A client of mine recently told me about his friend who had been interviewed for a senior public sector appointment: a place on the board as a non-executive director. On stepping into the room, she was confronted by an interview panel of 20 people – that’s right, 20. Apparently she got the job, though why anyone would want a job with an organisation that behaves like that, was beyond both of us.
This anecdote reminded me of another, possibly apocryphal interview story: A woman goes for interview and is greeted by a man, feet on desk, behind a newspaper that he is reading.
“Go on then, Impress me” he says.
So she takes out a cigarette lighter and sets fire to the paper.
I never heard if she got the job.
Anyhow, I’ve been on both sides of the interview table over the years. Here are a few things that I’ve learnt:
- Interviews are necessary but not sufficient – you’ll only find out if the candidate and employer are well-suited to each other once employment has started. Good interviewing will mitigate the risk for both.
- Interviews are unique opportunities to assess attitude and energy which can’t be done on paper. Don’t waste (too much) time on skills and experience.
- Do everything possible to ensure that the environment and interview is as relaxed as possible. You’ll learn more about the interviewee if they are calm – they are more likely to let the mask slip (see below).
- The best candidates will be cherry-picking from several job offers. This makes the interview a 2-way street – both parties have to impress.
- Don’t think in terms of good and bad candidates – assess the match. Everyone is good for something.
- The interview should be an engaging, learning experience for all concerned – if it’s hard work and draining, think again.
A few years ago I interviewed someone for a job to manage a technical service facility. He had all the right skills and experience and plenty of self-confidence and ambition. Ideal for the job – but there was something wrong that I couldn’t put my finger on. All the tangibles said he was right but I had a feeling that he wasn’t.
At the end of the interview we were waiting for his cab and just to fill time I asked him how many worked at his previous employer in southern Africa. “Ah” he replied, “Ten people and five natives”. At which point the penny dropped and I realised why I hadn’t felt comfortable about employing him.
He didn’t get the job.Tags: candidates, interviewing techniques, Interviews