Don’t Let a Whiner’s Club Attitude Screw Up Your Interview AND Career Chances!

I know I’m risking an angry response from some of my dear readers, but seriously…I’m worried about you. Being interviewed for a job is a lot like being on camera…we interviewers see almost every flaw, including things you can’t believe we see.

One of the most important things that shines through during a job interview is the attitude you carry with you.  And your attitude matters not only because it tells us how you handle the interview process – but also how you would be to work with on a day to day basis. And I’m not just talking about the attitude you try to show us during the actual job interview.  Let me explain.

Why your attitude TODAY matters so much

I’ll bet many of you think you can simply turn on a smile in an interview and your interviewer won’t have the slightest clue about all kinds of stuff going on in your personal life. Well…luckily, in most cases, that’s probably true.  😉 But what does come through anyway – in your walk, handshake, presentation, body language, eye contact, smile, interview answers, and stories – is a lot about who you are as a person and how you handle tough times.

So now here’s where I risk your wrath: How are you handling things today, right this minute? Some of you are really letting the interview process get deeply personal. Sure it’s horrible. And sure it drives us absolutely bonkers. But how you handle all this tells me a lot about how you will handle the job as well – and may affect your job interview.

Are you feeding the good stuff or the frustration?

In my extensive work life at almost all levels of the career ladder, I have rarely found a job that wasn’t at some point filled with roadblocks, frustrations or simply things that at some time in some way drove me absolutely looney tunes.

I’ve seen critical projects and improvements delayed for years or ignored completely. I’ve seen people who do nothing or do too much or seem to get in your face just to bug you. I’ve seen political games played all around that sometimes hurt innocent folks. And I’ve even seen hiring processes that take waaay too long – while our workers have to carry the extra load. And those of us depending on (but unable to control) the hiring process, consider hiring someone to scream for us because we’re too overwhelmed by the insanity to do it for ourselves.

Ok. I threw some of that in just to remind you there are two sides to the horrors of hiring – and many seemingly irrational, controlled-by-no-one aspects. And yes…you’d think that would/ should/ could lead to process improvement within the company. But getting stuck in woulda/ shoulda/ coulda won’t help YOU! So until you are in a position to change things, let’s let that go, ok?

For now and forever, please remember that the people who get ahead in interviews (and in their careers) are the ones who see all this and take it in perspective for what it is.  BUT, instead of getting stuck with what isn’t working and how someone done ’em wrong, they look for ways to make things better for themselves – and maybe even for others around them.

And what about the whiners and blamers? Well…sorry to say, more often than not (there are always exceptions) they get passed over. Again and again. And then they wonder why. And they blame some more. And they look everywhere except right there in the mirror at the one person who can truly help make things better. Seriously…who would you rather work with: a they-done-me-wrong whiner or a how-can-I-help-make-things-better doer? (If your answer is the whiner, we have a lot more to discuss about why your career might not be working for you!  😉 )

Now please know I try to make this blog a safe place where you can express your deepest frustrations as well as your successes. The hiring process is truly awful and many employers should be ashamed of themselves for the way they treat people. I want you to feel free to let it out here on Work Coach Cafe – so maybe you can then let it go.

But I also hope when it comes to real life, you will stop and take an honest look at how you are reacting to all this. And how much time you’re spending on things that just don’t help – and may even hurt. Is the way you’re handling your job search really working for you? And remember…the way you handle things here may very well reflect how you handle other things, including your jobs – and why you don’t move ahead as fast and as far as you would like.

PLEASE take the time to really think about how you reacted when you didn’t get an interview or if you got the interview and didn’t get the offer or – here it comes – when you didn’t hear back from a potential employer on YOUR time schedule or in a way that you think is the “right” way. While some whining, screaming, cursing, growling, crying, curling up in a fetal position, etc. is totally understandable and even feels good at times – lord knows – are you spending too much time stuck in blaming and whining?

