Save Your Interview!

by: Joanne Meehl

From the newsletter archives, a classic:

Most of the time, job candidates fear they will blow the interview. But what happens if the employer?doesn't know how to do an interview?

A few weeks ago, a client I'll call Paul was called by the recruiter at a technology company he had targeted. He'd applied for a great job there, and now the recruiter scheduled a face-to-face interview with Paul, arranging to have him meet with some key people at the company.

The first interview was with two analysts who would be peers to Paul. Their opinions would be key to the hiring decision. As the recruiter left the room, it got very quiet. The two employees looked at each other and Paul until finally one of them came up with a question for Paul. Paul handled it fine, giving an example or two of success in a previous experience that was relevant.

They fell silent again. Finally one of them spoke, and Paul answered the question.

This awkward and somewhat painful pattern continued, the minutes ticking away, until Paul realized: "They don't know how to do an interview!" It was something he and I had talked about, but now Paul was experiencing it for himself. If he didn't get to talk right now about how he fit the job, he might not get a second chance to do so. So he changed tactics.

"Would it be useful if I talked about some of the technical challenges I've faced in this work, and how I handled them?", he asked.

The two employees were delighted to be thrown a lifeline, and readily agreed. Paul jumped in with some additional success stories, and the two analysts joined in, and it became a spirited conversation among peers, instead of a game of "interview ping pong".

Naturally, Paul's confidence grew with each turn of the conversation. The session ended with Paul having made several key points about his fit, and the two analysts let him know they wanted to work with him.

The rest of Paul's interviews there that day went well.

If Paul had let the initial interviewers continue to flail about, that part of the interview day would have failed. He would not have gained the endorsement of those two key players. Just because someone is a successful manager or even CEO, it does not mean they know how to interview prospective employees.

So if you sense the interviewer isn't very good at it, help them out, and bring up topics that they will probably want to address.

In Paul's case, it helped him land a second interview, and then the job. He's been there a few weeks now and it's working out very well.

Congratulations, Paul!


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