By: Dave Templeman and Will Moulthrop
How many times have you watched a movie where an actor is “performing” some aspect of your job so inaccurately that you wanted to hurl a shoe at the screen? As staffing and recruiting pros, our team keeps a running list of onscreen job interview scenes we love to hate, compiled here to add some comic relief – and job interview advice – to your day.
AG’s Director of Staffing Services Dave Templeman sets the scene:
Tuxedo-clad Will Ferrell as Brennan Huff interviews for a janitorial job, bungling the hiring manager’s name several times. His stepbrother Dale, played by John C. Reilly, inexplicably pops out from behind him and makes matters worse.
I’ve spent two decades helping candidates further their careers, so trust me when I say this scene is the best, worst job interview scene in Hollywood.
There’s a lot to unpack here, but what drives me crazy about this scene is how utterly clueless Will Ferrell’s Brennan Huff is. Let’s start with his attire: In what reality does it make sense to wear a tux to a job interview? Then there’s his awkward reference to the hiring manager as “Human Resources Lady,” followed by his inability
to grasp her one-syllable, three-letter name. After his stepbrother unexpectedly and unhelpfully tries to intervene, Brennan rudely shushes Pam.
AG’s Real World Recommendations:
Keep your attire neat and appropriate for the industry in which you’re interviewing. Do your homework: Research the company and hiring manager to learn as much as you can before the interview. Name-calling or egregious mispronunciations are grounds for stopping the interview. And it goes without saying: Don’t bring family members.
AG’s Senior Resource Manager Will Moulthrop sets the scene:
Matt Damon is Will Hunting, a mathematical savant from the wrong side of the tracks, who is being heavily recruited for analyst roles. In pursuit of greater things in his life, he ditches an interview with an elite firm, sending his goofball best friend Chuckie (Ben Affleck) as a comically ill-fitting replacement.
This movie won a lot of awards back in the late ‘90s, but Ben Affleck’s audacious interview scene doesn’t score any points with me.
It’s hard to decide which is worse as fast-talking Chuckie fakes his way through this interview at a tony Boston firm: his thrift store suit and white tube socks or his mixed metaphors. In the real world, even if Chuckie had made it past the lobby, these aren’t the type of shenanigans any hiring manager, let alone a panel of interviewers, has time to entertain—regardless of how talented you are.
AG’s Real-World Recommendations:
Bluster can’t make up for a lack of qualifications. Before you accept a job interview, do your due diligence so you have a good idea of what the hiring manager is looking for. For instance, at AG, we look past the job description to help candidates know what the interviewer’s expectation is for a successful candidate interview, as well as what other potential offers candidates might be competing against. And for heaven’s sake, if you’re not interested in an opportunity, call or email to politely decline the interview. Don’t send your best friend, even if he is Ben Affleck.
3. “The Office”
Dave sets the scene for us again:
Experienced paper salesman and beet farmer Dwight Schrute, played by Rainn Wilson, pounds the pavement in search of a new job. He overwhelms and offends as he moves from one failed interview to the next.
Here’s another classic example of a job candidate sorely lacking in self-awareness:
I’ll start with what’s good about this scene: Dwight is prepared for anything. I don’t think there’s a question he isn’t ready for with a sincere (albeit misguided) answer.
But preparation only gets you so far. Although Dwight’s aggressive approach is on-brand for his fictional character, it’s a dealbreaker in the real world. Fortunately, I’ve never had a candidate present me with three themed, bound resumes or describe himself as a “merciless alpha male.” However, I do remember one candidate who sat down, leaned back in a chair and crossed his arms behind his head before I even sat down—like an old college buddy instead of someone interviewing for a job. My interpretation? He wasn’t ready to take the conversation seriously, so I ended the interview before it began.
AG’s Real-World Recommendations:
It’s true: Preparation and presentation are critical. As we shared in our job-seeker webinar earlier this year, we encourage all our IT job candidates to practice their elevator speech until it rolls off their tongue. We also tell them to keep a notebook handy so they can jot down career accomplishments and challenges when they come to mind so they’re ready with specific examples during an interview. It’s equally important to exude confidence vs. entitlement (or, like Dwight, belligerence).
Just like all the behind-the-scenes action on a film set, there’s much more that goes into being an MVP job candidate than Hollywood would have you believe. Our job is to make you the star of your job interview. Just let us know when you’re ready for your close-up.
Dave Templeman serves as AG’s Director of Staffing Services. Will Moulthrop is our Senior Resource Manager. Together, they bring decades of experience helping candidates through career transitions and helping companies find the right fit for their team.
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