If so, not only are you wasting valuable time and energy creating your own misery (we live in the attitude we create), but you are throwing away precious time you could use to find new people to network with, new companies to target, places to volunteer and meet folks, conferences or workshops that might help, and opportunities to upgrade your skills or become an expert in some field. Or you could use the time to be with family and friends. Or finally get to start working on that special thing you’ve always wanted to do (but never had the time) – something that could possibly enhance your entire life. Or, giving it a zen twist, just time to practice letting go of what you can’t control and focusing on what you can.

Coincidentally, any and all of this can also help you interview better.

Wait…why would this help improve my interviews?

When you are engaged in positive vital activities rather than spending your days on the couch feeling weak, helpless and ignored (this is deep stuff and worth exploring), you actually interview better. Partly because you have something current and interesting to talk about, but even more importantly because you feel stronger – and you’ve spent more of your time being happy and productive. This is positive energy you’ve created for yourself that can add to the way interviewers see you (as well as folks you meet while networking). It can also add to your life as a whole, well beyond this job search since attitude is a habit that lives on.

And all that can show in how you feel about yourself and how you carry yourself, etc. –  and therefore in your interviews. The whiny blame game can become a bad habit that’s hard to kick – and one that undermines your chances of succeeding. And the same goes (even more so) AFTER you get the job.

I won’t mention any names, but one of my readers has been denied jobs for a reason that makes my blood boil. But not only does this person still stay focused on the real prize – getting herself a good job – she is also using her time and many talents to help change policy so others don’t have to go through what she is dealing with. (So proud of her!)

I see this as positive practical energy that will pay off in the long run – plus it reminds her of who she is and what she has to offer the world. Being unemployed and ignored does a horrible number on self worth. Please know you are still the same capable, talented person and there will be employers who see that – especially when you come to the table re-energized and reminded of all you are… and focused on how to get things done despite obstacles, a HUGE plus in interviews. (And not focused on all that’s being done to you!)

Emotions are lousy decision-makers

And finally…for anyone who hasn’t heard back from an interview and so you decide to punish THEM by withdrawing/ giving up (the real inspiration for this post)…well, what does that really say about how you handle challenges? There’s nothing lost if you do the best you can and just let the process happen in its own way and time. Either you get it or you don’t. What’s the big deal in leaving options open and (if possible) good feelings behind? It’s a great career approach. And anyway…you still need to keep looking with full job search determination everywhere you can no matter what until you get an actual offer!

As I’ve mentioned before…while keeping myself otherwise occupied, I once waited 3 -4 months to hear back from a great group phone interview. THREE TO FOUR MONTHS! In the interim, I simply sent an initial thank-you note and a follow-up e-mail every few weeks. I think I called once. And I turned out to be their top candidate!

FYI: Organizational changes (and later scheduling issues) had forced the delay – and no amount of calling or e-mailing on my part would have changed that.  Could they have kept me better informed? Sure. Could that reflect on the type of employer they are? Sure. But in this case, I happen to know they are a great team to work with and it’s a wonderful company. They were simply overwhelmed at the time by major concurrent projects (yes…of course hiring sooner would have helped) and also they were/are very VERY bad at the interview process. (As always…I advise against jumping to conclusions based on only the part of the interview iceberg you see.)

So before you jump to any conclusions or make job search (as well as career) decisions based mostly on frustration, think about what you might stand to lose – as well as all you might gain by learning to go with the flow. At the very least, unless you know for sure something is wrong, you might as well stay in the process until you hear otherwise. You never know what is happening behind the scenes that has nothing to do with whether it’s a great place to work. Really. And it’s always worth keeping contacts warm and friendly for the future – people you meet now can wind up anywhere.

I worry that some of you feel so helpless and so abused by the process, you understandably want to take action. And since you do feel frustrated (and of course really need that job) and can’t influence the process beyond doing your best in the interview and occasional polite follow ups, you sometimes take the only action you can – blaming, aiming your anger at THEM, and maybe even giving up.  You’re angry because you don’t have a job and deserve one. I get that and can understand why you feel as you do.

