Occupational Wellness–Openers That Kill The Close

Sometimes I think the Universe is sending me these people just to screw with my mind. I dare to joke now I’ve heard it all and then the door opens and someone walks in to prove me wrong, wrong, wrong again. It’s like washing your car to make it rain. Tempt the Universe and the Universe will rise to the occasion.

Friends, do not walk into a job interview and open with the statement, “No, the traffic wasn’t bad. I’m homeless now so I was right across the street.”

Let’s back-burner the topic of whether or not it’s a good idea to reveal you are homeless in a job interview. Even if it’s true, don’t open with that. Just don’t. Don’t tell the hiring manager before your butt even hits the chair that your life is in chaos. No matter how sympathetic he or she might feel towards your plight, you’ve just told the interviewer not to hire you.

Employers know that 90% of their problems are the problems they hire. The hiring manager’s job isn’t simply to make good hires but to avoid the bad hires. A candidate who opens the interview with volunteered clues that his or her entire life is in disarray is automatically earmarked as a potential bad hire. Don’t make the hiring manager believe you will be a bad hire during the handshake.

It’s not that I don’t wish I could change the lives of homeless people who want/need work. I do. Do homeless people need jobs if they are ever going to be homeful? Yes. Absolutely. If we lived in a different kind of world hiring managers who want to help people could hire anyone who needs a job. They can’t though, because they answer to bosses who don’t want to solve other people’s problems. That’s a reality that can’t yet be changed at the staff manager level.

With the possible exception of charitable organizations most managers can’t hire you with a truckload of up-front issues because it could cost them their own jobs. Unless you’re dealing directly with the owner of the company, there are levels of authority above the hiring manager with expectations that the hiring manager will not knowingly bring problems on staff. Bleeding hearts notwithstanding, we risk getting fired by trying to do the right thing from a humanitarian perspective but the wrong thing from the employer’s perspective.

If it isn’t otherwise noticeable, don’t volunteer the fact that you’re living with a problem you hope gainful employment might improve or solve, such as homelessness. If it is at all possible to get the job and get back on your feet, you want that fighting chance, right? Do not open with homelessness. Don’t put the hiring manager in a position to deny you that chance. Because without extremely understanding and kind-hearted superiors, the hiring manager’s judgment call is almost always going to err on the side of caution. Harsh as it may sound it’s our job not to hire problems for our superiors.

With “I am homeless” now topping the list as reigning champion, here is a short list of other runners-up that should never be used as openers. Yes, before you even ask — I really, truly have been told ALL of these things in interviews.

My husband/wife just left me; took the kids and my wallet and keys. That really sucks but opening with this tells the employer that someone else controls your life, your schedule, your choices, and your resources. That’s a problem no one wants to hire. Any person in a situation like this needs a job to overcome it, no question. But don’t go in advertising insurmountable life problems that an employer assumes will compromise your dependability. Even if someone is willing to overlook it, do not open with domestic disturbance.

I don’t get out of bed before noon and I like to be off on Fridays. I can’t work weekends either. But I need full time hours. Go home and go back to bed. Even if there is some middle ground to be reached you won’t get there if you open with no availability.

I don’t have a car so I can only accept jobs that are on my aunt’s way to and from her job. And also the same hours she works.  You’re not getting the job, honey. No one wants to reconfigure a position to suit your aunt’s transportation and availability, which is subject to change. You need to apply at your aunt’s company. Even if you could make this work, do not open with unreliability.

My son doesn’t have a car so we carpool. I would need to come in early so I can leave to take him to work in the middle of the day. But then I can come back and work some more, as long as I can leave again to pick him up and take him home. That’s not how carpooling works. That’s how a chauffeur works. You just told the hiring manager that your son’s job is more important than your own. Even if this arrangement were somehow possible, do not open with the implication that you will demote the priority of a job offered to you in favor of someone else’s job.

I don’t drive when it rains. If the forecast calls for rain it’s better for me not to even come in.  Maybe you’d better leave now. Do not open with predetermined absences.

I know you think I’m exaggerating, folks. I’m not. In fact, this conversation actually happened last week:

Applicant:  I will do anything except shave turnips.

Me:  You applied for a turnip shaver position.

Applicant:  Is that all you have available?

Me:  Yes.

Applicant:  That’s all you do here?

Me:  Yes. It’s the name of the company.

Applicant:  Oh.

We don’t shave turnips but the rest is verbatim. Do not open by wasting the hiring manager’s time.

Worse than this are the candidates who read in the job posting that reliable transportation is required but apply anyway and try to hide it during the interview. They lie when asked “What’s your transportation situation?” Then I see them hiding around the corner of the building waiting 45 minutes for their taxi, bus, or other arranged ride to pick them up. This tells me I’ll be sitting in the office on any given day waiting 45 minutes for the employee to show up to work and blame it on unreliable transportation. I watch them run out from their hiding places to catch their rides in full view of my office. The Universe then ensures that these are the same candidates who call incessantly to check on their employment status. Do not open with a lie.

When applying from out of state or recently relocated, DO NOT answer the hiring manager’s inquiry, “What brings you to Hiring Town?” with a long sordid story of your spouse’s infidelity that forced you to move back home, and then go on at length about the current state of your messy, painful divorce complete with custody battle, everything you’ve lost, how angry you remain and the revenge you hope you get. You’re telling the hiring manager that you will bring that drama to work with you every day. You brought it with you and dropped it on her desk before you were even offered the job. You probably really need the job but this opener will likely kill your chances of closing the deal. Do not open with a soap opera.

The only way to keep a short list short is to stop somewhere but as usual, I could go on. And on. And on. When folks prep for an interview they typically obsess over what to say, but judging from my experience it appears too few give a thought to what not to say. It matters. A job interview is not an audition for a reality TV show. We are not looking for a ratings boost based on new and exciting conflict. Right up there with qualifications and experience is basic good judgment. Sounds boring by comparison but it translates into a good hire. A good hire is a win for me. A good job is a win for you. 

— Mercy

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