Life Lessons Series: Six of One Dozen of the Other- "The Interview..."
I have been the Interviewer and Interviewee for more than 30 years. I have decided this makes me a member of an esteemed club. I have a deep understanding of both perspectives. The experiences I have had make great cocktail hour conversations- so rich and colorful I could not make up more entertaining scenarios.
What I have learned is that there are basic fundamentals to any side of the interview – yet over and over what is common sense is not common practice. Below are real life situations and lessons I have learned. Enjoy!
I worked for a company a while back that required every employee pass the Wonderlic Assessment Test with a minimum score of 25. Not sure to this day I understand the connection between a higher-than-average score on the Wonderlic and qualifying skills/experience in the title and settlement industry.
For any who are not familiar with the Wonderlic test it is known as one of the hardest tests to beat in the employment industry. It is a 12-minute timed test and most people do not complete all 50 questions. The average score for the Wonderlic test is 20, according to Wonderlic Inc. It measures general cognitive ability in math, vocabulary and reasoning. In short, it is extremely intimidating!
As we brought in candidates, we found that few to none could pass the Wonderlic with the requisite 25-point score that the company required. We were elated when “Dan” passed and was cleared to come in for an interview. Dan had absolutely no past work experience in the title and settlement industry which was of concern. Nonetheless we were severely understaffed and scheduled an interview with the passing candidate.
Dan came in dressed professionally in a suit. He shook my hand firmly and brought a copy of his resume in his briefcase. Things seemed to be off to a good start. I brought him into my office and asked him to take the seat across from my desk. At that point, things fell apart...
Directly behind my desk was a very large window. In the window Dan saw his reflection. From that point forward Dan looked only at himself. When I asked questions, Dan answered them to himself. I had never seen anything like it. Not even when my prom date at dinner stared at himself in a mirror across the room all night! At one point in the middle of answering a question, Dan stood up and did a dance move and then sat back down. We did not hire Dan, yet his interview goes down in history as one of the most entertaining.
One of my former employers had a large population of employees who had graduated from the University of Southern California (USC). The USC alumnae were very stronger networkers. One recent USC graduate was referred to me for an entry level position by one of the Company’s high-level executives. I received “Tommy’s” resume which was half a page long and had absolutely no work experience. As a courtesy to the Company executive, I called Tommy. The discussion remains legendary to this day.
I dialed Tommy’s number and he answered the call live on the first ring. There was loud music blaring and a great deal of noise feedback. It sounded like I had called a fraternity house - or bar! I introduced myself and immediately asked Tommy if it was a good time to talk. I thought for certain he would want to talk later with less background noise. To my surprise Tommy said the timing was perfect. He then began the call by boldly letting me know that unless the salary for the position was $120,000, he was not interested. He reminded me that he was a USC graduate.
I shared that this was an entry level position. (I refrained from sharing that the entry level position had a salary of more like $30,000 and even then I looked for some kind of prior work experience!) I asked if I was missing a page of his resume with previous work experience. He confirmed the half page I received was the complete document. I told Tommy I did not think the job was the opportunity he was looking for. Tommy then offered to interview with me in person as a courtesy. I told Tommy I did not think this was necessary, thanked him for his time and ended the call.
I received a dozen calls thereafter from Tommy checking in. I received half a dozen calls from the high-level executive asking me to re-consider.
With Zoom calls becoming popularized, there have been some great You Tube videos and stories from colleagues with entertaining accounts. I have no doubt we have all been on Zoom calls where we SEE more than we would like too. Funny as long as you are not the one being over exposed!
I was interviewing candidates for summer internships five years ago using Zoom. Admittedly this was early in the use of this technology. I had found it was ideal for the population of candidates I was looking for. With many applicants out of state, Zoom enabled a more personal discussion without the cost of travel. (Who knew I would be so ahead of my time for the Pandemic with remote work and the use of technology!?)
My absolute favorite was a very nice young man who had presented an impressive resume and cover letter with strong experience. “John” and I had talked on the phone to schedule the interview and hereto the call went well. When I logged into the Zoom link later that week, John appeared and was professionally dressed in a coat and tie. The background was less professional. John was clearly sitting on the commode in a bathroom. If that was not bad enough, behind him on the back of the toilet, in full view, was a box of condoms. Probably not the impression he was intending to make!
Behavioral Event- “I Drink!”
I am a huge fan of behavioral event interview techniques. For any who are not familiar with Behavioral Event Interviewing, it is a technique where the candidate is asked to describe a situation or an experience they had in a previous job. Responses may not be as polished as the traditional type of questions because they cannot be rehearsed ahead of time. Questions solicit real-life experiential responses that provide a way to evaluate skills, knowledge, and behaviors versus philosophical views. The candidate’s responses are a true indication of how the candidate will behave and perform in future work-related situations.
“Debbie” came in for an interview for a Customer Service Representative position. Her resume showed strong experience for the position. The initial screening calls went well. When Debbie arrived she looked very professional and was pleasant. The initial small talk went well. I then asked Debbie my first behavioral event question: “Give me an example of a time when you had to exercise patience in dealing with upset customers. What were the circumstances? What was the outcome?”
Debbie’s response….she did not want to deal with upset customers. If the Customer Service Representative position required her to talk to customers, she did not want the job. The only way should could deal with upset customers was to drink. Wow. Ok. Interview over!