But when emotions take hold, you may not be seeing the whole picture or acting in your own best interest. Please aim your energy toward things that will help you now and in the future – and don’t waste it snarling at a process neither you nor I will ever fully understand nor probably be able to change to our satisfaction.

As my friend Paul so wisely wrote on his blog Work/Life Fusion:

It may feel like it sometimes

…but other people are not in your way!

Right on, Paul. And to all of you…please excuse my rant. I just care so much and want you to give yourself the best possible chance in your interviews and career! 😉

Best of luck!

Some Work Coach Cafe Links:

Who the Heck is Screening Your Resume?

What Goes On Behind the Scenes After a Job Interview?

10 Impressions You Leave Behind After a Job Interview

10 Things I Look for When I Screen Resumes & Cover Letters

7 Ways You Can Put Emotional Intelligence to Work

I Got the Post-Interview Temporary OCD Blues

Career Topics


About the author…

Ronnie Ann, founder of Work Coach Cafe, bases her real-world advice on her many years as an organizational consultant where she helped interview and hire people, added to a certificate from NYU in Career Planning & Development and her own adventures as a serial job seeker. She can also be found on her new blog, and on Google+.


  1. Hi Ronnie,

    Two points to your great (as usual) post.

    First is that studies show that about 55% of an (in-person) communication is conveyed through body language, 38% verbal cues (tone, tempo, etc) and words (about 7%). Bottom line, what we are thinking and feeling (our attitude) is driving the communication and the words we use (while very important) are telling far less of our story than our body language.
    Next, I agree that certain emotions are lousy decision makers, like: anger, fear (the basis by which many decisions about jobs are made) frustration and worry. But, there are many emotions that can we can evoke (one of the competencies of emotional intelligence) like: patience, confidence, encouragement (self) and optimism that can be enormous resources in all phases of the job search process.
    Happy to add a few thoughts to your wise words and quality advice to job seekers and those in career transitions!

  2. Thanks for the kind words and the excellent information. I love what you’re doing with your own blog (and all the great information about emotional intelligence) and promise to visit often. 😉

    ~ Ronnie Ann

  3. Keith Moody says:

    Thanks Ronnie…great posting and not one shred of anger by response at all – in fact quite the opposite. You make some great and very valid points. Thank you for the oh-so timely reminder!!!

    It sure is tough on both sides of the fence and I have been guilty at least on one occasion that come to mind!! Thank you for putting words to thoughts…!!

  4. Really appreciate that, Keith. Sorry for the delay in my answer. Just getting over the flu, but I kept a watchful eye and your words cheered me on. 😉

    All my best to you!

    ~ Ronnie Ann

  5. I’m not angry, I just wished you could have used a less hurtful word than whiner, some of us out there really have been trying all we can to get a job and find out what’s our purpose in this crazy world.

    Even though I’ve gone through multple job fairs, talked to job coaches, etc, etc, and worked very hard on my shyness, I still have got nothing to show for it. I think some people are allowed a moment to be a bit bitter about their current situations.

    For me this is not a game, I NEED the money and to have any job at this point would be wonderful. I hope next time you are a little more sensitive to your readers about what their going through.

    Whoo! It was good to get some steam off! Otherwise another good post.

  6. I liked this post. Sometimes the truth hurts (along with everything else) but the purpose is to help job seekers move forward. I do also agree with Mya; sometimes, you just need to hate the world and maybe throw a chair (alone in your own home of course lol).

    This is a tricky area because many frustrated job seekers are misunderstood. Yeah, I might be frustrated because I haven’t found a job (well duh?) but if you see that I’m putting on the happy face and trying to be positive, why kill my buzz by trying to be psychic and read into what you think you see from my body language? Could you actually be wrong? Or, if you can “see” that I’m frustrated inwardly but putting my best foot forward outwardly, is that not beneficial for those frustrated days on a job? Does this not count for something? Again, I liked this post; we shouldn’t let our frustrations limit our opportunities. But like Mya wrote, sometimes we just need a “moment to be a bit bitter” about our situations. I mean, you can be happy all day long. YOU have a job. We are the ones without a livelihood.

