The Pompous Interviewer: A Quick Daydream for Job Seekers

Today I’d like to share a daydream with you.  A real one I had back in 2007 during my job search.

So consider this a quick break in your day.  A moment to cheer for the good guys.  And perhaps teach something to interviewer types around the world.  About fair play and how candidates (fellow humans) should be treated.

As an intro, you might want to read my post on the job search fraternity.  There you’ll see my views on the benefit of shared experiences.  As they tend to bring people together.

The Situation

Back in 2007 I was interviewing for a VP marketing role at local manufacturing company.  A well known brand in the consumer goods industry.

After a very social interview with a product development fellow, I was walked in to meet the next interviewer – the CFO.  After I was introduced – to his back as he continued to work – he finally turned around.

It was like a huge mountain being rotated from underneath.  Slow, loud cracks of earth and rocks tumbling away from the fissures created by his significant effort to make eyes on me.  He looked up and frowned.

So I’m thinking: I’ve just interrupted something important.  Or I had kept his daughter out late on a recent date (not true).  But that kind of look.

Next? A brisk acknowledgement of the person who introduced me along with a couple of moans and groans to get his chair from credenza to desk.  And a big sigh.

And I recognized his interview style right away.

And then: “So, I don’t have a lot of time.  Why do you want to work here?”  Followed by a deep lean back in an old leather chair. Creaking.  Arms behind head.

And here’s where the daydream started.  Because I wanted to step out of the room.  Check that.  I wanted to run.

A daydream was the next best thing.

The Daydream

Immediately after displaying his “gruff arrogance”, a small red light started to flash on his desk.  Moments later the CEO and head of HR walked him down the hall to an empty and cold conference room.  This man who has never been out of work before is handed his walking papers.  He is now in the position of those he has interviewed (with such care) over the years.

  • I imagine his salty demeanor at networking events.  Over-dressed, not smiling, not connecting and making mistakes while networking.
  • I imagine him sitting in front of a tough recruiter.  Being asked why he has only worked for one company.  And being told that his skills are not what new, progressive companies are looking for in new candidates.
  • I imagine his resume being passed over for various reasons including age discrimination.
  • I imagine him interviewing with a whiz kid half his age and struggling to be relevant.

And then I imagine him calling me for advice.  He’s now learned a few things.  About fairness, common decency and about ways to interview that allow a candidate feel smart, qualified, relevant and considered.  I’ll teach him about the value of a more conversational interview.  And the perils of being unfriendly. And pompous.

Finally in my daydream I look up and see him smiling at me.  Answering a question of mine.  Sharing advice and keen insights on his company that allow me to see whether it is a good fit for me.  Not just for them.

He asks me a challenging question.  Pushes me.  But does so with respect.

And when I reinforce my three interviewing themes with him, he nods.  And asks for more detail.

The Reality

Unfortunately, this daydream did not have a transformational effect on my interviewer that day.  He remained crusty, unapologetic and without empathy for my situation.

I could not imagine working with him then.  But I’d love to coach him now.

A few final thoughts for interviewers:

  • friendly does not mean weak
  • conversational does not mean light
  • nodding and smiling does not mean commitment

You can still ask hard, challenging questions.  But you’ll get more valuable data from them if you can help a candidate relax.

Have you interviewed with him or someone else who treated you this way?  How did you handle it?  And what advice would you give the interviewer about better ways to meet candidates?

 

About the Author: Tim Tyrell-Smith is a career, marketing, branding and strategy coach focusing on small business, non-profits and individuals. A veteran executive in consumer marketing, Tim spent 23 years growing premium brands including Nestle Quik, Mauna Loa Macadamias and Meguiar’s Car Wax. Learn more about Tim at FixBuildDrive.com  or TimsStrategy.com.  You can also follow Tim on Twitter:  @FixBuildnDrive and @TimsStrategy.

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