Here’s an interesting new problem I never anticipated – job candidates showing up for their interviews armed with iPads, tablet computers, and laptops. Granted, these toys are becoming more prevalent in a host of business settings, such as meetings and presentations, but at a job interview? Apparently it is becoming a prevalent problem, so much so that U.S. News had a recent article on the subject.
Granted, laptops, iPads, and smart phones have become ubiquitous. Everywhere you look there are people walking down the street, with their eyes glued to their cell phones. Or they are sitting in Starbuck transfixed by their tablet or laptop computer. And that’s the real problem; the technology detracts from the interview and, more importantly, from the interviewer.
According to etiquette experts Diane Gottsman, even using a small device for note taking gets in the way of the interview:
"I have spoken with many hiring managers and recruiters that say they're not positively affected by an applicant that comes in and opens their laptop to start taking notes," she says.
The exception is if you have a creative job and your tablet or iPad could be useful for displaying samples of your work. Or if you need to use a tablet or laptop for some sort of interactive discussion with the hiring manager, then it might make sense to use your computer or iPad. But remember to bring paper backups. There is nothing worse than having all these great ideas or examples ready only to have the presentation technology fail when it comes time to present them. And there may be multiple people in the meeting, so trying to crowd around a small screen would be very awkward.
However, technology always gets in the way of making a personal connection with the interviewer. How many of you have experienced the frustration of trying to hold a conversation with a spouse or friend who is immersed in their smart phone? If you are looking at your phone (or computer, or iPad), you can’t make eye contact, and you aren't giving your undivided attention to the interviewer. Most hiring managers will tell you that they find it distracting and disturbing when a candidate breaks out their iPad or laptop to take notes. They should be paying attention to the interview, no their computer.
So if you want to avoid technology trauma in an interview, remember the basics:
- Be prepared. Do your homework and prepare with as much information about the hiring company and the position you are looking to fill. Don’t be afraid to ask beforehand what the interviewer would like to see during the initial interview so you are adequately prepared.
- Rehearse beforehand. Think about the most common interview questions and how you would answer them. Be sure to preplan to arrive on time. If for whatever reason you do decide to make a presentation or use your laptop, be sure to arrive sufficiently early to set up and make sure everything is running properly.
- Follow their lead. Remember, the interview is the hiring company’s agenda, not yours, so even if you have a killer presentation, wait until it’s clear that it’s time to pull out the PowerPoint. You will be given the right opportunity to produce your laptop only if the opportunity is right.
- Paper is still useful. Be sure to bring paper copies of everything you may want to leave behind, starting with your resume. Hard copies are always useful to reference and share with other managers, and if you don’t need to worry if your laptop fails.
Technology certainly has its place, but usually not in a job interview. Bringing the new toys to show off your stuff is not the best way to make a first impression, and too often the tools get in the way of the message. It’s always better to show up for a job interview prepared, but without the additional bells and whistles that get in the way of presenting the genuine you! After all, they are hiring you, not your PowerPoint or your toys.