January 17, 2013

Top 10 Signs Your Interview is an Exercise in Interviewing, Not a Prelude to a Possible Job Offer

Top 10 Signs Your Interview Isn't Going anywhere
I have an interview later today and when I had a few moments to reflect upon previous interviews I was struck by the realization that several other interviews weren't real interviews per se, but exercises in the interview process.  There probably wasn't really a job offer pending a successful interview.  The signs were there, but I wasn't always able to see them in the moment.

Now this is an assumption on my part, and I do think there are a lot of people who like to chalk off a bad interview as not their fault, and making the leap to saying that there wasn't a job offer on the table to begin with goes a long way in assuaging their guilt.  I am cognizant of this possibility of error on my part.

The thing is I do have some experience interviewing people in previous employment and I do have an HR degree and some certification.  Some of these "signs" have been apparent only well after the interview when I have a lot more information (additional interviews, finding out about how the new hire went, Q&A sessions with other managers, etc.) to work with.

The Top 10 Signs This Interview Wasn't Going Anywhere

#10 Sign This Interview Wasn't Going Anywhere
The interviewers first words are a commentary about your clothing, most notably that you are "over-dressed."  With notable exceptions, there is no such thing as being over-dressed.  A suit and tie, for men, should suffice for probably every job interview that anybody reading this post would attend.  Twice I've recently had the first comment be that I shouldn't have bothered to dress-up for the interview.  Both times I was wearing a sports coat and tie.  Not a tux with a cummerbund.
#9 Sign This Interview Wasn't Going Anywhere

The questions are overly-specific, in a general interview.  There is a type of interview, a technical interview, that is all about ensuring that the applicant has the specific skills.  In a general (some would dare say "regular") interview asking how you would do X given company-specific-tool Y can easily be too much.  I've had interviews where the questions required insider information to answer.  What a lot of people don't understand is that with modern business applications, the "same" software isn't standardized between companies.  Two companies running the same database application are likely (almost certain) to have two different setups.  I worked for one company that used two different AS400 databases.  99% of the employees didn't realize that both systems were using the same database application because they were setup, and named, differently.
#8 Sign This Interview Wasn't Going Anywhere

In a panel interview, nobody who does the job or supervises those who do the job are present.  How can you judge an employee's fitness for purpose if you aren't familiar with the job of that specific work center?

#7 Sign This Interview Wasn't Going Anywhere
In a panel interview, only one person on the other side of the table does any talking.  If that person is the "big boss" for the entire location that says to me that he (or she) is probably rather controlling and that kind of person doesn't hire someone from the "outside".  Their choice for the position was made before they posted the position.

#6 Sign This Interview Wasn't Going Anywhere
The questions asked do not pertain to the position being interviewed for.  I once was asked if I could program in 4 or 5 different computer languages.  I was interviewing for a liaison position between IT and Operations, there was no mention of programming anywhere in the job description, which the lead interviewer had never read.
#5 Sign This Interview Wasn't Going Anywhere

The interviewers do not know what position they are interviewing for. See #6

#4 Sign This Interview Wasn't Going Anywhere
There seems to be a large disparity between what the interviewers say and act.  I was at an interview where the HR staff conducting the interview stated that appropriate industry certification was an "important" requirement for their new hires.  The rub was both HR folks had  higher certifications than what you would expect for their position and neither knew about the industry's current certifications.  Additionally, the job wasn't posted where certified individuals might find it easily-on local and national industry-specific job boards.

#3 Sign This Interview Wasn't Going Anywhere
You are not asked for a copy of your resume and/or references.  Now this one isn't so obvious.  Many companies use some sort of Human Resources Information System to manage their information flow.  Odds are if you are looking for work you've had to go online and fill out  screens worth of information.  If you are lucky you were able to upload your resume as a Word or PDF document and the HRIS parsed out a lot of information.  The thing is that the document you uploaded rarely makes it to the interview team.  Bits and pieces of it do, but the whole thing?  Rarely.  At best the company's HRIS gives a somewhat readable version.  Even if you've applied by submitting a resume you will almost always be asked for a current copy.  If you aren't asked for it, it is because nobody wants to see it.

#2 Sign This Interview Wasn't Going Anywhere
You are told you are "over-qualified" for a position, and you would be happier with another position.  Some employers are notably concerned that you might just work for them for a short amount of time just to leave for something else.  The thing is entry-level jobs are just that, the entry-level to get working for a company.  Yes, you might look on paper that you'd be better suited for a job a few levels up from the position you are applying for, but realistically when that position becomes open it will be filled from an internal applicant.  Employers need to look at job history.  A person who bounces around from one company to the next, advancing along each step will more than likely leave you when something better comes along.

#1 Sign This Interview Wasn't Going Anywhere
You are told you are "under-qualified" for a position.  I've had this happen and I wasn't very happy about it.  If you are "under-qualified" for the position, then why are you even brought in for an interview in the first place?  This is discourteous for everyone involved.

What do you do when these things happen to you?

  1. Relax.....you could be wrong.
  2. Relax.....see what you can learn from the experience.
  3. Relax.....you might be interviewing with these people for another position.  You could be interviewing for the replacement for the internal candidate who has already gotten this job.
  4. Treat this like any other interview.

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