a fair number of candidates with attitude problems.

I’ve sometimes overlooked it during the interview when I’ve detected a bad attitude from someone who was highly qualified in hard-to-find technical skills. I’ve even hired some of them due to their excellent technical skill set, only to find out later that they were, well, jerks.

And here’s the thing. They are frequently very good at hiding that aspect of their personality when they’re interviewing. This is particularly true if they’re highly intelligent and highly qualified. 

Even when it’s obvious in the interview, I’m sometimes tempted to hire them if they end up being the most qualified and experienced candidates.

And it’s always ended up being a mistake.

Why Being a Jerk is a Problem

Their problem attitude almost without exception leads to problem behavior, which causes morale issues in whatever team they are placed on. It can also ruin the reputation of that Hiring Manager – a reputation they worked hard to build up with customers and associates.

You can have a team full of well-respected high performers and it only takes one jerk to make the entire team look bad.

Most Hiring Managers are very aware of the problems that jerks will bring into the job and try hard to avoid hiring them. But we can be fooled. Some jerks are very good at projecting an image of being likable and sincere during the interview, even though the exact opposite is true.

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I’m sure you’ve met people like this. They are very personable and friendly…until you get to know them.

Hiring Managers are pretty good at determining during an interview whether or not you have the right technical skills and experience. Whether it’s an administrative assistant position or a high-level technical position, we know the questions to ask and can pretty quickly determine if you have the specific qualifications for the job. 

Ah, but you see, being a jerk is one of the ‘soft skills’, though a very negative one. And soft skills are more difficult to assess than technical skills.  Judging soft skills is the area where we very much have to go by our gut reaction to how each applicant comes across in person.

We Hiring Managers like to call this the “likability factor” and it plays heavily in our decision to choose between two equally qualified candidates.

To achieve a high score in the likability factor, these are the traits we specifically look for and that you should try to display.

In other words, do you:

  • Display an overall good attitude during the interview?

  • Show a positive outlook on things?
  • Come across as friendly?
  • Seem to get along with people?
  • Come across as being dependable?
  • Come across as being trustworthy?

All Hiring Managers want these soft skills and attitudes if they are genuine. They have been the deciding factor for me many times when coming to a final hiring decision. 

Many Hiring Managers have been burned by jerks. As a result, we are particularly focused on assessing these soft skills. If you’re solid in the soft skills but light in the other requirements, you can always be trained. But for the soft skills, you either have them or you don’t. They can’t be taught.

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In other words, it’s almost impossible to train a jerk to not be one. Consequently, I would almost always rather miss hiring a good person than take a chance on hiring a bad one.

How to Not Be a Jerk

The big question I’m sure you want answered is how do you convince the Hiring Manager that you are not a jerk? 

The best way is to avoid showing any of the following three personality traits:

  • Arrogance
  • A condescending attitude
  • Being patronizing

These are three traits that will destroy your interview and any chance at landing that job. Regardless of how strongly you feel that you know more than the interview panel, or that you see yourself as better than the Hiring Manager, you cannot let these attitudes show in the interview.   

If you show them during the interview, when getting a job rides on the outcome, I will automatically assume you will show them even stronger to your team and your customers if you get the job.

The bottom line here is simple: Don’t be a jerk or you won’t get the job.

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