DiceTV: If I Tell You, You’ll Have to Kill Me

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NevHz2KuSKs?rel=0&hd=1&w=560&h=346]

The Script

Cat: You want to be seen as smart in a job interview. But it better not come at the expense of your future boss or teammates. I’m Cat Miller, and this is DiceTV.

Suppose you’re interviewing for a dream job that calls for both intellectual chops and attention to detail. Naturally, you’re eager to impress. But while preparing – because you always do your homework before an interview, right? – you found a mistake in something created by the team you’re interviewing for.

You might have spotted it in a research report, a page from the company’s Web site, or a blog post your interviewer wrote. Do you find a way to mention it – to show how much you’re on the ball?


No matter how diplomatic you try to be, the risks simply outweigh any possible benefits. Appearing arrogant or egotistical is the kiss of death for any job candidate. And that’s exactly what you’d risk if you cited a mistake in your interviewer’s work.

Remember: Your goal is get the job. Once you’ve joined the company, don’t hesitate to head off errors to improve your team’s work. An interview is not the place to bring up a mistake that was made by your prospective boss.

Besides, showing you’re smart at someone else’s expense is simply bad politics – in any interview situation. Even when you’re talking about former supervisors and colleagues, you should always praise. Whether you believe it or not, remember: Your boss was never wrong.

The bottom line: Find some other way to show you’re smart.

I’m Cat Miller, this has been DiceTV, and we now return you to your regular desktop.

11 Responses to “DiceTV: If I Tell You, You’ll Have to Kill Me”

  1. Peter from Mesa

    As an editor, I must disagree. I have been able to get some part-time work because I sent “suggestions” regarding a sample manual to the company. The person who read them realized that, while he/she knows a lot more about their specialty, they need help with grammar, punctuation, and occasional rewriting. My suggestions showed how valuable my services can be. I was not, however, arrogant or demeaning; that would be a kiss of death to any opportunities! Furthermore, how do you know that a mistake is not an up-front test to see how observant you are?

  2. The purpose of an interview SHOULD be to find out how well both sides would be satisfied by working together. If the interviewee feels that they should point out a mistake, they should (politely and with friendly sensitivity); however, as Cat mentions, it could be a deal killer if handled wrong. Good sense should prevail on both sides. If it doesn’t, would you be happy working there?

  3. good advice – most of the time but not always. If you claim years of expertise in QA/QC and they ask you (as they often do) if you visited their internet site and found typos or grammatical errors or simply the site is not user-friendly, I think it is your duty as an expert to at least bring it up whether they like it or not. Yes it may costs you the job but like one comment says: who wants to work for morons who think they know it all and don’t know basic spelling…

  4. Gene Loriot

    Sorry, for the question, but I just fell off a turnip truck and I do not recognize the gentleman in the picture to your left. The one you favored to be on the board with Mr. Dice. Please advise.

  5. Glenn Glazer

    I think there is a major exception to this advice, that being people interviewing for software QA jobs. It is QA’s job to find problems, so demonstrating that you can do this is not a risk and it isn’t arrogance.

  6. Assuming you are offered the job, then what? Do you point out the mistake? Sadly there are too many (in positions of authority) who believe they know everything, are experts at everything technical, and never make a mistake. And to the point that Mr Glazer makes: well said. Confidence is usually viewed as arrogance by folks who lack talent, skills, and confidence.

  7. While I agree with Cat that it’s not usually good to identify issues, there are some circumstances that may deem such. Context is important though, if it’s something that the interviewer/team is PROUD of, clearly, bad mention is not a good idea.

    One of my interviewee questions that I like to respond with, at the near end, when the interviewer asks: “Do you have any questions for me?” is along the lines of : “What are some of the troublespots that you’re currently experiencing within your IT system?” Upon their mention of issues, if you can spot a problem, you can score well and increase their urgency to bring you aboard–as long as you have expertise in that particular issue. Being able to cite a previous ‘similar’ experience that had a positive outcome would be a HUGE point.

    Good Luck!

  8. Richard Goun, Esq.

    I always enjoy Cat Miller’s advice on DiceTV. The advice is useful and always worth thinking about. The presentation by Cat Miller is excellent too. Thanks very much for the helpful advice!