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How Interviews Go Bad

Published: Thursday 13th July 2017

Woman covering her mouth with her hand

When you’re settled in your job, it is easy to forget all the trials and tribulations of the interview process that got you there. But we know that process can be incredibly stressful, and some of this stress is brought about by people as much as by circumstances. So what, from a candidates point of view, are the most frustrating or annoying things that can happen in and around the interview process? Here are some we’ve seen.

1. Interviewers who don’t stop talking to you
While it does take the pressure of you as a candidate, isn’t the interview more about you than them or their company? They should assume you’ve done your research on the company. If you haven’t, you’re not serious, and if you’ve still got questions, you should get a chance later in the interview.

2. Interviewers who don’t stop talking among themselves
Like the first point, while it’s good to see the camaraderie and dynamics amongst your interviewers, let’s get on with the interview, shall we? Feel free to chip in with a cough and an ‘Anyway, back to the interview…’

3. Interviewers who read from a script, regardless
While the same question for all candidates is part of the standardised interview and is to be expected, sometimes the questions can be inappropriate, depending on the age or experience of the candidate. You tailor your approach to the interview, an interviewer ought to do the same.

4. Interviewers who turn up late
We all know the Golden Rule – turn up early for your interview. So when the interview doesn’t start on time or reasonably so, it’s something of a slap in the face. What does it say about the company? If the delay in getting going is substantial, feel free to get up and go, leaving a polite message with the receptionist.

5. Poor interview space
We’re not talking about perfect feng shui in the interview room, but has the interviewer thought about basic comfort? If not, it’s tempting to think that maybe they are playing mind-games, with those uncomfortable chairs or an interrogation-style glaring light in the face. Either way, it might suggest the office space, in general, is less than ideal.

6. Interviews which look like they are trawling for a free, in-depth analysis
I’ve seen this several times – a very detailed technical brief is asked for early in the process, one that a paid consultant might expect to charge substantial money for. If the selection process has done its job and selected good candidates, an interviewer would assume they know their stuff. Yes, test them, but I know many candidates are uneasy with briefs that border on a free meal for the company.

7. Interviews for which you get no feedback
It might be this is more a beef about recruiters, but either way, while no feedback says something, how hard is it to send a message? Again, blame may lie with a recruiter as with the company. Would a company be happy with a candidate who didn’t respond to their job offer?

8. Interviewers who answer take calls during the interview
You know that other Golden Rule for a candidate in an interview: turn your phone off. So it’s frustrating when an interviewer not just gets, but takes a phone call. We know they’re an important cog in the corporate machine, but still.

9. Strung-out interview process
I once had a total of four interviews: one telephone and 3 face-to-face. Maybe multiple interviews say more about the company like we can’t make our mind up, or we’re a bit disorganised. You wouldn’t expect to be hired after the first interview, but neither should the process be drawn out.

10. Interviewers who aren’t prepared
Again, as an interviewee, preparation is key. So when faced with someone across the table who is disorganised (can’t find your CV in front of them) this send signals about them and their company. Always take a copy of your CV with you, just in case.

The interview process does speak volumes about company culture, and interviewers are ambassadors for their business. Just as the way a candidate’s body language, for instance, is a factor in an interview, so is the company on show in the interview process. Standards need to be high all round! In this age of powerful job search sites and talented candidates, there may be times when interviewers need to improve their game.

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