Interview Technique

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.

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When I left Freshfields after 31 years, they got together and really pushed the boat out. They bought me a mug… on one side you have…

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.

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same mug, 31 years later…

About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published several books: a four book series following Harry Spittle as he grows from hapless student to hapless partner in a London law firm; four others in different genres; a book of poetry; four anthologies of short fiction; and a memoir of my mother. I have several more in the pipeline. I have been blogging regularly since 2014, on topic as diverse as: poetry based on famous poems; memories from my life; my garden; my dog; a whole variety of short fiction; my attempts at baking and food; travel and the consequent disasters; theatre, film and book reviews; and the occasional thought piece. Mostly it is whatever takes my fancy. I avoid politics, mostly, and religion, always. I don't mean to upset anyone but if I do, well, sorry and I suggest you go elsewhere. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
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26 Responses to Interview Technique

  1. Your mug is perfect ! What a great idea. Leaving the sound on…my favorite of your noted experiences. I can only imagine.☺
    I once did screening interviews for a large hospital facility; my approach changed hourly. I’d be interviewing pharmacists, medical technologists, etc., followed by maintenance and dietary employees, who didn’t often understand the need for a stool sample, or even what it was.


  2. colinandray says:

    I found 2 major faults in an interview:
    1. The interviewer is following the latest trend dictated by someone who has just completed a basic psych course. The questions are totally out of context and are borderline meaningless in terms of making a conclusive assessment of suitability for the vacancy.
    2. The interviewer does not grasp the concept that not only is he/she assessing my suitability to work in their organization, but I am assessing their suitability as my choice of future employer. Any dialogue must be 2-way to be close to efficient, and an interview is just a specific type of dialogue.

    Bet you’re glad you never had to interview me! 🙂


  3. rogershipp says:

    Loved the anecdotes. Glad I wasn’t one of the interviews!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Ha! Great post; and fun stories. I had a lot of horrid interviewers back in the day. Now I’m “Federal” and 99% of the jobs are pre-selected, but still required to be advertised. The other 1% have to be given to veterans or other groups… so interviewers are not a problem — no interviews to be had.
    Have a wonderful weekend. Hugs!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. jan says:

    I interviewed someone over the phone and through the whole thing her bird shrieked in the background! I don’t think I’ve ever dozed off! (and least that proved that you trusted the person.)

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Judy Martin says:

    Ha HA! Oh, I can imagine the paperclip scenario.God only knows what that poor interviewee must have thought of some mumbling blood-spitting madman interviewer from hell! Thank goodness you aborted it. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  7. 😀 I love you even more 🙂 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  8. And I didn’t mean that in a stalkery kind of a way …………..

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I think you’ve mentioned the paper clip incident before. It hasn’t lost its luster. Leaving the mic on? I would have been mortified. Happy to be an author now, eh? Always loved that mug. 😉


  10. Charli Mills says:

    You were creating material for future novels!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. davidprosser says:

    There are some obvious benefits to a good interviewing technique if you should need to exploit them. I interviewed Julia for a job and ended up marrying her and not having to pay her overtime either.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Nice one, Geoff. I, too, spent many years interviewing, but you might find this one, featuring me on the receiving end, amusing:


  13. willowdot21 says:

    Omg … The last interviewee must of thought you a snacking Vampire!!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Sacha Black says:

    OMG, Geoffle, you are on fire this week. I actually roared to this. Maybe because I have been interviewing lots of people recently but this had me proper cackling! You are some serious awesome sauce. I have to say, I like playing interview bingo….

    Liked by 1 person

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