Workers tell Moneyish their sob success stories – but employers caution that emotional job interviews should be the exception to the rule.
These are tears of employ.
An Australian developer’s tweet recently went viral with a sob story about how crying during his job interview landed his dream gig.
Twitter user Boon Cotter shared a 14-post thread on Tuesday about flying to California for an interview with Naughty Dog, a video game company behind titles like “The Last of Us” and “Uncharted.” When the potential employers asked Cotter why he wanted to work there, he got emotional while describing how much it meant to him as a gay man to have “The Last of Us” include a gay character who broke stereotypes.
I told them it was the first time I'd seen a gay man portrayed as this gruff, masculine, tragically heroic type of character. 9/x
— Boon Cotter (@booncotter) September 5, 2017
“And telling them that made me start crying,” he admitted.
Neither Cotter nor Naughty Dog responded to Moneyish’s requests for comment, but Cotter reportedly still got the job.
“Moral to the story: Don’t underestimate authenticity. Be raw, be vulnerable, be real,” he concluded.
Theo Caviness, formerly a graphic designer at the New York Post and the New York Daily News, told Moneyish he had a similar experience after going through the ringer during his 2016 job search. While interviewing for a job at ESPN last year – which took months of phone interviews and background checks just to get a face-to-face – he was hit with a curveball question: What is the most important thing in your life?
“I saw my kids, and my wife and the whole year behind me … and it just bubbled out of me,” he said. “I told him that my kids were my life, and I needed to be a working man to provide for them. And he hands me a box of tissues, and says thanks, and kinda ushers me out … and I’m thinking, ‘Welp! There it goes.’”
But Caviness got the gig as a manager in the research department. And he learned from his boss a few months later that the crying was the clincher.
“He tells me, ‘Theo, you were the only person I’ve seen in 15 years who cried and emoted like that. I told everyone you were our guy as soon as you left,’” recalled Caviness, who is loving his ESPN gig.
Jack Healey, CEO of the Bear Hill Advisory Group, will also never forget the time he accidentally made a potential hire cry during a job interview at a previous company. Healey paused the interview to confess his head wasn’t in it, because his mother had recently passed away. The candidate burst into tears.
“That gave me real perspective into who she was as a person,” he told Moneyish. “We were building a company from the ground up, and I needed a right-hand person … and this showed me she had empathy for other folks.” They ended up working together for the next 14 years.
“It became a running joke with us whenever we were hiring someone,” he added. “We’d ask, ‘How did the interview go?’ and answer, “Fine, but I didn’t make them cry.’”
While getting emotional during an interview can showcase your authenticity, like in these specific examples, you shouldn’t expect to weep your way to the top. Just as many employers told Moneyish that tears are a major turn-off.
Marc Prosser, the co-founder of FitSmallBusiness.com, remembers when what should have been a routine interview with an internal candidate went off the rails. The employee was being promoted in-house from another department, but when Prosser started running through the responsibilities of her new position, and asked why she would be a good fit, she began crying so hard that she had to leave the room.
“She had been told the job was effectively hers, and I don’t think she prepared for our interview the way she would have if it was at another company,” he said. “So during our interview, I think it occurred to her that she could fail at this.”
She was still given the gig, but ended up resigning several months later due to the pressure of the position.
“I’ve hired over 200 people in the last decade, and this was the only time anyone has ever cried,” Prosser added. “And to be honest, it showed that she didn’t have the right emotional makeup for this particular position … even though she had been good at her previous position, and came with sterling reviews.”
And two staffing managers from The HT Group, an Austin-based employment agency, said the few times that candidates were hired despite crying during their interviews, they were let go a short time later.
“It has happened enough that I do think there’s a correlation between keeping composure and what type of employee you’ll be,” said staffing manager Melissa Jamison. “It may sound harsh, but we are not your friends – we are your potential employers, and we shouldn’t be the ones you tell your secrets to. Please be honest with me, but keep it at a need-to-know level.”
So what happens if you crack? The experts say you can still mitigate the damage.
Take a deep breath. You should take a few seconds to think of your response to a question, anyway. So if something the interviewer says strikes an emotional chord, or you feel the tears pricking from the pressure, take a deep breath to compose yourself. Count to 10. Run through how much you rehearsed this interview. And start over.
Own up to it. If you can’t stem the tide of tears, just lean into them. Explain – briefly – why you got emotional, the way Cotter did. But do not dig yourself into a hole by sharing your whole life story.
Reframe your passion as a positive. Cotter and Caviness were both able to rework their emotional responses as evidence of how invested they would be in their positions. “You don’t want to be emotionless or monotone in an interview, after all,” said Cheryl Palmer, a job coach at Call to Career. “Your compassion and your passion should come through – just try not to go overboard.”
But whatever you do:
Don’t leave the room. “It’s going to be really hard to recover from that, because even if you return composed with a fresh face, the momentum is gone,” said Palmer. “See if you can just compose yourself quickly, wipe your face with a tissue, and keep going.” That kind of quick rebound can also be seen as a strength.
And don’t fake it! “Generally speaking, this is not a recommended interview tactic, and when it works, it’s only in specific, case-by-case situations where it was authentic,” said Palmer. “So don’t try going in and fake-crying to get compassion. Most of us are not professional actors, and the interviewer will see right through that.”
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