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I work night shift, so I wake up in the afternoon around 3:00pm-4:00pm to go work at night. I scheduled an interview with a company in the afternoon, and since this is technically my morning I was a bit groggy.

During the interview I noticed I came across a bit unexcited for the role given I had recently woken up. Maybe it was because I was nervous, but I sought to clarify that I was excited for this position, and if I came across as uninterested, it was because I work night shift so this is technically my morning. My exact words were something along the lines of 'sorry if I seem out of it'. The interviewer basically commented that they hadn't noticed and we continued on.

In the end of the interview, I was told that had I not mentioned it, they would've never noticed and I should avoid making comments like that, which really took me by surprise. They didn't say it directly but made it seem like what I had said was a bad thing and would hurt my chances.

Why was this a bad thing? If I have an early morning interview and if I or the interviewer yawn or seem groggy, it's known that it's not because we are not interested but rather because it's still early in the morning. I just wanted to clarify that to me this was my morning. Plus considering I was told they would've never noticed, it's not like I came across as sleepy myself.

So in what way was I wrong to tell the interviewer that this was technically my morning? I can't see why this is a bad thing.

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Neo Sep 3 '20 at 15:14
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A few thoughts - first, generally speaking, the less you reveal, the less likely you say something that might cause someone to reject you. I'm not saying it's rational, but maybe the interviewer has a bias against night shift workers. If you had never mentioned it, their bias would never have been triggered.

Second, and perhaps more importantly, when you apologize proactively, for some minor behavior, all you do is draw attention to it. The interviewer (apparently) hadn't detected a lack of enthusiasm, but now you've pointed it out to them.

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    +1 for a good and short answer, but I'd like to expand on it just slightly. There is a line of thinking in the business world of never saying anything negative, except when absolutely necessary. And, even then, say whatever is required to get the bad experience over with, and then move on. Do not dwell on it. Introducing negative attention is unnecessary and unhelpful, so the wise thing would be to not do it. – TOOGAM Sep 3 '20 at 11:26
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    @TOOGAM please don't "Expand" answers on comments under the answer... post an answer instead – DarkCygnus Sep 3 '20 at 15:31
  • People (Interviewers) are unpredictable in general. They should only have the information relevant to you getting the job, and you should not volunteer any extra information. At best the interviewer will be disregard extra information, at worst they irrationally reject you on the spot. – Issel Sep 4 '20 at 5:35
  • I like that. When you proactively apologize for something minor all you do is bring attention to it. – Sam Orozco Sep 4 '20 at 18:08
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    This answer assumes you ABSOLUTELY WANT the job. If one is desperate for work, that very much can be the case, but if you're simply looking to transition from one position to another (more beneficial) one, that is not the case. Deliberately "leaking" information can be a tremendously useful way to determine the ethics of another party, especially by creating perceived vulnerabilities which do not in any way impact your (potential) effectiveness. After all, one can hardly trust an exploitative or dishonest company to admit as much to their applicants. – Vector Gorgoth Sep 4 '20 at 19:07
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I don't see it as "bad", nor did they say so (they said "avoid saying things like that"), but it's something I would not have said.

I feel that this was a matter of perception: You thought you were not being excited enough, so you apologized for that, when the truth is that they weren't perceiving you that way.

Why not say things like these? Because it can be seen as you putting excuses beforehand, or preemptively excusing yourself of a "problem" that may not even be there at all... if you were a recruiter and a new candidate came up and at the first moments of the interview started coming up with excuses (whatever the reason) that won't be quite positive don't you think?

Apologize or excuse yourself only when you are at fault, or when someone points it out to you; don't apologize preemptively. Otherwise the people listening will think and be expecting you to eventually fail or be at fault (as you already excused yourself).


Side comments and thoughts:

  • Even if you are tired or not, or you take your time to fully wake up and be 100% you, that's no excuse for yawning, as that would be very unprofessional even if you excused yourself beforehand.

  • If you take some time to actually wake up and "boot" your OS I suggest you consider waking up a bit earlier so you are 100% awake at the moment of interview. That or help yourself a strong cup of coffee as I have to do :)

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    Thanks for the advice. I truly appreciate it. It's just disheartening to think that an innocent (from my perspective) comment I made torpedoed what would've been an otherwise good interview. And in this competitive economy I've pretty much given up on this job as I feel any mistake will be heavily penalized. I'll just learn and move on. Thanks. – Winderd Sep 3 '20 at 5:34
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    @Winderd don't be dramatic. Who knows perhaps they'll call you back. Either way keep your options open and continue job hunting. – DarkCygnus Sep 3 '20 at 15:32
  • Wow, yawning is unprofessional? I've never seen it so, and I'd be quite annoyed if I was otherwise fulfilling my duties and got told off for yawning. It's not really something that you have control of in the moment, and while of course we all want to be well-rested all the time it just isn't reasonable to expect that. – Daniel Wagner Sep 5 '20 at 1:21
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In an interview you want to come across as positive as possible - it will help create a good impression of you, and contribute to the picture of yourself that you build with the interviewers.

As you realised, one of the aspects of this is that you should not appear to be disinterested in the job. Even if it's not really that exciting, asking questions about the work you'd be doing and the team you'd be doing it with is always a good idea.

What I think you may have missed is that if you notice that you're behaving disinterestedly, then a better option would be to change your behavior, and start being more engaged in the interview.

