“Oh I hate it when people are like that; I really do!”
“Okay, well that about does it. Thanks for coming in, we’ll be in touch.” And they never are. What went wrong?
It’s likely that whatever you find annoying in other people that prompted you to make the comment you did cost you a real shot at that job. “Hate” is one of those words that people use more commonly than they really mean. For not only do people use it to describe extreme revulsion, but they also use it in 2014 to describe things they don’t like a little but can easily adapt to. So for example, “I hate this pudding!”, “I hate having to get up early!”
Odds are that pudding flavour or texture is something you don’t find to your taste, but you could just as easily have said, “I prefer vanilla instead thank you, the butterscotch isn’t a flavour I enjoy.” This may not be what you would say if you were hanging out with your trusted girlfriend, but it might be what you’d say if you were having dinner at someone’s house you were just getting to know and wanted to make a good impression.
“Wanted to make a good impression.” Hmmmmm……isn’t that what you’re trying to do at the interview also? Right! You see that interviewer across the table is trying their best to get to know you over a relatively short period of time; even when there’s multiple interviews to go through. And because they don’t know you, anything you say is magnified. They can’t tell if a comment like, “I hate people like that” means you really do hate others or you just find them mildly annoying but can still get along.
People are generally considered the most important asset companies have. Put the right people in place and the company thrives. Hire the wrong people in key positions and the company will flounder and possibly fail. It is for this reason and this reason alone that picking the right candidate(s) from the many who apply for a job takes time and has to be done right – the first time.
So there sits the interviewer. Whether you started off with someone in Human Resources or not, eventually you end up sitting in front of someone who knows not only the job requirements but also the people with whom the successful job applicant will be working with. It’s as if all those people and their various personalities are the individual ingredients in some breathing recipe. Find the missing ingredient in a job applicant and the result is a winning combination. However, make the wrong choice, and you may upset the mix that was so close to what Management was close to achieving, and you’ll be out before the end of probation and the process will start anew.
Okay so that comment, “Oh I hate it when people are like that; I really do!” What the interview has likely done is precede the response the applicant gave with either a question or comment about someone with a strong personality not everyone can work with. Could be, and likely is, that there is someone on the team you would be working with, or in the organization you’d have to deal with who has that very personality, manner, style or trait. And if there isn’t, it’s a test to see how you would deal with an angry customer or someone who rubs you the wrong way.
Being careful, thinking before talking, and coming up with an answer that is honest but ends on a positive rather than on a negative is the key. And you should always be thinking to yourself, “What’s really behind this question? What is it that’s really being probed? If you think it’s a question or comment designed to provoke a response, taking a moment to re-think your automatic response may save the interview and keep yours going. So perhaps you might say, “The great thing about meeting people, whether it’s customers, clients or co-workers is that we’re all so different and yet we find ways to get along, even when our differences sometimes create personal challenges. Whenever I interact with someone who has behaviour I personally don’t appreciate, I can separate their behaviour from the person themselves.”
After making this kind of introductory statement, I’d cite an example from my past where someone has initially rubbed me the wrong way, but I was able to work with them and produce a positive result. You know, kind of, “To illustrate this, it was when I was with such and such company, and I was tasked with working on a project with a person who constantly interrupted my sentences and didn’t appear to be listening. I refrained from saying something that would be hurtful, and asked if we could just pause a moment and talk. I explained how I felt when he interrupted constantly, (which he said he knows he does but is working on) and he said he’d really make an effort not to do that and hear me out because he values my opinion. We then resumed the project and came to a successful conclusion.”
“Hate” is a word you might want to drop altogether anyhow. Save it for extreme situations where it’s required but leave it out of your everyday vocabulary. Dropping it will serve you well.