Is there a place for emotion during a job interview?

A boss who went viral after driving a job applicant to tears during an interview, brought to mind an episode of The Office in which David Brent tried to impress the office junior by pretending to have read Dostoyevsky.

Slough’s most deluded employer never figured the intern might have studied Russian Literature at university, betraying his monumental ignorance. Every time he left the room to Google another fact about the author, only left him further exposed.

Clearly Craig Dean was on a Brent-inspired trip when he belittled 22-year-old graduate Olivia Bland who had applied for the role of communications assistant with his digital firm.

According to Olivia, Dean acted like an ‘an abusive-ex,’ asking highly personal (and irrelevant) questions – including whether her parents were still together – and criticised everything about her from her writing style to her posture.

He used every cliché in the small man’s playbook, including strategically placing colleagues, who had no role in the interview process, beside and behind Olivia to unnerve her.

Olivia went on to post about her experience on Facebook but she soon learned that if you lie down with social media dogs you risk catching fleas.

For every supportive ‘like’ and condemnatory comment about Dean’s bullying, sexism and misogyny, an equal number of followers lined-up to brand her a thin-skinned snowflake who should have called him out, or better, given as good as she got.

But then, is crying at an interview really such a bad move? If the point is to give an employer a more rounded picture of you as an applicant, showing a bit of an emotion might just work in your favour.

An Australian software developer took to Twitter to tell how blubbing during an interview landed him his dream gig.

Boon Cotter (I know, but he’s Australian) flew to California for an interview with a video game company called Naughty Dog (I know, I know).

When the interviewee asked him why he wanted to work there, Boon came over all   emotional and described how much it meant to him, as a gay man, to have one of Naughty Dog’s titles “The Last of Us” include a gay character, because it broke stereotypes.

Upon telling them that, he started to cry and landed the job. So, the moral to his story may be ‘don’t underestimate the power of authenticity.’

Having said that, an uncontrollable display of emotion may not be appropriate in every interview situation, for example if you were trying to land a job as a diplomat, a spy, a croupier, or a member of the SAS.

Olivia’s experience prompted a debate about whether she was simply reverting to type as an entitled Millennial.

Rather than taking things personally, she should have accepted that challenging and sometimes unpleasant exchanges are part and parcel of the world of work, it was suggested. Perhaps, she should have put her feelings to one side and been more robust in her engagement with a prospective employer, no matter his own obvious inadequacies.

One option might have been to steer the conversation onto Dostoyevsky.

Posted on: 11th November 2022 by Ivor Campbell

Into his fourth decade of search Ivor has a voice with stories to tell, observations to make and the odd picture to share. Mostly related to the day job.

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