What HR People Won’t Tell You About the Job Interview

HR pros reveal job interview dos and dont's.

Condensed from Reader's Digest Magazine | April 2011

Human resource pros tell you what to do—and what not to do—when meeting to discuss an employment opportunity.

Plus: What Does Your Office Say About Your Work Style?

1. “It’s amazing when people come in for an interview and say, ‘Can you tell me about your business?’ Seriously, people. There’s an Internet. Look it up.” –HR professional in New York City

2. “A lot of managers don’t want to hire people with young kids, and they use all sorts of tricks to find that out, illegally. One woman kept a picture of two really cute children on her desk even though she didn’t have children [hoping job candidates would ask about them]. Another guy used to walk people out to their car to see whether they had car seats.” –Cynthia Shapiro, former human resources executive and author of Corporate Confidential: 50 Secrets Your Company Doesn’t Want You to Know

3. “Is it harder to get the job if you’re fat? Absolutely. Hiring managers make quick judgments based on stereotypes.  They’re just following George Clooney’s character in Up in the Air, who said ‘I stereotype. It’s faster.’” –Suzanne Lucas, a former HR executive and the Evil HR Lady on bnet.com

4. “I once had a hiring manager who refused to hire someone because the job required her to be on call one weekend a month and she had talked in the interview about how much she goes to church. Another candidate didn’t get hired because the manager was worried that the car he drove wasn’t nice enough.” –HR professional at a midsize firm in North Carolina

5. “Don’t just silence your phone for the interview. Turn it all the way off.” –Sharlyn Lauby, HR consultant in Fort Lauderdale, Florida

6. “If you’ve got a weak handshake, I make a note of it.” –HR manager at a medical-equipment sales firm

7. “If you’re a candidate and the hiring manager spends 45 minutes talking about himself, the company or his Harley, let him. He’s going to come out of the interview saying you’re a great candidate.”  –Kris Dunn, chief human resources officer at Atlanta-based Kinetix, who blogs at hrcapitalist.com

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  • Your Comments

    • Rudy

      Sounds like a requirement for an HR manager is having BPD, narcissism and schizoid personality type.

    • Phil Berg

      The human resources professionals are talking about what they’ve witnessed hiring managers do. They are not talking about themselves.

    • pickley

      I agree with a lot of these, except the bit about, “There’s an internet. Look it up.” The internet, company website and profiles do not explain the atmosphere. The mission statement doesn’t correspond to whether or not the company is a good fit for an employee. A potential candidate has the right to information about the company. And yes, HR is under just as much scrutiny. If the company has a baseball team, and the environment is cold and corporate, I want to know. If your company is casual and your focus is camaraderie, then I want to know. If you have strict policies, I would like to know what and why. People want and deserve the opportunity to reject the potential employer, too. Job hunting is not all about the employer.

      • Debster

        I like to ask, my potential boss, what their management style is; it’s amazing what they come up with, and it gives me a chance to relax.

    • svente

      No wonder people of talent aren’t getting hired. What is this? How embarrassing for HR staff.

    • joey

      What HR also won’t tell you is that they are god awful for a company and have no clue how to do the job that they are hiring for.

    • Radmad

      I have three degrees. I earned my first one in 1993. I truly believe that’s what keeps me from even getting calls back when I submit a resume; HR sees I graduated in 1993 and does the math. As you can see by the above article, HR managers really do discriminate based on age. In my field, most of the positions are taken by young, hip kids without families or obligations. Middle aged people are considered less healthy, more involved/invested in their families, etc. Truth is, I pose none of the inherent risks of being middle aged. I’m in relatively good health, I don’t drink or smoke, and I am never married with no children. I have decided to take my first degree off my resume because (a) it is not relevant to my career now (I went back to school at 34 and got a second Bachelor’s and then a Master’s in my chosen field) and (b) doing so will be less likely to reveal my age. I’m also only going to go as far back as 2009 for my work experience. Even though I have 25 years in the workforce and bring to the table a myriad of work and life experience, if I put work history back to 1988, they’re going to figure out how old I am. And frankly, I’m tired of being rejected. I’ll fill in the blanks in the interview. Right now I don’t even get that far.

      I’m also overweight, but since I only got called for one interview out of the two dozen or so resumes I’ve sent, I don’t know that I was discriminated against for that. Nevertheless I have lost a lot of weight and am much less overweight than I was before (I had weight loss surgery and am now about 60 pounds from my goal weight). It’ll be interesting to see what happens on the job hunt in future months.

      • careerkeysman

        As a professional with more than 20 years of experience
        personally helping people of all ages and backgrounds land good jobs at all levels, the following might be useful.

        The most important issues are: how to get interviews with someone that can hire you, and how to get evaluated on the basis of factors that will be the most likely to influence a positive hiring decision.

        Resumes usually get screened out unless they are from people
        who are currently employed in the same or a similar position in the same industry as that of the hiring company. Thus, they are not an
        effective tool to use to try and get interviews. Instead, here’s a more effective approach.

        Send a marketing letter directly to the hiring
        authority. Do not include a resume with it. Tell the hiring authority about some of things you can do to help him and his company reach their business financial goals faster…as the RESULT of your education and experience.

        Tell him that you’ll be glad to come by for a brief visit to
        tell him more about what you can do for him.

        If he responds to you, he’ll either invite you in or ask for
        a resume. If he asks for a resume, just send a standard, no-frills resume.

        For more reality-based tips and pointers, send an email to CareerKeysMan@gmail.com

        TOM KELLUM

        Job Hunter’s Consultant & Strategist

      • Debster

        Eat a piece of fruit, or a vegetable every two hours until 10pm at night. You will loose that weight like crazy. I did, and the first week I lost 7 pounds. In total, I lost over 40 pounds in 2 months; then I started hitting the gym. After two months I started reintroducing foods a little at a time, and made sure I didn’t go back to fast food.

      • Debster

        Many of the “Kids” today that are working are jealous of your knowledge, and are afraid you will show them up and prove they don’t know as much as they think they do.

    • jdubden

      A lot of this stuff is not common and some of it is quite ridiculous. So much of it is arbitrary and demonstrates how incompetent many HR people are.

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/AD3BG3A55E4XBZ62ZYEI7DJVKM Lucia

      Bad economy, mean,bankrupcy,shame enough with all these adjectives stop whining and get to work.

    • Anonymous

      I guess I am thankful that I picked a good career.  I have interviewed three times, LITERALLY, in 15 years and have gotten every job with one interview.   I am selective about who I choose to interview with, and do not want to talk to HR people.  I want to talk ONLY to the hiring manager.  The HR person can process my paperwork when I get hired, and can also help me with benefits, etc.   Not only do I research the companies that I interview with, but I heavily research the interviewer, and find out their hobbies and likes, then try to figure out a way to work it into the conversation.  Establishing common ground, etc.  I will modify a resume’ to every different job posting and company.  I keep approximately 9 version s of my resume’, and still find myself massaging the resume’ to the job.

    • Jaynielarson

      I have had many occasions behind closed doors where the candidate confides in me and asks after I tell the female that my male boss will be in to meet her in a couple of days, “If I wear a low cleavage or revealing top, will that make my chances better?”  Seriously!  She has no clue- He is GAY!!