I was sitting in the cafe I regularly frequent, and observed yet another fascinating exchange between a boss of a recruitment firm, and a candidate.

The young man worked in a telesales center that serves an international bank, and was just out of the army after his diploma studies. The gentleman who interviewed the young man spoke with a distinct British accent, and what struck me was how patient he was with the young candidate, who obviously was failing every single interview question and yet had no idea he flunked the interview.

1) Don’t get personal.

The young man asked the interviewer why he sounded like an “angmo” (colloquial for a Caucasian). The interviewer politely replied he lived and studied in the UK for a long time, and quickly diverted further personal questions from the candidate.

Further into the interview, the young man said that his girlfriend (from an unrelated field) also applied for the job and he hoped both of them can work for the same company. The interviewer was taken aback and stuttered a little. It was obvious that the young man’s girlfriend was already rejected by the company and no interview was arranged. But the interviewer politely said he would look into it.

You are the interviewee, remember? Let us be clear, an interviewer is not your friend or your family. You must be professional and respectful, but never cross the line and imagine the interviewer’s friendliness as your cue to get personal. Answer every question from the interviewer with succinctness and elaborate when needed to show your talents, skills, and experience.

2) Fun, you said?

The interviewer asked the young man what his key attributes are. The young man said that he was a “fun loving” person. The interviewer politely smiled and I cringed. That was probably the worst thing to say to a potential employer.

You are looking for a job. What does a job mean? It means you are to work, hard, and contribute to the bottomline and objectives of the company you choose to work for. Unless you are a clown or an entertainer in a related company, most of us work hard at specific tasks. Certainly “fun” has no place in most industries. You would not hear of a surgeon having fun with scalpels, or a policeman having fun with his revolver, or an administrator having fun with the switchboard, right?

Most of us are working in industries and jobs that have “serious” written on them (unless you happen to work in a “fun” industry). We may have passion about the work we choose, but we will most certainly bring our utmost seriousness and professionalism to the office.

3) No prior research.

The young man asked about the firm, and many aspects of the job that clearly implied he came into the interview with no prior research about this firm at all. The interviewer patiently went through the company’s history, the structure, the job scope, and so on.

Many candidates are cavalier about interviews, and the rare few who bother to research into the companies they hope to work for, are already miles ahead in the game. Most companies have websites and social media presence. Established companies tend to have some historical data you can easily find through search engines, statutory or other reporting platforms. It takes no more than half a day at most, to find out all you need about the company, the executives, the interviewers you may be facing, and the job nature. There is no need to ask such fundamental questions at your first interview. To ask them is to basically tell your interviewer that you have no interest in the company or job (or worse, you are too ignorant to know how to use the computer).

4) Demands during your first interview.

The young man promptly asked about what kind of remuneration he can expect, what kind of perks, and that he heard there would be paid company vacation trips. The interviewer patiently explained that the job would require the candidate to make sales calls and then close contracts, and so on.

The first interview is for a candidate to articulate his skills and experience, and why he stands out against competing candidates. It is not the occasion to make demands, yet. Too many candidates demand terms and perks before they are even shortlisted.

When a candidate asks me about such things on the first interview, it immediately creates an impression that he is only concerned about his own desires and needs, rather than placing the needs of the company and its goals first.

5) Pegging remuneration to personal needs.

The candidate went on to say that he would require a minimum pay in order pay his mortgage and bills. The interviewer nodded and said he understood, but clearly the interviewer was not impressed.

Remuneration will always be rewarded to employees based on performance and output. If you have to service a loan that is over your head, no employer has the moral or legal obligation to help you service your loan by raising your remuneration beyond your capabilities and performance. In short, perhaps you should have better financial management skills. The employer is not your ATM (automated teller machine).

The young man left first. The interviewer left later, but not without exchanging glances with me a little. Both of us had a knowing smile, knowing that the young man was not going to be employed at this gentlemanly interviewer’s firm.

It is not easy to land a job these days. The market is down, and the global economy will only get worse. The minimum you owe to yourself, is to do your homework, and make the right first impression at every first interview you will go to. And mind you, you will have to go to many first interviews, and perhaps some second interviews, before you may eventually land a job.