Interviews in and of themselves can be an overwhelming experience…and I do not necessarily mean for the interviewee—think about how the interviewer feels:
As a company owner, I have the luxury of interviewing candidates. Last year I noticed an applicant who I felt had the potential to be a great match and made the decision to handle this one myself. On paper, this lady (who we will name Sally) had the qualifications, experience, and education I was looking for. The day and time came without a hitch and before long, I was notified Sally was here and completed our application form. In typical fashion, several minutes passed before I made it to the front, but only several.
I walked into the lobby to find a candidate visibly upset for having to wait five minutes. Her posture was hunched and ready to pounce, I approached cautiously. Sally shook my hand and we went back to my office. Within seconds it was clear the image on paper did not represent the reality in front of me.
Though my company is not what one would call conservative, I expect first interview sessions to be conservative in conversation and style. Sally did not seem to calm down from the time delay and after several questions, it was clear this was not a good fit. Don’t get me wrong, she answered the questions well and did not lack the skills to do the job…but doing the job is not good enough. The ideal client can do the job but will also bring to the company a team attitude, a good spirit, a pleasant nature, and a personality ready to work under many contingencies.
Sally refused to look anywhere but directly at my eyes. I was spooked by her creepiness and her ability to NOT blink for minutes at a time. Her voice never changed in tone and she kept flicking her pen on and off. At first I felt as if I had misplaced ketchup on my nose and this would explain her refusal to look away—then I remembered I have not had lunch yet.
Fifteen minutes later I escorted Sally to the front office and thanked her for coming in…she gave me another direct glare—daggers all but pierced my skin. The next morning Sally was found in the front office area, sitting, waiting, and looking angry (I avoided the situation by entering through a back door). For three hours Sally sat and stared and waited. This ritual lasted five consecutive days until I finally found body armor and informed her a decision was made. I told Sally her resume and application would remain on file just in case. Thinking this would do the trick, I went back to my office.
For the next two weeks Sally sat and stared, to this day I am not sure what she was looking at. Oh, I somehow lost her resume and application within seconds of her initial (and only) interview.
Interviewees beware: not only are you being evaluated, but your behavior and total presence is also being evaluated. If you become angry, scary, or in stalker-mode, chances are you will not get a second chance.
I still share this experience with individuals preparing to go to an interview. Not that it calms them down, it does not seem to. I share this story to reinforce the fact that another individual with his or her own perceptions, fears, and beliefs will be looking at more than what’s on paper; and that’s a lesson we all should take to heart.
For those wanting to share interview experiences for all to benefit from, be sure and send them to me. If nothing else, they are great fodder for fireside chats.