  7. Hi Mya and Chantey!

    I love your comments. Thank you for speaking from the heart!

    There is nothing more cleansing sometimes than being able to express righteous anger and frustration. Too many people just hold it in and I don’t think that’s healthy for anyone. (That’s not what I mean by being positive, btw.)

    Never for one minute do I think job search is a game for folks. Most of the time you may notice I go out of my way to be extra gentle, but this time I had a reason for being a little more controversial… I’ve recently seen good, talented folks who are unknowingly wearing their feelings in a way that’s hurting them in actual interviews. They are angry and it shows beyond the safe venting places – in a way that’s keeping them from getting the very jobs they want. Unfortunately they can’t see it – but others can. I’ve had feedback that tells me this (not just my observations), even as I try to get them networking help.

    Networking (and interviews of course) responds best to a feeling THIS person is someone I would want to work with myself or send to a friend. So if the face you present is one of “victim” that just won’t work – no matter how many obstacles you’ve had to climb.

    People respect the obstacles, but the stories they want to hear are ones that tell what actions you are taking to overcome the obstacles and/or make positive things happen in your life. People hire folks who get things done. Even if you’ve been looking for a job for a year (as hard as that is and as awful as that feels for any of us), what potential employers or allies love to hear is what you’ve made happen in the past and what you are doing with yourself as you search for your new job. And not everyone gets this.

    So I took a chance in writing this. Please accept my apologies if in any way my words seemed insensitive. Again, from what I know of you on this blog, neither of you seem like whiners. 😉 I thought long and hard before writing this and did it precisely to get some conversation going – and just maybe for those to whom it applies, to get the message home.

    The reason I talked about a “whiner’s club” is there is a big difference between venting (even every day if need be since it’s about real feelings) and making whining your new job or wearing the many turn-downs as a coat of armor. It is normal to feel angry and frustrated when people get rejected again and again even after doing everything possible.

    But some folks spend more time in the anger and blame – I mean almost all the time – and forget that, in addition to their job search, the more time they channel their energy and actions into positive efforts – volunteer work, personal projects you always wanted to do, helping others, classes, online learning, creative pursuits, a blog about something they love – the more they walk into an interview feeling good about who they are. And it does show. Plus you may meet folks along the way who want to help.

    Even after I already had my MBA, management experience and a year of law school under my belt, during jobless times I took reception jobs just to feel productive – and funny enough, every once in a while I got real live job offers at a higher level than what I was doing as a temp. I didn’t smile like an idiot and pretend to feel good about not working (employers know how tough it is), but I did all I could to fill my days with things that increased my own inner strength and belief in myself. Sometimes it is all in the attitude. Here are two posts that speak to that:

    Zen and the Art of Being a Receptionist

    20 Career Tips to Help You Promote Your Own Career

    So please don’t think I’m saying to walk around pretending everything is perfect – this is aimed more at folks who don’t even realize how much of their frustration is coming across in their networking and interviews. We can vent here or with friends, but when in public, talk about what you’re making happen and things you’re working on. It not only improves your own attitude, but it makes you more interesting to a potential employer or ally – they feel the energy. And if you have that going on, you are not a whiner’s club member even if you vent here!

    By the way…I don’t have a job and recently had to turn one down because of some physical issues that mean I may never be able to do that kind of work again. Was I bummed? YES! But my approach is…now what can I make happen for myself. And, corny as this may sound, I am also looking at the blessing of being “forced’ to look elsewhere. Luckily, sometimes elsewhere can be as good or better if we just open our eyes, reach out to new people and places, and create action in a new direction.

    OK. I’m off my soapbox. 😉

    My best to you both and everyone else in this situation. And for those to whom this post does apply…please just check once in a while to see where most of your energy goes and the attitude you bring with you, because it most definitely shows.

