The Worst Types of Interviewers on Your Job Search: #3 The Flighty One

We’ve met The Downer and The Egomaniac. Well, hopefully you haven’t had the pleasure in IRL. If you have, my condolences. Have a piece of dark chocolate with me and laugh it off. As with most things in life, a bad interview can be a learning experience. At the very least, it’s a lesson in how not to interview when you’re on the other side of that desk.

Today, we’re going to meet another “worst type” of interviewer. The Flighty One.

Have you ever had an interview that went like this?

Interviewer: (Texting on cell phone) Hey—have a seat! I’ve just got to answer this real quick.

Candidate: Sure thing. (Sits down and waits)

Interviewer: (texting)

Candidate: (waiting)

Interviewer: (still texting)

Candidate: (staring at the parking lot outside. watching cars back up and drive away. so fascinating.)

Interviewer: Okay! Sorry about that. Sometimes people are so impatient. (rifles through the mountain of papers on desk) Hmm… I haven’t actually had a chance to go over your resume, Jenny. Why don’t you tell me about you?

Candidate: Well, my name is Jane, and I just graduated with a BA in Human Resources Management. I’ve been working part time as a human resources assistant at–

Interviewer: (cell phone rings) Sorry, Jenny. I’ve got to take this really quick.

Candidate: Oh, okay.

Interviewer: (hangs up after a five-minute conversation about weekend plans) You worked at that law firm on 7th, right?

Candidate: No… I’ve never worked at a law firm.

Interviewer: (laughs) Oh, sorry. I’ve been staring at resumes for days. I can’t even see straight! You’ve been in retail for a while—is that correct?

Candidate: Nope. That’s not me either.

Interviewer: Okay, Jenny. Let’s start over. Tell me about you!

Candidate: My name is Jane. Would you like me to spell it for you?

Oh, the things we wish we could say in these moments. The Flighty One might seem like a fun person to be around, if only they could remember your name. Can you imagine what they’d be like as a boss? Even if a hiring manager has interviewed twenty people that day, they should make knowing who you are (or at the very least your name) a priority. Making you wait while they take phone calls (unless they truly are urgent or emergencies), calling you by the wrong name, or not bothering to review your resume beforehand are all signs that hiring you isn’t a priority. You are just someone and they need to hire someone. And when they hire that someone, they will continue to be someone (until The Flighty One remembers that someone’s name—but don’t hold your breath). Someone will be given expired login credentials for every account, resend emails multiple times (because The Flighty One does not do searches), take on urgent projects that stop being projects a day later, and constantly remind The Flighty One there’s no front desk person because they haven’t hired one yet. This is how I imagine it, anyway.

Here are ways I’ve dealt with The Flighty One in an interview:

  1. I tell them I’ll wait while they review my resume. The last time an interviewer told me they hadn’t reviewed my resume yet, I handed them a copy of my resume and said I’d wait while they reviewed it. They gave me a strange look—but, hey, at least they stopped calling me by the wrong name.
  2. I’ve told them we could reschedule the interview, if they needed to. When a hiring manager is taking phone calls or stopping and starting our interview multiple times, I’m not afraid to ask if they want to reschedule. Yes, their time is valuable—but so is mine. They’ll either take me up on it or suddenly realize how they’re coming across. Okay, well, sometimes this doesn’t work at all—and they’ll say, no! Now is fine. In which case, you could consider walking out when they take their next phone call?  In all seriousness, sometimes forgetfulness and lack of focus is a sign that the hiring manager is overworked. There is the chance that, once they get some very needed help, they will learn your name and even appreciate what you do.
  3. I ask how busy they are. When I’m not sure if a hiring manager is oblivious or just overworked, I ask if they’ve got a lot going on and how the new hire might be able to help them. Sometimes it’s clear they are dealing with a difficult situation, and I need to cut them some slack. And other times…
  4. I vent to trusted friends and family. Let’s face it. The interview process can be brutal, and some employers can treat you very poorly throughout the process, from ghosting you after an interview to calling you by the wrong name. It’s normal to feel frustrated and angry. Sometimes you just need to get it all out!
  5. Onward and upward! When I have an interview with a hiring manager who doesn’t know my name, I try not to take it personally. Because it’s not about me—it’s about them. Maybe they are a really nice person who is horrible at multi-tasking and time management. Maybe they fully intended to review my resume, but the day—once again—got away from them. The best thing I can do is keep applying and scheduling more interviews. After all, some hiring managers not only know my name, they’ve looked up every book I’ve published and are full of positive feedback about my work. That’s always a pleasant surprise!

