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The Inner View of Interviews

Back_stabA friend of mine was interviewing for a position at a well-known national company.  He thought the position was perfect for him, and he was excited about the possibilities.  He made it through his first interviews... and waited... and was finally called back for second interviews... and waited... and eventually was called back for a third round of interviews... and waited... and waited.

I asked him how much he valued decisiveness and decision-making ability within an employer, and he confirmed that it was very important to him.  I asked him why he was tolerating indecisiveness and waffling during the interviewing process.  After all, this was beyond the normal HR screening.  "If they are this slow in deciding to hire you, how fast do you think they will be in making critical project decisions?"

While he thought about that, a smaller organization who was coveting his skills offered him a job.  It was less pay than the "big box employer" but he's a lot happier than he would have been.  Statistics indicate a lot of people are considering job searches or are actively engaged in a job search.  Candidates:  pay attention to how you are treated during the recruiting process... it's probably a good indicator of how you will be treated as an employee.

I remember an interview I had when I was finishing my undergrad career.  It was with one of the elite high-end consulting firms out of Chicago, and the recruiter was caustic and rude.  Midway through the interview, my 22-year-old mind realized quickly that no job was worth this kind of abuse, so I decided to "throw the interview" by mirroring her bad behavior.  I figured that chapter was closed at the end of the disastrous exchange, and then I received a call from their home office recruiter the next week.  He was excited to bring me in for the next round of interviews, and he told me I received very high marks from my initial interview, and they KNEW I would be perfect for their culture.  Hmmmmmm.  I politely declined, and thanked him for the "positive feedback."

What are your experiences in the job interviewing arena?  How have you observed this relationship between interviewing and internal culture?


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Tom Haskins

Great post Tim! Twenty years ago, I got accepted for a top management position after an interview I thought had gone well. When the job turned into a political nightmare, I replayed the interview in my mind. I wondered where I went wrong, how I missed the telltale signs. In hindsight I realized I jumped to the conclusion that we were on the same page, and so did they. When I talked about helping them win, succeed and grow, I meant by helping them cultivate their people, internal communication, trust levels, etc. They heard I would help them succeed by identifying and eliminating the losers, creating a zero tolerance culture that forbids mistakes, raising expectations, tightening accountabilities, etc. Since the interview was congenial and mutually agreeable, I was not listening for any subtext, hidden agendas, or veiled daggers. I learned my lesson big time.

Timothy Johnson

Wow... great story, Tom (of course, I can ALWAYS count on you to build on the conversation in a meaningful way). It's amazing how many people covet a job and ignore all of the warning signs. Your story drives home the point that people just need to PAY ATTENTION to what is happening during the process. Thanks for sharing, Tom.

Another point is to pay attention to yourself. Where I was 20 years ago when job seeking is nowhere near what I seek now. If you don't know yourself well, you won't know where you fit within an organization.

Hunter Arnold

Great post, Tim. I speak regularly with clients at events around the country and reference research done by CareerXRoads on the effectiveness of recruiting strategies (particularly my industry, internet recruiting). The feedback from the jobseekers they survey is clear: they desire to be recognized and treated with respect at every step of the interview process, no matter the outcome. Of course, the interview itself is most important in helping both parties decide if the fit is right. But what else about the process is showing you how the company does business? Are they communicating every step of the process clearly and in a timely manner? It's important to look at every action your prospective employer takes from the second you submit your application.

Timothy Johnson

Hunter - great observation... it is, after all, about process. I just had a client interview for a project canceled for no apparent reason. The salesperson for the consulting firm was all in a dithter about it, but I'm considering it a blessing that I dodged a bullet. If they're this wishy-washy at the front end, it would have been a slow and painful death to build a project office and prioritization process for them, given the decisiveness and managerial transparency that takes.

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