I Can’t SEE You
I am looking for a new opportunity. In this pursuit, I have participated in Zoom calls for several jobs in the recent past. I have been surprised to find executives at a high level so challenged at the use of Zoom even after the past 18 months working remotely during the Pandemic. I think many hiring managers forget that just as they are interviewing me, I am interviewing them. I am of the opinion your better employees will always be interviewing the company during the process. You only get one chance at a first impression and if you want to attract talent for your Company this must be kept in mind.
On one recent call, the Senior Vice President of Operations (she reminded me of her job title six times during our call) never once made eye contact with me on our 60-minute Zoom call. She was so busy looking at her dual monitors, emails and cell phone during the call it was as if I was wasting her time. I could have been giving her the bird or sitting there naked and she would not have known. I was stunned. I knew from that Zoom call that this was not the opportunity for me. If I was that unimportant as a candidate, I did not expect things were going to improve when I was on their payroll. I was offered the job and declined. Thereafter I was asked to complete a survey on the interview and openly shared my feedback. I hope the survey information was used as coaching for the Senior Vice President of Operations!
Continuing on with employers forgetting that the interview is a two-way process was a recent interview I had with one of the disrupters in the title and settlement industry. Their executive table is filled with millennials with impressive Ivy League and other notable educations. None that I encountered in the interview process exhibited any tangible business experience.
On a second interview call with the Hiring Manager “Alvin” he led off letting me know of his undergraduate and graduate degrees. Alvin was very proud of having graduated from West Point- as he well should be! Admittedly it was a little awkward on the call for him to be sharing his educational experience and not asking about mine. Alvin then asked a situational question about how I would build a national team. I began by stating “that the question was challenging given that I did not know the customer or geographic regions for the business.” My intention was then to ask for a little more information to respond.
Before I could get another word out, Alvin interrupted sharply. He let me know in a very loud and frustrated voice that he was well aware of what I knew and did not know about the job. It was my job as a candidate for the position to answer the question as asked! Clearly I had annoyed Alvin. I could not get off the phone fast enough. Interview over. All interest I had in employment with the Company was over. I hope the Company provides training to Alvin on how to interview. The impression he made on me for both himself and his Company was awful!
The EEOC Checkbox
I had another recent interview that caused me surprise. That in and of itself is amusing in that I have been working for more than three decades and am not often surprised. I like to be surprised…it keeps me on my toes. This job was as if my resume, bio and blogs were used to outline the company values and position description. I was extremely interested in the opportunity. I had two calls with Human Resources and in both the representatives indicated my experience was precisely what they were looking for. Everything moved quickly and a Zoom call was scheduled with the Hiring Manager “Leroy.”
I logged in to the Zoom call five minutes before the scheduled time. I live by the adage “if you are not early you are late!” Leroy does not. He was ten minutes late. Leroy made very little eye contact with me. He too was busy looking at his cell phone and emails. The connection was awful. I only heard every third word. Leroy said he was working remotely and did not get strong reception. I found it interesting that he scheduled an interview with me while working remotely knowing his internet connection was highly likely to fail. I suggested we hang up and call on a land line. I am not sure he even heard me…
Leroy had not mastered the gift of the gab. He began by asking me the names of people I had worked for in other jobs. Turned out he had worked at two of the same places. Leroy shared negative comments about both employers. I attempted to bring the interview back around to something more traditional and asked if it would help Leroy if I shared some of my experience that I felt would likely be beneficial. Leroy responded simply with “ok.” The connection continued to fail. Shortly thereafter Leroy interrupted me and said he had to hang up as he had a very important call he had to prepare for.
No part of me wanted to work for Leroy. I was fairly certain Leroy had already decided on another candidate. I was just an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) candidate to check the box. I was disappointed at my waste of time and energy. Yet again the impression on me for both Leroy and his Company was awful!
A good Interviewee comes thoroughly prepared. They research the Company and Interviewers. They possess evidence that they have read and understand the job description. They have clearly practiced interview questions to help reduce nervousness and come prepared, easily able to respond to questions. Further their responses reveal past work or other experiences that qualify them for the position. They arrive early and dress professionally. They offer a firm handshake and make strong eye contact. They make a great first impression. They ask questions. They ALWAYS send a thank you note or email.
A good Interviewer often possesses qualities you’d associate with any high performer. They’re organized, thoroughly review resumes, cover letters and prepare a relevant list of questions. They’re diligent and can take notes while practicing active listening. And they’re amicable; they give positive body language, maintain eye contact, and bring an open mind to interviews whether it is in person or Zoom. They create a strong impression of themselves and the Company. A good interviewer knows that just as they are interviewing candidates, candidates are interviewing them.
The moral of this story, or the Life Lesson, is to treat people the way you would want to be treated no matter which side of the desk you are sitting on. Pay it forward!
What is Your Life Lesson….
What is your opinion of assessment tests as job selection criteria? Have you ever taken a Wonderlic Test?
Have you ever used Behavioral Event interviewing techniques?
What is your best interview story? Please share this with me as a comment to this blog to keep me entertaining at the next cocktail hour!
If you would like to see a sampling of interview questions I have a great library of them. Contact me at Tish@TishDBush.com and I would be happy to share!