Education Career Services

February 18, 2009

They Come Bearing Gifts

windows-vista-icon1I had one candidate bring me flowers at the interview; another brought donuts and coffee (had they been Krispy Kreme, he might well be CEO by now); one fellow tried to give me Orlando Magic tickets, bless their hearts.


Payola?  Desperation?


Maybe, but I choose to believe they understood interviewing is seldom enjoyable for the hiring manager.  Tangible gifts, of course, aren’t the right way to go; being prepared and upbeat is.


Except in rare circumstances, a hiring manager has a full-time job apart from interviewing.  It is a necessary evil fraught with things to make that manager feel truly crummy.  The fact is, you can only hire one person per position and you have to go through a lot of people to find that individual.  That means the manager will be dealing out a lot of rejections.  Few managers are so sadistic that such a thing is enjoyable.  Nonetheless, the interviewer is on your side; we want you to be the one so we can stop looking.  Let’s run down the candidate possibilities from my personal experience.


The Bad Interview:  The candidate sits like a lump and answers questions in one or two word replies.  Or shrugs.  Conversely, there’s the candidate that runs off at the mouth and never answers the questions.  I ache for these people.  They probably have value but can’t express it, so there’s nothing I can do for them.  If I have to pull teeth to learn anything meaningful, you’re blacklisted.


The Bad Candidate Who Isn’t Qualified:  She thought she was perfect for the job and I disagreed. Normally not a problem but she wouldn’t let go.  Even when I told her I need these certain skills she didn’t have (and wasn’t teachable), she argued with me.  Never a winner.  In another similar instance, he begged.  Personally, I’d rather argue; at least there’s some vindication in say no.


The Bad Candidate Who Is Qualified:  He nailed the requirements, but his demeanor was so uptight and arrogant that there was no way I’d hire him.  Other such candidates include the gossip who could do the work but would be so busy chatting the work wouldn’t get done.  Another is the profanity captain who couldn’t keep a civil tongue in just a half-hour interview.


The Great Candidate Who Isn’t Qualified:  He came in wearing dreadlocks and a three-piece suit… and made it work.  Within moments I knew this articulate, talented fellow had every skill that I didn’t need and none that I did; he was such a great interview I wanted to hire him but I couldn’t.  I was completely impressed and told him so; I just didn’t have anything for him.  I remember this young man’s name (a feat for me) and have his resume handy all the time.  Even if I don’t have a position for him, I keep my ears open for other opportunities I can recommend him for.


The Great Candidate Who Is Qualified: You know you have magic right away.  Professional, up beat disposition; meets all the requirements and seems a good fit for the team.  This is what the interviewer prays for.  Little bumps are easily overlooked (one said, “I know I talk too fast, can’t do anything about it, sorry” with a great big smile.  She also brought in a well organized portfolio that was outstanding.  At that point I was afraid I couldn’t afford her.  Fortunately we came to an understanding and she’s the best employee I’ve ever hired.)


Do you see how important it is to be a great candidate?  Well-prepared, great presentation?  In both cases, when I hired and when I didn’t, I want nothing but the best for the candidate.  That means looking out for ways to benefit the great candidate I couldn’t hire.  I’ve received two jobs by referral from interviewers who didn’t hire me.  And to be fair…


Sometimes Hiring Managers are Wrong: I recall a conversation with one of my best employees, telling him how glad I was I hired him.  He pointed out I’d rejected him the first time he applied.  I was surprised.  “Yeah, I wore short sleeves so my tattoos showed, I had a nose rings, six earrings, and a lip ring, and I let my hair free, fanned out to my waist.”  I did recall that interview.  I’d made it short and didn’t try to break through the dark façade.  He hadn’t made it easy and I didn’t do the work.  Fortunately for me, he reapplied a few months later without the hardware, in a long-sleeve shirt, and his hair tied back in a ponytail.


Make it simple for the hiring manager; if you’re the one for the job, deliver enough information to make it clear; if you’re not, ask for a referral and move on.  The great candidate will find a good job, so be that great candidate.


Rob Swanson, CPRW, DTALM

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