My blog I've ignored for 2 years while attending the Brandcenter
[This is a post I originally wrote a few months ago but didn’t post due to my companies “no blogging about work stuff” policy. Since I no longer work there here you go.]
Dear early 20-somethings,
It’s your pal Old Man Ray here to give you some advice. It’s going to sound like I am coming down on you. It’s not. I want to help you with some free job interviewing tips.
For the past few months I have been spending more time than usual at the home office. While the downside is a longer commute and reliance on public transportation the one upside is the variety of lunching options. There are new restaurants and delis plus a delicious rotation of food trucks. Being a regular in the office also lets me help in the recruitment process by going on lunch interviews. The interview is casual and (usually) not taken into consideration when determining if the candidate will be offered a job. As long as they don’t do something completely off the wall. To my disappointment no one has done anything that would even come close to that. I am a little sad that no one has ordered a beer or told a racist/sexist joke while at lunch. Nope, nothing. Just professional men and women peppering me with questions about the company and trying not to talk with their mouths full.
That’s not to say that there aren’t slight missteps. I have noticed on more than one occasion the candidate, usually young and male, offering up nuggets of information that would be better left unsaid. While I do not consider any of these deal breakers I would list them under the “topics to avoid.”
So as a way of saying ‘Thank you’ for all the free lunches here are my 5 Random Thoughts On topics to avoid during a job interview.
1. Talking about That City That Shall Not be Named
There is a certain beautiful Dutch city that is a popular travel destination for millions of people throughout the world. One who’s name is always (unfairly?) associated with a certain recreational activity. Don’t know it? Let’s play a game of word association. I’m going to say some word(s) and you tell me the first things that pop into your head.
The Dutch = Windmills? Tulips? Little blond haired children in wooden shoes?
Netherlands = A country in Europe bordering on Belgium and Germany?
Amsterdam = Weed.
Now this is an unfair characterization of what I assume is a fantastic city. I have never been to the Netherlands but when I do, Amsterdam will be one of my first stops.
“(Snort) probably so you can smoke weed.”
SEE! You couldn’t help yourself from thinking it.
Amsterdam is synonymous with weed. It just is. It’s like the Eiffel Tower in Paris, gondolas in Venice and P. Sherman 42 Wallaby Way in Sydney. Is that all these cities have to offer? Of course not but it is the first thing people think of when it’s brought up in conversation.
99% of the time the Amsterdam/weed conversation wouldn’t be a big deal. It’s only that 1% that can get you the stink eye from someone sitting across from you who just looked up from enjoying his crab-cake sandwich. That 1% of course includes during a job interview.
So please, if the conversation turns to places where you have traveled don’t enthusiastically exclaim “Amsterdam!” as your favorite city right out of the gate while simultaneously thrusting your hand in the air expecting a high-five that isn’t coming. And if you just can’t help yourself be sure you are able to talk about the amazing sites and culture of the city (that don’t revolve around weed) for at least 15 minutes.
It no secret that I liked online gambling as much as the next guy. Some would say I liked it much more than the next guy. When the Federal Government shut down online poker I was devastated. I loved the convenience of being able to play $5 tournaments and .25-.50 No-Limit Hold’em whenever I felt like it. I look forward to the day that I am once again able to play online poker.
That being said, no matter my love of poker (and gambling in general) this is not a topic I am going to bring up to possible employers. Now if one of them asked me if I played poker I wouldn’t lie. I would just down play my love of all things related to games of chance and sports betting and only mention that I play occasionally with friends for fun (which is 100% true-ish).
Another thing to keep in mind about poker is that while there is a lot of skill required to be a successful long term player luck plays a significant factor in the short term. And since most likely your job interview isn’t being conducted by Doyle Brunson whoever you are talking to about poker probably only thinks about poker in the short term. Because of this short term luck factor many people are always going to lump poker into the same category as slots, roulette, craps etc. So causally mentioning poker as your primary means of paying your rent while in college might impress your friends it will raise that stink eye again from those who don’t understand the skill and discipline required to make a “living” off poker.
3. Know what you’re talking about or don’t bring it up
Sticking with the online poker theme. If you are going to casually mention that you paid your bills by playing online poker you better have an answer ready if someone asks how you have been doing that since the government shut down the major online poker sites in this country back in 2011 (Nevada and New Jersey just recently allowed online poker again in their states). At least have something better than a blank stare.
