Corporate Eye

What’s Up with Those Interviews?


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A friend of mine, who recently became one of many professionals let go by a very large, very bankrupt company, has been telling me about her experiences as a job seeker.  On the up side, she’s been getting interviews.  On the down side . . . each one seems to be more unfortunate than the last.

In one case, the interviewer was the COO, and reportedly so puffed up with his own accomplishments that my friend felt like an audience rather than a candidate.  At the other end of the spectrum was the second event in a planned series of seven rounds!  Candidates are expected to meet with three different HR representatives, “the team,” and two managers, after which whoever is still sane and still wants the job will be grilled by the Big Kahuna.

In Lap Two of this marathon, my friend coped with an hour of detailed questions that began almost before she could sit down and never departed from the formulaic: “Please describe a situation in which you ________” [two minutes].  “Please give an example of your experience with _________” [two minutes] . . . . “Thank you, goodbye.”

In both these cases, she left hoping she wouldn’t be called back.  But of course–since she really wants to find a job–it’s sort of a double-bind situation.  If an hour or two spent with representatives of a company are like torture, do you really want to become an employee?  Yet, like just about everyone who finds themselves wandering around the interview funhouse, my friend feels a sense of failure when an interview doesn’t go well.

From the seeker side, the solution/challenge is to see oneself, rather than the company, as the “shopper.”  And that thought should spark some interest on the company side.  In a recent column for ere.net, consultant Stephen Balzac makes a convincing case that (my paraphrase) companies who think they can take advantage of high unemployment by being rude to job applicants may be in for an unpleasant surprise when times turn around and the best hires have gone elsewhere.  Along the way, Balzac cites examples that might cheer up my friend–such as the interviewer who spent an entire meeting reading email, and when the candidate tried to get his/her attention, responded shortly: “We multi-task here.”

I think we can all agree that comment indicates a misunderstanding of what “multi-task” actually means.  But in terms of the message this behavior delivers to job-seekers, you can take your choice:

  • “I’ve already decided I don’t like you, and I’m just going through an exercise here.”
  • “The job we’re discussing is not important enough for me to give full attention to finding the right person.”
  • “Everyone at this company is so overworked that we have to be doing at least two things at all times.”
  • “Our workplace culture does not value courtesy.”
  • “I can afford to behave unprofessionally because no one cares what I do anyway.”
  • “I’m so disorganized that I can’t manage my job, and yet the company has picked ME to judge YOU!”

Stipulating that interviewing practices may need some improvement at many companies . . . how does that connect with the corporate website?  Glad you asked.  See the next installment!


(Thanks to Margaret Anne Clark for the starting point of today’s question mark.)


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Cynthia Giles has followed a serpentine career path from academia to publishing to marketing and design to information technology and corporate communications. There’s plenty of detail about this journey at www.cynthiagiles.com, but briefly--the common theme has been ideas, and how to present them effectively. Along the way, she became an accidental expert on data warehousing and business intelligence, and for the past ten years she has combined corporate contracting with an independent consulting practice that focuses on marketing strategy for smaller businesses and non-profits. Having spent quite a bit of time looking for work, and anywhere from two weeks to two years inside a wide variety of American companies—she has given much thought to what works (and what doesn’t) when it comes to creating a great employment fit.
 
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