When Pearls Won’t Get You The Job

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checkRecently I spoke to a friend after an interview.  During the second round of interviews, she was quizzed about the way she dealt with being treated poorly.  The employer calmly stated that she would be need to bear the brunt of customers’ complaints and co-workers’ bad moods.  He wanted her to summarize on the spot how she would cope with these frequent scenarios.

Although she was alarmed by the question, she tried her best to answer how she anticipated the employer wanted her to.  Despite being a naturally sensitive person, she baldly claimed that insults “roll off her back.”

Following the interview, she fell into a terrible state of mind.  She felt dishonest not only to the employer, but also to herself.  She had no desire to be spat at by strangers when she showed up to work everyday.

Advice about how to act at interviews is a dime a dozen.  Coaching about what to say and how to act crowd the minds of job seekers.  As people try to concentrate on making eye contact, refraining from twitching one’s knee, and spitting while talking, try to save a little space for being yourself.

Usually maintaining a sense of integrity to oneself is as important as getting a job.  You may not be doing yourself any favors by presenting a false self.

This falsity can happen in a variety of different ways.

Another friend once lost her job because her employers did not think her appearance jived with the massage studio where she worked.  She enjoyed giving massages in sweatpants, but her employers felt that this was out of line.

The criticism that really struck home was when they said accusingly, “At your interview, you wore pearls!”

The employers missed this preppy persona that wasn’t really akin to my friend’s everyday self.

As for me, the biggest exaggeration I’ve ever said at an interview was my claim to enjoy working at birthday parties.  When I noticed my interviewers were joyful at learning that I had previously managed birthday parties, they inquired about my experience with them.

“They’re a piece of cake,” I said.

Two years later, I still struggle at leading that cursed song and cutting elaborate $800 cakes.  That smooth, disingenuous answer continues to plague me.  I may have gotten the job, but I lost my right to righteousness.  I probably still would have gotten the job, but then I could have complained all day long about exorbitant birthday parties for three-year-old’s without feeling like a hypocrite.

We hear again and again that the first impression is a lasting one.  Sometimes, we get the job based off of that impression, and we are expected to live up to it.  Is that first impression something you want to be measured up to?

That careful first impression constructed in a mirror or rehearsed on the ride over to the job may come back to haunt you.

Read more in Interview Tips

Marie is a writer for Recruiter.com covering career advice, recruitment topics, and HR issues. She has an educational background in languages and literature as well as corporate experience in Human Resources.