I know exactly how something like this happens. You get so used to telling people about some niche thing that most of the general public knows little about (in this case online poker) that it becomes your go-to move.
I used online poker as an example but you can swap out it with any skill found on resumes: Certain programming languages, software, or certifications. This is about being caught trying to talk out of your ass. The reason I know this is because I’ve made a career talking out of my ass. I’m really great at it. It’s taken years to hone these ass talking skills. Whatever you put on your resume be prepared for someone to ask you about it because the one thing people who can talk out of their asses do better than talk out of their asses is recognizing when someone is talking out of theirs.
4. Dude, stop saying “dude”
This one makes me feel like an old man. And a bit of hypocrite. I use “dude” all the time. It’s great. But no matter how cool he is you don’t want to sound like Crash from Finding Nemo.
(Dear god, I need to stop watching that movie and get out more. Two Finding Nemo references in one post. Ugh, I’m disgusted with myself.)
Other sayings I am begging you to never utter during an interview include: Groovy, Solid, LOL (like literally saying the letters “L-O-L”), OMG (either the letters or just saying ‘OH MY GOD’), Awesome (I think the rule is one ‘awesome’ per interview. Any more and you’re headed into Keanu Reeves territory),Totally, Righteous, Killer, Wicked, Psyched, or any other word I am to old to understand like whatever the hell YOLO or TOTES mean. No need to tell me I really don’t care.
And if you ever put your fist out for someone to bump it I hope that someone will have the common courtesy to smack the top of your hand like it was on fire.
I love Twitter. I think it’s my favorite social media outlet. I like the ability to get the latest fantasy football updates straight from my favorite reporters. I enjoy being able to reach out and reply to [insert random famous person here] who is interacting with fans. I love all the different people I’ve interacted with through whatever common interest we share.
But I would never bring up that I have a Twitter account during a job interview. One reason is because my Twitter handle is @TheiHeartBeer. That’s not the worst handle out there but it does give off a certain frat-boy vibe. Luckily since I have a beer blog that makes me look less like a bro and more like a hipster craft beer doofus. So if your twitter handle is something embarrassing like “@Belieber4Ever420” or “@BigJohnson420” don’t bring it up. And change your Twitter handle.
Another thing to keep in mind if you’re bringing up your Twitter account. Make sure your tweets don’t make you look like a raving lunatic. I don’t just mean some random off the wall tweet either. If you’re constantly replying to celebrities and/or random people with rude or inappropriate comments that is going to make you look like a psycho…because you’re a psycho…and you need to stop that and get some help.
Pissed your team lost in the playoffs so you go on a drunken racist rant? You’re a terrible person, delete your Twitter account.
Someone was elected whose opinions differ from yours so you bombard their timeline with rude comments all day? You’re a terrible person, delete your Twitter account.
Constantly tweeting [insert random celebrity] for a retweet or for them to reply back? You’re a stalker, delete your Twitter account.
I’m not trying to make it sound like Twitter is full of psychos. It’s not. It’s that the world is full of psychos, Twitter is free and smartphones are really cheap now.
If you don’t want to give up Twitter (or any social media outlet) do what I do and get yourself an anchor. Mine is my father-in-law. Knowing that my father-in-law follows me on Twitter helps me self-edit myself. It’s like he’s the last box on my imaginary checklist before hitting ‘Send’.
“Would Bill approve? (Y/N/?)”
Even with the watchful Eye of Bill, shaking his disappointed head in the way only a father-in-law can do to his son-in-law, I still have sent out some borderline “inappropriate” tweets.
Okay, I can see how a potential employer might be concerned that I just pounded a 12-pack with my small child.
Again, nothing that bad but just makes me look like an impatient perv.
Finally, example #3
I don’t have an excuse for this one. I still think it’s funny, I stand by it and I’m sorry.
I hope these thoughts are helpful.
– Old Man Ray (@TheiHeartBeer)
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Mr. Fenske is a professor at VCU Brandcenter in Richmond VA. The site is an extension of his efforts in the classroom, except for the cartoons, which seem to grow out of some disaffection he feels with the world. Thank you for visiting. © Mark Fenske
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