 

Have you ever had an interview like this? How did you respond? Feel free to share your story below!

 

The Worst Types of Interviewers on Your Job Search: #2 The Egomaniac

A couple weeks ago we met The Downer and talked about ways to help determine if the role is as bad as the hiring manager makes it sound. Now, it’s time to meet The Egomaniac.

Have you ever had an interview that went like this?

Interviewer: Tell me about yourself!

Candidate: Sure. I’ve been a social media manager for the last five years, where I–

Interviewer: That’s great. I can read. But what have you done?

Candidate: I was just getting to that. When I started at my current employer, I developed a new social media marketing plan that increased engagement by 80% and–

Interviewer: 80%? Is that supposed to “wow” me? I’ve increased engagement rates by over 1000%. Engagement is just one piece of the puzzle, anyway. What about followers?

Candidate: We started at around five hundred and now we have almost nine thousand on Facebook. On Twitter–

Interviewer: Nine thousand? We’ve got almost forty thousand here.

Candidate: Well, you’re a much bigger brand that has been around awhile. We’re a start-up–

Interviewer: That’s my point. I’ve never heard of you. Your marketing plan must not be working that well

Candidate: Actually, if you look at the increase in followers in the last year–

Interviewer: See, if I was in your shoes, I’d be asking myself why I only have nine thousand followers. When I first started here, I doubled our followers in a month.

Candidate: That’s…very impressive.

Interviewer: It wasn’t easy. I was pulling seventy hour weeks, giving up my weekends. But that’s me. I don’t stop at good enough. I break records.

Candidate: Good for you!

Interviewer: Look, I’ve got more than two hundred applicants for this job. You’re my tenth interview today. This is a one-of-a-kind opportunity. I’ve turned around every company I’ve worked at–quadrupled their business. You will not find a better mentor. But I’ve gotta wonder–do you want this bad enough?

Candidate: Are you sure there’s enough room for me? Your ego is making it hard to breathe.

Don’t you wish you could say that last line? If your interviewer is frequently interrupting or talking over you and/or cutting down your achievements, while boasting about their own, chances are you’re dealing with what I like to call The Egomaniac. The interviewer might not be as over-the-top as the above example, but the impact is the same. You are being made to feel small. If this is your would-be supervisor, take heed. You’re getting a taste of what your daily life might feel like. Unfortunately, unless you enjoy working for an egomaniac, taking this job probably isn’t the best idea. But that doesn’t mean you have to let them get to you.

Here are ways I’ve dealt with an egomaniac in an interview, when they’ve tried to make me feel small:

  1. I don’t let them rile me up. I once had an interviewer attack my website and portfolio, piece by piece. In fact, it seemed like they’d called me in just for this purpose. I listened, mentally pasting a big, red clown nose on them while they spoke (I’m a designer, after all), and reminded myself that this wasn’t about me. Plenty of employers had complimented me on my portfolio, and I had the stats to back up the success of my work. After they were done, I remained calm and thanked them for the feedback. When they called for a second interview, I told them I wasn’t interested.
  2. If I’m on the fence (is it them or am I just having an insecure day?), I ask them what their expectations are – what do they want me to achieve within the first three months? If their expectations are unrealistic, I know this probably isn’t the right opportunity for me.
  3. I vent to trusted friends and family. Let’s face it. The interview process can be brutal, and some employers can treat you very poorly throughout the process, from ghosting you after an interview to giving you false hopes. It’s normal to feel frustrated and angry. Sometimes you just need to get it all out!
  4. Onward and upward! When I have an interview with someone who makes me feel small, I vent about it and then I move on. Life is too short to let someone like that take up any more of my time. I’ll save my energy for the hiring managers who do see what I can offer and understand the power of positive feedback and encouragement.

