What makes someone walk into an interview room and embody everything you wouldn’t want to see in a potential employee?
I don’t believe that people deliberately try not to get hired – otherwise why would they bother to be there in the first place. No, in my mind it usually boils down to misplaced beliefs about what someone would want to see in an interview, a lack of understanding as to what is required, or just plain insecurity – which can lead to some pretty odd behaviour.
In this Part 1, I want to share five real interview experiences which have all led to failure for the candidate and in Part 2, how to increase the chances of a more successful interview outcome.
1. Just strange
I opened the door of the hotel meeting room in which we were holding the interviews and the guy standing there looked a little taken aback. He awkwardly shook my hand and then pushed past me to get into the room.
He hurriedly introduced himself to my colleague and threw down his pen on to the table. He reached into his pocket and pulled out some chewing gum and slipped it into his mouth, before forcefully sitting down into his char, putting his hands behind his head and crossing his legs, and slouching back into his chair.
He looked at us.
We looked at him.
The interview didn’t last long.
2. Fashion Faux Pas
I was looking for a Sales Executive and we had a round of interviews scheduled. The first one was with a graduate interviewing for his first job. As he approached the meeting room, I looked out into the corridor to see him wearing a grey suit and carrying a laptop bag. Nothing remarkable but certainly not unexpected.
I welcomed him into the meeting room, asked him if he’d like a drink and told him to make himself feel comfortable. I went to get a glass of water for him and when I re-entered, noticed that he’d taken off his jacket to reveal a white shirt.
However, the white shirt had large black stains all over it.
At first I wasn’t sure whether to comment or not, but in the end decided it was just too blatant not to.
‘Sorry’, I said, almost apologetically, ‘but did you know that your shirt has huge black stains all over it?’
‘Oh, yeah’, said the candidate, as if to say. ‘Of course it has! What else would you expect?’
‘Right, then’, I continued, ‘well, perhaps you could indulge me a moment and just explain the reason why?’
‘Sure’, he said, again in a tone that suggested it was the most normal thing in the world. ‘I left my shirt in the back of my car last night and the engine oil which was also in there leaked all over it. I didn’t have a chance to wash it or get a new one before I arrived here. I didn’t think it would make a difference.’
3. Ask The Expert
Somewhere along the line, someone had obviously told this girl that what we wanted was someone who knew our product inside out. So when we asked how she’d approach the role in the first three months, she started to present about the company and the product.
Now, I expect candidates to be informed and take an interest in what we do. But without them having been through an induction and in the absence of them having sold our product, I certainly don’t expect them to be experts.
But trying to be an expert (when you’re not) can lead into some potentially sticky situations.
She told us all about the product, about the particular features and benefits and the advantages it had over the competition. She told us all about its heritage and legacy in the market and she told us all about its perception amongst customers as being a market leading product.
She told us that all she wanted was to work for this company – that in her mind, this company was the number one.
All fine other than the fact that she was talking about a competitor company and product – not ours.
4. The Conversationalist
We’d asked all the questions we wanted to ask and now it was over to the candidate to interview us.
It had been an average interview – not great, but certainly not the worst – but now with around twenty minutes to go, he had a chance to show a different aspect of himself and manage the conversation by being the one to ask the questions.
‘So’, I said. ‘I think that’s about it from our side, but now its over to you. What questions do you have for us?’
He looked stoic.
‘So over to you’, I prompted.
There was silence.
And more silence.
‘Sorry,’ I went on, ‘Do you have any questions for us?’
‘No’, he said.
‘Oh’. I replied. ‘None?’
‘No’, he said again.
‘You know,’ I continued, ‘we’ve still got twenty minutes left and so, it’s really your chance to ask us anything you want to, and find out a bit more about us.’
There was silence.
And more silence.
‘No’, he said again.
5. It’s All About The Money
It was about ten minutes into a first interview. Ordinarily, these would last anywhere between 60 and 90 minutes and, if successful, the candidate would go on to a second interview and sometimes a third and final interview.
We were just talking and getting to know each other before we got into any specifics and I took a drink of my coffee. At that point, the female candidate took the opportunity to jump in.
‘So, how much will I get paid?’ She asked bluntly.
‘Well’, I replied, ‘you should have been given a brief by the recruitment agent as to the likely range. Is that right?’
‘Yes’, she said quickly, ‘but I’m asking you.’
‘You see, I want at least 10% more than what I’m getting paid at the moment otherwise it’s really just not worth my while’.
‘And what’s more, I’ve got another company interested in me, and I know that they’ll pay me at least 15% more than I get now. So I really need to see if this will be worth my while.’
‘And the recruiter told me not to bring this up but, you know, I thought best just to speak to you directly so we can negotiate’.
‘My starting salary of course,’ she went on.
‘Yes’, I said, ‘but the pertinent word in there is start’’.