    ~ Ronnie Ann

  8. I/O Psychologist’s opinion:
    I think this is what a lot of organizations have problems with; they make job offers to people who have a “good vibe” rather than people who can actually do the job well. Consistently getting what you want makes you more confident and more likely to have a good vibe; it’s a cycle that polarizes people as bitter or optimistic. Of course, any psychologist can tell you about other types of people who give off good vibes: sociopaths. This is how organizations end up with lazy parasites for workers. Being able to manipulate others at an interview doesn’t usually translate to job success (salespeople are one exception). Unfortunately, it’s really difficult for people in hiring positions to admit that they aren’t the best at picking future employees.

    Think I’m blowing smoke? Check out Dan and Chip Heath’s piece called “Hold the Interview” in Fast Company (June ’09). Due to an unexpected increase in the number of open positions, offers were extended to people who failed the interview process (horribly, since only the really bad interviewees were still in the market at that point) and NO DIFFERENCE was found between their performance and that of those with “favorable” interviews.

    BTW my resentment tends to come out most strongly towards people who assume that I’ve been unemployed for a year because I 1) didn’t dress professionally at the interview, 2) chose the wrong field, 3) am not trying hard enough – not during the actual interview.

  9. Thanks Gessa for adding your professional opinion to the discussion. Much appreciated. The results of the “Hold the Interview” article are especially fascinating.

    In my own interview consulting stints, I’ve definitely seen where gut feel doesn’t work. But I also know it’s hard to be sure just who is the “right” candidate – and things like testing for instance are not going to make it all better. In most cases, there is going to be a gut factor whether it works or not!

    In no way was this article meant to blame people. I know just how flawed the hiring process is! It was simply my way of reminding folks for whom the attitude shoe may fit.

    Most of you are doing your very best and not wearing your blame or anger when you interview or go to informationals …but since I have seen it first hand from quite a few people who don’t realize how much shows, I offered this just in case it might strike a chord.

    Thanks for helping make the point that there are many ways to look at this and for reinforcing for so many that they are indeed doing their best; not getting an offer shouldn’t in any way detract from that.

    Then again…it never hurts for a job seeker to at least consider “What might I change?” or “How might I strengthen my job search?” And even if you’ve hit every networking possibility you can think of, I challenge you (my readers) to come up with another – and win them over to becoming your champion. In fact I just presented this challenge to someone who is super talented and was trapped in the “I can’t do anything else and this sucks” mode – and she found a connection from an early phase of her career that opened up 3 new connections!

    As hard as it is and as frustrating as it feels, it just takes as long as it takes. Kind of reminds me of the very old joke “Why are you hitting your head against the wall?” “Because it feels so good when it stops.”

    I wish you all the best in your own job search. 😉

    ~ Ronnie Ann

  10. Some “whiners” seem to think that life is fair and should be fair. Guess what folks… it’s not fair. But you must deal with it with a smile on your face to the public. And ideally, you can also smile to your private self as well.

  11. LOL. I like that Jonny. Smiling on both sides. A good way to face life head on and make friends with it too. 😉

    ~ Ronnie Ann

  12. Pigbitin Mad says:

    Well, I have always been angry, and I have always gotten hired….until now that is. I believe age is the reason, and nothing will dissuade me. I have always hated HR professionals, but that hatred has grown exponentially in recent years. Right now they are very smug and that makes me hate them even more. There has to be some sort of a revolt in terms of boycotting all Fortune 500 products and refusing to hire anyone with a Fortune 500 background even to be a dishwasher. I don’t even care about having a career anymore, I just want a stupid paycheck. Do people really believe you when you say you love the company for X,Y and Z reasons? It is a big lie that anyone wants a job for any other reason than the paycheck.

  13. I’m really sorry you’re having such a rough time of it Pigbitin Mad. I know it doesn’t help to know you’re not alone – but boy are you not alone. I hope a paycheck comes your way soon – and maybe even a company that’s only half bad. 😉 Good luck. ~ Ronnie Ann

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