By Michelle Singletary
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, January 21, 2011; 11:13 PM
One would think that in an economy where unemployment is high, applicants for the precious few job openings would be on their best behavior.
But many people just can't help but show their true selves, even when so much is at stake, according to a new nationwide CareerBuilder survey of more than 2,400 hiring managers. The managers reported some of the really outrageous actions of job candidates.
Can we just take this opportunity to shake off our economic blues to have a laugh at the way some job applicants behave? They won't know.
One manager reported that a job-seeker ate all the sweets from the candy dish while trying to answer questions. Maybe the applicant hadn't eaten before the interview, as experts advise, and suddenly got so hungry he couldn't control himself. He didn't want his rumbling stomach to be a distraction.
Another person blew her nose and lined up the used tissues on the table in front of her. She was just being meticulous, right?
Or what about the guy who wore a hat to the interview that said, "Take this job and shove it?" Just demonstrating a sense of humor?
One man tossed his beer can in the outside trash bin before coming into the reception office. How thoughtful he was to throw it outside so clients wouldn't think the company tolerated drinking on the job.
In the survey, one manager reported a candidate brought in a copy of a college diploma, but it was obvious that liquid white-out had been used to add the person's name to the document. Maybe the school spelled the person's name wrong on the diploma.
Here are some other things that job candidates did:
lArrived for the interview accompanied by a parent. The positive spin: The woman didn't want to be late and her mother is always on time.
lBrought confidential documents from a previous employer. The positive spin: He doesn't lose track of important papers.
lConfided she was a witch. The positive spin: Think of the advantage you might have over competitors.
lAnswered every question only after referring to a detailed binder of notes. The positive spin: Won't make a move without doing a lot of research.
lTold the interviewer that her favorite pastime is to walk around in her pajamas all day and do nothing. The positive spin: She would be well rested when she did show up for work.
lTalked bad about a spouse. The positive spin: To get away from the spouse, the person might arrive at work early and leave well after everyone else has gone.
lProvided a detailed listing of how a previous employer made him mad. The positive spin: The person won't be afraid to speak up to improve the work environment.
lHugged the hiring manager at the end of the interview. The positive spin: The person has a warm personality.
lTalked about how an affair had cost the candidate a previous job. The positive spin: He's honest. Of course, the negative spin: He's dishonest.
In the same survey, CareerBuilder asked hiring managers what they consider to be the most common interview mistakes:
l71 percent said answering a cellphone or texting during the interview. I have no positive spin on this. It's insanely rude, and I would end the interview immediately. One hiring manager said a candidate walked into the interview session texting.
l69 percent said dressing inappropriately.
l69 percent don't like it when an applicant appears bored.
l66 percent said appearing arrogant.
l63 percent would rather you didn't talk negatively about a current or previous employer.
l59 percent said chewing gum.
"The goal of any interview is to stand out from the other candidates and ultimately land the job, but make sure you stand out for the right reasons," said Rosemary Haefner, vice president of human resources for CareerBuilder. "Even though the job-search process can be frustrating, candidates should stay positive, focus on their strengths and be prepared on how to best sell their skill set."
In a different survey, CareerBuilder found that with smaller recruiting staffs and larger amounts of job applications, employers are turning to technology to help find workers. Six percent of the employers surveyed reported they have conducted video interviews with potential job candidates. Eleven percent said they plan to begin using video interviews this year.
So folks, be careful out there. Not only could your bizarre behavior cost you an opportunity, these days there's always a chance your interview tape could end up on YouTube.
Readers can write to Michelle Singletary c/o The Washington Post, 1150 15th St., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20071. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Comments and questions are welcome, but due to the volume of mail, personal responses may not be possible. Please also note comments or questions may be used in a future column, with the writer's name, unless a specific request to do otherwise is indicated.