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Subconscious interview score

Subconscious Interview Score

Freud had it right.  The Subconscious Interview Score is happening whether we want to admit it or not

@PMDude said it best about the subconscious interview score:

“Anything that redirects the attention from the skills of the candidate I am interviewing lowers the subconscious score that I am assembling.  It may not DQ (disqualify) a candidate, but it is always going to be a factor”.

It’s only human nature. Whether we want to admit it or not, judging people is a survival tactic that dates back to the cave man days.  If you wanted to survive, you needed to be able to figure out the other cave man quickly.  As a candidate, whether it is a conscious or subconscious interview score, the goal is to not raise any eyebrows of doubt.

Let me clarify. I am confident that there are a number of things we notice about anyone we meet and we keep a score of debits and credits as time goes by. What is unfair is that the rules of the game are different for everyone. What is important to one person may or may not be important to the next person. I don’t say this because I am shallow, superficial and care how folks present themselves.  I am, I am, and I do. My job is to compare a number of candidates and work with the hiring manager to narrow it down to a single hire. There is no second place.  When you compare two products side by side, you are not only looking for what is best, you are also looking for flaws.

During an interview, I may or may not ask a candidate about how they act or what they say. Just because I don’t bring it up doesn’t mean I didn’t notice. I did notice and it is affecting my subconscious interview score.

This is a high-level example, but if you come in late with the wrong dress code, I am not going to ask you why you appear as though you don’t care about the impression you are trying to make. Did I make a mental note to myself? Absolutely.If you introduce yourself, and say, “sorry I am late”, I will reply with something polite like “I know traffic can be tough this time a day and it is hard to find parking, no problem”. If your cell phone goes off and you apologize for not turning it off beforehand, I may not be raising my eyebrows, but a thorough grin fucking on my part comes to mind.

During the interview, if you sound pessimistic, keep tapping the table with your fingers or nervously bounce your knees up and down, just because I don’t ask you to stop, doesn’t mean that my subconscious interview score isn’t going through the roof in a bad way. These actions affect the decision-making process but don’t think I will always bring them up or look for clarification. I just take note and keep things moving along.  Sometimes you can overcome these irritations by being brilliant in every other category, but the clock is ticking and in this economy, there are a lot of choices, aka candidates. Think I am being too demanding?  If you were on a first date with someone you were really interested in and they kept saying “uh huh, uh huh, uh huh” or kept looking at their reflection every chance they got, would you say anything?  Probably not. Would there be a second date?  Probably not.

The small things affect this subconscious interview score. HR may say that they can overlook things like nervous habits and only judge a person by their qualifications, but contrary to belief, we are not superhuman, we are like everyone else. I KNOW what the hiring manager will and will not put up with. The hiring manager is my customer and I cater to them.  You stealing quick glances at every woman who walks by may not affect your job performance but I don’t want to be asked about it by the hiring manager, AKA the customer.

Subconscious interview score

The subconscious interview score can come into play in a lot of different ways. The obvious ones are: Too much cologne (or ANY cologne for that matter), torn or ill-fitting clothes (regardless of fashion or how expensive they are), jeans and sneakers (wear khakis and black rubber soled dress shoes), extreme haircut, or sunglasses worn on the head (we are applying for a job, not auditioning for a role on Jersey Shore).

There have been a number of times where I didn’t take notice of something but when another person interviewed the same candidate and brought up the annoyance, the light came on.  (Or for this candidate “the light went off”)

Below are a few examples that affect the subconscious interview score of the judges and I can almost guarantee you that the candidate will not be asked about the transgression. Hopefully, the list will reveal how nit-picky a job search can get.

  • Avoid jewelry that shows an association with a group.  The association could be anything from a church group to earned certification/designation pin on your lapel. (Wear the certification on your resume, not on your lapel, hold your religious belief in your heart during the interview, not around your neck) The safest thing to do is go as conservative as you can.  Conservative will rarely upset the hiring cart or go out of style. I once interviewed a guy who had a College Bowl ring on. He was a big guy, had big hands, and most of his fingers had obviously been broken. This ring was BIG, it was flossy and it would be considered Bling with a capital B. I knew from prior experience the hiring manager would take one look at this guy and think “he’s a jock-meathead”. I ended up asking him to not wear the ring the next time he came in and not wear a fitted shirt. Yes, he got the job.
  • Tap your feet or have an unconscious habit with a pen or pencil?  Annoying!
  • Bad Breath.  Just crush a couple of mints before each interview.

It sounds unreasonable, but this is a job where someone is going to PAY you cash money. Companies want the best in the show, they don’t want flaws. Don’t distract the process with what you can control. Help the recruiter focus on your skill sets and your qualifications and you will better your chances of making the final cut.

See you at the after party,


nasty: an unreal maneuver of incredible technique, something that is ridiculously good, tricky and manipulative but with a result that can’t help but be admired, a phrase used to describe someone who is good at something. “He has a nasty forkball”.

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