I can’t tell you how much first impressions count when I have a posted position open, and I get calls from candidates.  Many of them seem to have missed learning some of the basic rules of job hunting. As a service, I provide them here:

Rule 1: Do your homework.
If the job posting has an address, a business name, and our website on it, look on a map. Use Teh Google.

Please do not call me and ask where our organization is located,  or what we do.  You should already have read/researched enough to figure that out when you call–or at least have some idea!  Cluelessness: never a good first impression.

Rule 2: Never. Never. EVER. Say bad things about your previous supervisors.
Most people know that they shouldn’t do this in an interview, but it seems like outside that setting they forget it’s still a no-no.  Don’t blame your past failure in a job on a past boss that was “jealous” or say your expertise was stifled.  There are nicer ways to say that.

“The job wasn’t a good match for me.” “I felt like I needed new challenges.”

Yes, I will know what you are implying, but it shows you know enough to at least not blame others for what happened. No one has a perfect job situation, ever. However, if all of your past bosses had issues…perhaps they are not the problem?

Rule 3: Relax! But, don’t relax.
This is one of the things that makes interviewing so hard.  You don’t want to appear so uptight and over-caffeinated that you can’t function. You also don’t want to relax so much you are tempted to make remarks that might, say, disparage your previous boss, tell me you may have a drinking problem, or let me know you think Obama’s birth certificate is a fake.

An interview is NOT a conversation. It is a sales meeting.  You need to sell me your product–YOU.  What are your strengths? Why are you a good match? Identify those core messages before you call me.

I don’t like talking on the phone, so I’m pretty sympathetic to an awkward science type that blunders around a little. I actually write down notes when I’m making an important phone call, so I know my lines. But help me out here with a little homework, K?

Posted by Gwen Pearson

Writer. Nerd. Insect Evangelist. Have you heard the good news? BUGS!


  1. BTW, the bug blog will soon change it’s name to “cranky old lady rants” and each post will end with me yelling for you kids to get off my yard.

  2. Hey Cranky Old Lady:

    Great advice. The best way to learn how to interview is to serve on an interview committee. I couldn’t believe how much I learned from the experience. Yeah, at minimum visit the company website and/or arrive early and read the brochure or newsletter that’s in the waiting room. Big help.


  3. Yes–I try to make sure all my students get to sit on at least one search committee. A real eye opener.

    At least I haven’t gotten any 6 page CVs written IN PENCIL this year :D

  4. Rule 4: Don’t cry. Yes, someone once actually did this in an interview with me.

  5. In this electronic age, what will take the place of the “yard”? “You kids stop commenting on my blog!” “You kids stop connecting through my WiFi!” “This is the 60s and up chat room, dammit!” “No talking on your cellphones when you walk past my house! I have allergies! You’re giving me a rash!”

    Also. I’m unable to sell myself. Fortunately I’ve only had to do four interviews, gotten three job offers, taken two of them, and didn’t really want the one I wasn’t offered. So maybe I’m just bad at evaluating my selling-abilities…

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