Concerns of a Survey Junkie

I love a good survey. But even a survey junkie like me has to question the accuracy of the medium now and then.

Case in point: a survey conducted by CareerBuilder that was the subject of an article in last Friday’s Los Angeles Times. The Times reported that the single most common mistake job candidates make during an interview is to answer a cell phone call. “Indeed, 71% of managers surveyed named it as the top blunder, according to a report released Wednesday by website CareerBuilder,” the Times stated. Dressing inappropriately, appearing uninterested or arrogant, speaking negatively about a past employer, chewing gum — all were less prevalent than answering a cell phone call.

Frankly, I’m having a hard time believing that so many job candidates are this boneheaded. Don’t get me wrong — I have as little confidence in my fellow man as the next guy. I’d like to believe these survey results are accurate. But answering a cell phone in the middle of an interview? The most common blunder? Seventy-one percent of managers?!?!

Just so we’re clear, I’m not questioning the integrity of the Los Angeles Times or CareerBuilder. I don’t doubt their reportage. What I doubt are all of those managers who claim to have been victims of cell phone call interruptions.

I think, sometimes, survey participants prefer offering “interesting” responses over accurate ones. I think, sometimes, participants want to help tell a good story. And I think, sometimes, surveys themselves contain a bit of bias, steering participants toward particular responses. Then again, I could be wrong. There could be herds of halfwits out there wandering from interview to interview, cell phones in hand, blowing career opportunities rather than miss a call. Could be.

So where does this leave me? Should I give up my survey habit and find more trustworthy sources for my information? I suppose I should. Maybe Wikipedia …

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