An Embarrassing Interview Mistake

A candidate called me back immediately after a phone interview.

“How did it go?” I asked.

“It went OK. The conversation started out slow, but it seemed to get better at the end.” He replied.

After 22 years, upon hearing, “The conversation started out slow” I know this is not positive feedback. It is also fair to say I can’t ever remember actually placing someone who said that. Corporate marriage is like the real thing, it has to go well and feel really good for it to work.

I decided to focus first on the positives in a false hope that maybe my gut instinct was wrong. We spoke for a couple of minutes about what when right when I finally asked, “why do you think the interview started out slow?’

“Well, Jon, I had just left a meeting and I didn’t have my resume in front of me.”

This is the kiss of death to an interview process. Not only did I know it was over but also was a bit saddened since this quality manager candidate had really valid reasons to make a move since his company was just bought out and the future was in doubt. I had also completed a reference check with a previous Operations Manager who hired the candidate and was his boss for years. The reference check was glowing both on the technical and personal side. All of this effort was now lost. It was a shame and also embarrassing to me as well.

My dad always taught me three things: first, never, and I repeat never, take candy from a stranger, two, don’t poke your eye with a sharp stick…and three know your resume inside and out. Why wouldn’t you? It’s your life, and you wrote it. In an interview, any signs of stumbling with your locations, titles or timelines, you are not only out but utterly out. Also important, In a face to face interview, there is nothing more tacky or debilitating to your cause than having to look or follow along on your resume with the hiring manager. You should be calm cool and collected while keeping steady eye contact (Link for eye contact) as you explain your career.

These suggestions seems simple and they are sometimes overlooked especially as candidate’s careers move into their 3rd decade, exact dates, companies and titles can easily be missed if you are not prepared. Don’t worry about the exact dates, but you’d better have the year timeframes, titles and employers down in your sleep.

Make sure you are prepared to the point of being woken up from a dead sleep to immediately give these answers. It is that important not to stumble. This candidate lost out on an opportunity 20 minutes from his house in an area of the country not stacked with these kinds of opportunities. It was a shame because it was so avoidable. Even in you live in Troy, Michigan, why squander the opportunity and time by being unprepared?

In the above case, when I followed up with the hiring manager, he commented, “The candidate was rightfully thrown off balance when I had to remind him of his 2nd job out of college. He got stuck on talking about this in a nervous way and spent way too much time on it. It was awkward, and I knew he wasn’t for us.”

One final Interview top to give you all, when instructed to “Tell about yourself.”

Make sure to respond a polite way, “Great. Where would you like me to start?”

For example, if you are a Quality Manager talking about past Q.E. jobs, make a relatively quick transition into your first Q.M. position and how you landed it. Don’t hesitate to ask, “Did I cover the background of my Q.E. days in enough detail or would you like me to explain more?”

We all know what we know. If the interview is going well and there is chemistry between the parties, the flow will seem natural. Even in the best interviews, however, there are moments of uncertainty in communication. There should never, and I repeat never be a moment of uncertainty about your own career and life.

You may be reading this thinking how elemental this all is, and you would be correct. We all need motivations to ensure we do more than enough preparation. Never allow yourself to be caught in this self-created trap. Use this story to adequately prepare to really nail your next interview.

As usual, best of luck and make sure to shoot me over a resume if you are considering a move up.