Have you ever had an interview like this? How did you respond? Feel free to share your story below!

The Worst Types of Interviewers on Your Job Search: #1 The Downer

I’ve had some incredible interviews, and I’ve also had some real doozies. Sometimes I think back and say, man, I wish I could’ve said… A bad interview can leave you feeling disappointed and frustrated. You might even blame yourself, wondering if you left the wrong impression. I’ve blurted things out that had me reaching for the invisible delete key. One time a hiring manager looked at me with a grin and said “You’re not a morning person, are you?” To which I’d answered, “No, not at all.” It was instinct. They’d been talking to me like we were old friends, and I’d let my guard down. They stopped grinning. At that moment, even though I’d tried to reassure them I could start at 8 instead of 9 (I’d done it for years), I could tell they’d made up their mind about me. In hindsight, the role wouldn’t have been a good fit for me. I do best with employers who are more about my results than what hours I come in, and I’m definitely more productive when I can start at 9.

But there are interviewers out there who just aren’t great at interviewing. Maybe they’re socially awkward or they’ve never interviewed anyone in their life. I can deal with that. But sometimes their behavior sends up a huge red flag, whether they are unprofessional or just a huge downer.

Have you ever had an interview that went like this?

Interviewer: Sorry for the mess. We don’t have much time to clean up around here.

Candidate: No worries. How’s your day going?

Interviewer: Well, I’ve got more projects than I can handle and my phone won’t stop ringing. My assistant just quit on me, so I have no help.

Candidate: Oh no. That sounds really stressful.

Interviewer: (sighs) It’s crazy, but that’s how it is around here. Don’t go looking for anyone to hold your hand. You’re not the type who needs your hand held, are you?

Candidate: No, I’m pretty used to teaching myself anything I don’t know. Plus, I prefer more autonomy.

Interviewer: (chuckles) Well, I didn’t say anything about autonomy. We’d like you to be a self-starter and figure things out, but any decisions need to be run by upper management. And they need a lot of convincing.

Candidate: Ah, ok. Good to know.

Interviewer: So, I was reading through your resume, and I’m wondering if this is the right fit for you. It seems like you have a big creative streak, and there isn’t a lot of room for creativity in this role.

Candidate: Can you be more specific?

Interviewer: We’re not like one of those fun, hip agencies with ping pong tables. We don’t come to work to play. It’s a tight ship around here and it’s a very high stress environment. Upper management wants things done a certain way and we have to stick to that.

Candidate: Got it. So, what would a typical day look like?

Interviewer: Chaotic. If you like to take breaks, it’s probably not the right environment for you.

Candidate: I see. Um… What are some things you really love about working here?

Interviewer: Uh… Hmm… Well… (eyes roll up toward the ceiling) Since we have too much to do, very little resources, and some very unrealistic expectations to manage, every day is a new challenge. There are some days my heart is beating out of my chest, you know?

Candidate: Huh. Let me rephrase that question a little. Why on earth should I work here?

Okay, maybe don’t say that (it’s so tempting, though, isn’t it?) I like to call this interviewer type The Downer. Instead of selling you on the role and the company, they seem to be saying—run and don’t look back! Even when pressed to say something positive about the company, they can only come up with more negatives. Is the employer really that awful to work for or is the interviewer just a “the glass is always half empty” kind of person?  Sometimes it’s hard to know! So, when I find myself in this situation, here are some ways I try to figure it out:

  1. I look up the company on Glassdoor and other employer review sites before I go on the interview. Are there several negative reviews that mirror what this hiring manager is saying?
  2. If there are other people in the interview, I ask them what they love about working there and what they wish they could improve. If their answers are similar, that tells me what I need to know.
  3. I ask for a tour and the chance to meet any potential coworkers. Body language and the general vibe of the office can tell me a lot.
  4. I reach out to my network to see if anyone knows anyone who has worked for the company. Then I write that person and ask for the scoop.

If The Downer is your would-be supervisor, you also have to ask yourself—can I work with someone who seems this unhappy, regardless of the reason? Never underestimate the importance of your relationship with your manager.

Have you ever had an interview like this? How did you respond? Feel free to share your story below!