When the Lawyer began his job hunting post University, there was a certain amount of chitchat between us about interview technique – very right and proper; after all, I’d been in the business world; I could help, couldn’t I?
Well yes… But you see… The thing is…
Having emerged from the other end of the Grind, I’d suggest that the area where I found interview technique most lacking was amongst interviewers not interviewees. And since I spent a large number of years interviewing people for jobs, for partnerships, for work I can say, hand in heart, that my technique was rubbish.
There was indeed a phase when I was dropped from the interview team because I appeared to be a common link with a variety of recruiting failures from which we suffered at that time.
Harsh, but probably fair.
Amongst the weaknesses in technique the following have been attributed to me on some/many occasions:
- I ask over complicated multifaceted questions that even the other members of the panel need to have explained to them
- I go on a fair bit so an hour’s interview might see me talking for 40 minutes when apparently it should be the other way round
- I get sidetracked and like to include examples (anecdotes) in my questions
- I empathise with nervous candidates so much I forget to ask them any questions
- I have been known to doze off
I don’t recognise this, of course, though I am aware of some specific examples where this might appear true (and I admit there was one occasion I was nudged awake so as to stand up and say goodbye to the candidate – it had been a difficult week, that’s all I can say).
So my top three interview ‘shames’ – apart from the above?
Coming in at number three is the time we used a video conference link to interview a women from Australia. After what was quite a well run interview we said goodbye, I turned off the machine and we debriefed the interview. We were always forthright and pulled no punches. Unfortunately my technophobic tendancies meant that I had turned off the picture and not the sound. She heard every word. At least we limited ourselves to comments on her legal skills and didn’t shame ourselves with some awful sexist banter.
A shoe-in at number two had me keeping notes for this interview. On my pad, tilted to ensure any clever sod who could read upside down wouldn’t see my scribbles, I had written a rather damning commentary. When the candidate left, somewhat lacking in oomph by this time it must be said, the colleague who showed him out sat in the interview seat and burst out laughing. He could see every word I had written reflected in the window behind my head – even reading backwards didn’t hide my acerbic asides.
And at number one, my personal favourite, I cancelled this interview just after it started when, having turned up early to read through the papers, I absent-mindedly unwound a paper clip and used it to chip the plaque off from between my front teeth. As the candidate was shown in I realised the wire was jammed between the two incisors and wouldn’t budge. As we said our hellos, mine muffled by my hand in front of my face I tasted blood as the point of the wire jabbed my lip. Bleeding, dribbling and borderline incoherent I had to abort the whole shebang.
So when you go for a job, nervous at the upcoming interview, just give a thought for the terrified incompetent who is front of you. Only a little one, though. After all he already has a job.