Four Ways to Blow your Interview (*for employers)

Applicants aren’t the only ones who screw up interviews; employers can blow it — big time. I’ve gone on lots of interviews where — at first — I was very excited to be there, but as I watched, listened, asked questions (took and compared notes), that excitement quickly fizzled.

Twenty years ago, there wasn’t much to do about it. There were few jobs and many people who wanted them. It was incumbent upon job seekers to convince employers to hire them; the applicant’s opinion of the job — for the most part — was of little concern. That’s not the case anymore. Now, employers are dealing with both a cultural and economic shift in the global market for talent. For the first time (ever), labor actually has a bit of an advantage in the labor market. The shoe is finally on the other foot: Employers (who used to interview applicants), are now being interviewed by applicants, and a lot of them are blowing the interview!

Are you an employer who can’t close on good help these days? Is it possible that you’re blowing the interview? Consider the following:

1. What Employers Say…

“This is a tough place to work; you have to have a thick-skin to work here…..”

~What the Applicant Hears…

We foster a culture of disrespect and verbal abuse. Expect to be run over because having an opinion or self-respect will get you fired.

I get the “thick-skin” comment in about 30% of my interviews. This tells me “Bro-House.” Women are subordinate, fart jokes abound, loud voices win, bullying is leadership.

At first I thought thick-skin comments were gender specific (or maybe I seem delicate), but I decided to asked around, and I’m happy to report that guys get the “thick-skin” comment about as often as I do! Whoo-whoo! Hooray for equality! It’s good to know that some companies treat everyone poorly, not just women!

Respect is like air. When there’s enough of it around, no one notices. If there’s a shortage, it’s all you’re gonna think about….

2. What Employers Say…

“I see you’ve changed jobs every couple years. We want someone who will stay….”

~What the Applicant Hears…

This is a dead-end job, and we churn through a lot of people. We’d prefer to hire someone with little ambition who’s happy just to have a paycheck.

Are you ambitious? Do you care about your career and remaining current? Are you interested in learning new skills and growing? Because if you are, this isn’t the place for you.

3. What Employers Say…

“I see you haven’t worked in this <domain>…”

“I noted you don’t have this <credential>…”

“I saw you don’t have this <skill>…”

~What the Applicant Hears…

I’ll need to deal with nit-picky criticism and being dismissed because I’m not good enough. If this employer does make an offer, it will be under market because, well, I’m hardly qualified to work here in the first place! If I’m desperate enough to take the job, I’ll be reminded that I’m less than, and that everyone generously looked passed my woeful credentials.

Note to Interviewers: You went through the trouble to bring someone in for a face-to-face (sometimes in front of a panel). Now, you’re going to call out — one by one — all their perceived shortcomings? Focus on what they cando. You had their resume, you saw their LinkedIn… if they’re not qualified, why did you bring them in?

4. What Employers Say…

“I see that you have some gaps in your employment. For example, in <randomyears>, you only worked for part of the year. What’s that all about….?!?”

~What the Applicant Hears…

I’m more interested in your personal life, and nosing around your health, family, and finances than I am in your work experience, skills, education, and how those qualifications are applicable to the opportunity I have available. Your professional background is less important than my moral approval of you and your life choices.

My father died, I wanted to take some time off. I had a baby, I wanted a more flexible job. I was laid off, I wanted to spend time with my kids and re-think my career. I spent a year designing and building my custom home. I was working on a patent. I had major surgery. My mother has Alzheimer’s, and I needed to care for her…

At best, my personal life is none of your business, at worst you’re seeking to circumvent employment laws that prohibit questions of this nature. An interview is to discuss work — stay on topic…

For employers: Whenever you are in a position to hire (and pay) someone, it’s natural to feel a little entitled. And while we all seek qualified labor, remember that you’re not the only game in town. If you want the best people, your hubris is counter-productive to building a high-performing team. Your culture needs to be one of partnership, not entitlement.

For applicants: A job is a relationship, and the interview is like a first date. Spend less time thinking about how to impress people and pretending to be someone you’re not, and more time listening and asking thoughtful questions. That way if the position is offered, you and your client/employer can feel confident that you are both making the right decision.

All Rights Reserved for Plume de Poison

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