As the interviewers said to you, there's a strong possibility that they wouldn't have noticed anything amiss if you hadn't pointed it out to them. Something they didn't say to you is that once you've planted the idea in their mind that you're not interested (and saying "sorry if I don't seem interested" will definitely plant it there), then that will colour their impression of you for the rest of the interview.

Whether they thought you were interested or not before the comment, after it they can only think that you weren't, and that will be their impression at the end of the interview.

  • I should've clarified but my exact words where something along the lines of 'sorry if I seem out of it'. Still I don't think that's much better given the points you've made. – Winderd Sep 3 '20 at 5:29
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Hmm, it feels like I could challenge your premise here. Regardless of when your "morning" is, appearing tired in a work setting is typically not a great look. Yawning and certainly "appearing groggy" are things you really want to avoid at work. Obviously we're all human so we all do this occasionally but if you were routinely yawning or appearing tired in the morning I'd have serious reservations about your professionalism. As an employee you trade your time for money and there's a expectation that you arrive at work reasonably well-rested.

Now, the fact that you might have seemed "out of it" or if you hypothetically happened to yawn during an interview really wouldn't upset me if I were interviewing you. I doubt it would even register as noteworthy as again, we're all human. What would worry me is the reason you gave. I would immediately wonder if you'd consider it normal to show up to work tired. It's just not a good look and even a small doubt like this can kill your chances at a job. In an interview we have very few data points about you and one red flag is enough to sink your chances in a competitive hiring pool.

None of this is really related to the fact you follow a different day-night schedule. It would be different if you normally wake up at 17:00 and this interview had to be scheduled for 15:00. It would be like setting up an interview for 0700 for those in a "normal" schedule. Even then I still might not explicitly call attention to a yawn or feeling groggy, I'd probably instead reference my normal wake-up time instead and let the interviewer draw their own conclusion from there. Or as joojaa commented, you could point it out when accepting the interview slot.

Rightly or wrongly "I just got out of bed" is just not a great thing to say in a professional setting. And that's what your interviewer was getting at I believe.

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One rule of job interviews is that not only is the employer interviewing you, you are interviewing the employer. You are there to find out more about the company, just as much as they are trying to find out more about you.

There should never be a problem with candor on a topic that is relevant to the situation. Having interrupted your sleep schedule for the sake of the interview is a perfectly valid reason to be groggy, and telling them this prepares them to judge your interview performance fairly. That the interviewer later said that they would not have noticed it is immaterial; you had no way of knowing this. It was in fact rude to bring it up; if it doesn't matter to them, they simply should have ignored it.

I take their objection to candor as a red flag. They haven't put a premium on honest communications. That simply isn't good.

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    +1 You (Winderd) had good reason to think you might have come across as uninterested, and you explained it in a perfectly acceptable way. I would have done the same, and I wouldn't have thought less of anyone who gave a similar explanation. If you hadn't explained, and hadn't been offered the job for any reason, you would have been kicking yourself for not speaking up! – mhwombat Sep 4 '20 at 23:32
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You are always going to be far more aware of your flaws and mistakes than any outside observer. The best way to handle a minor issue like this is to simply not bring it up; you'll be surprised at how often the other party never even notices.

Even if the interviewer had noticed your lack of energy I don't think that mentioning the night shift would have been wise. As an applicant it's your responsibility to schedule the interview at a time when you will be focused and attentive. If you normally wake up at a certain time in the afternoon, schedule your interviews for an hour later to give yourself time to wake up.

Sometimes issues will come up with your current job that required you to work later than normal, which could conflict with a scheduled interview. In those cases I suggest rescheduling or, if you think you'll still be OK for the interview, going ahead with it but not mentioning the late work hours. I've had to reschedule interviews at the last minute due to issues arising from my current job and the interviewers have always been understanding.

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No you weren't wrong

...it's (possibly) how you handled it.

I've had nothing but success in being absolutely honest in interviews.

Drawing attention to your disadvantages and flaws and (this is the important bit) demonstrating that you can roll with them is the way you win over others. "Sorry, I worked late last night" is perfect! You can then show how working late once in a while won't affect your performance.

Where you seem to have gone wrong is in making an excuse of it. Don't do that.

That said, if they didn't understand you have a job already, do you really want to spend a third of your waking hours with them for the next few years? I mean, what kind of garbage bottom-dweller thinks working late shift is a negative, ffs? It's not as though you were up partying till 5 or doing a spot of burglary, so tell it as a positive.

  • I'm pretty taken aback at four of the other five answers, all being iterations of the same "shouldn'ta telled 'em". Let's recount: the less you reveal; it's something I would not have said; one red flag is enough to sink your chances; and I don't think that mentioning the night shift would have been wise. Bad advice, man. Bad advice. – Rich Sep 3 '20 at 23:22
  • I like where this answer is going, but I think it could use an edit to make it more professional. If you're recommending a positive attitude, demonstrate one. – Tim Grant Sep 4 '20 at 14:40
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    I agree that "I worked late last night" sounds better than "I just woke up", but without mentioning the night shift, it might raise a few eyebrows. – Llewellyn Sep 4 '20 at 20:44
  • @TimGrant I'm guessing you flinched at "garbage bottom-dweller"... I think I'll decline your offer to change that, because it applies to the part outside of the professional setting. – Rich Sep 5 '20 at 1:23
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    @Rich I meant that if the interviewer doesn't know that "working late" is code for a night shift, they might be confused why the candidate would "still" be this tired at 4 in the afternoon. For me, "working late" implies something like staying until 8 or 9 to finish something, not until the small hours in the morning. – Llewellyn Sep 5 '20 at 12:23

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