CANDIDATES! - Stop talking yourselves out of the job!

I don't know what it's like in the US, but here in Blighty (The UK), far too many candidates talk themselves out of the  job. Sadly this happens most often with sales people - and quite good sales people.

Last week I had a client interview day. I had three excellent candidates, but two of them talked themselves out of a job. The third guy got the job.

So. What did he do that the other two didn’t?

He entered the room and looked my client in the eye. He smiled and sat down when invited to do so. He was 5 minutes late, but he’d rung me some time in advance to say he was stuck in horrible traffic and he couldn’t get off the motorway. He showed he thought ahead.

The client asked him a question. My candidate answered it. He didn’t let his mouth run away with him. He simply listened to the questions and answered them. You’d think this was the least you’d expect from a candidate, but I’m afraid he was the exception. So he got the job.

The other two had impressive sales records. One, on asking to give a summary of his career rattled on for 17 minutes. I interrupted him and tried to steer him towards issues of relevance – but he continued to talk about a job from over ten years before. My client put his head in his hands. The candidate just carried on…………..and on………….and on. At the end, the candidate apologised for talking too much – so he knew he was doing it!

The second candidate was no better. He didn’t talk quite so much, but he mumbled a lot more! He looked at the walls, the desk, his crutch, but avoided my client. Now my client is no Brad Pitt, but come on!!! Just look at the bloke. Once would do!

To be fair, nerves clearly got the better of them. Their sales record was evidence that they must know how to talk to people, understand what they want, and ask for the order. But they were unprepared. They are used to surviving by the seat of their pants and took the same approach. It was only when they were in the interview, they realised they were in a big sale, and they didn’t know their own features and benefits.

This happens far too often to candidates. They think they can wing it and fall flat on their arses when they get in above their heads.


1.  Smile sometimes

2.  Look the interviewer in the eye.

3.  Listen to the question. DON’T IGNORE ME – LISTEN TO THE BLOODY QUESTION!!!

4.  And when you’ve answered the question. Shut up and smile!

5.  And don’t anticipate the next question and answer it before it’s asked.

6.  Have a 2 minute summary of you and your career ready in your head.

7.  Do some research.

8.  Ask some questions (and make them open PLEASE) – and leave the one about salary to the end.

9.  Keep smiling.

10. And if you’re going for a sales job, please demonstrate that you know how to ask for the order, by asking if there’s anything else the interviewer would like to know to help them make the decision to offer them the role.

I know I am writing the bleedin’ obvious, but experiences like last week remind me that most people get it wrong. The guy who got the job did nothing extra-ordinary, but he didn’t talk himself out of the job. Most do.

For Ten Top DUMB Interview Tips for candidates - click here

Views: 1286

Comment by Amber on January 29, 2013 at 10:40am

Recently had 3 strong high level candidates with excellent sales records in a specific sector who ALL told the hiring manager how hard it was to sell into that sector (without talking as much about how they overcome that), and answered they were "farmers" vs. "hunters"... sigh. 

Comment by Martin Ellis on January 29, 2013 at 11:02am

Thanks Amber. I somehow knew my experience wasn't unique.....another sigh.......

Comment by Marie-Clara Thaureux on January 29, 2013 at 2:31pm

Great article, sadly a common theme - especially amongst the already 'successful' candidates, it comes down to the belief that their track record will be a standalone strong enough reason to employ them and let’s face it the belief that they sell themselves on a daily basis – why would an interview be any different. I join the sigh…

Comment by Martin Ellis on January 29, 2013 at 2:49pm

Marie-Clara: I'm pleased at least to hear it's the same the worlds over (will check you're profile next to make sure you don't live in the UK)....massed sighs.....

Comment by Martin Ellis on January 29, 2013 at 2:51pm

Marie-Clara. For the purposes of this discussion, I'll regard Jersey as overseas.

Comment by Marie-Clara Thaureux on January 29, 2013 at 3:07pm


Comment by Amy Ala Miller on January 29, 2013 at 8:35pm

I had a CFO candidate blow it. He refused to let me prep him, saying "No offense Amy, but I've been working since you were in diapers". LOL ok fine Mr. CFO, go for it. HE BLEW IT and cost me a huge commission. I was PISSED. It was several years ago and I'm still pissed lol.

Anyway he kind of did the same thing... it was a solar start up company and even though the candidate didn't have start up, he had public sector (utilities) background that the client wanted. So what does he talk about? His lack of start up experience of course. Client felt he wasn't confident enough to take over the reins in a year, which was the CEO's plan.... ugh.

Comment by Martin Ellis on January 30, 2013 at 2:37am

Amy, I feel another post coming on....."how senior people are even the worse than sales people as interviews". - A shorter title would be a good start!

Comment by Amy Ala Miller on January 30, 2013 at 9:33pm

lol Martin I do have that story in blog form about half written... :) Some day I'll finish it.


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