Tuesday, July 19, 2016

You Never Know Who Is Interviewing You

No one should ever assume one interviewer is less important than another.  There is always a reason why a company puts someone in the interviewing loop.

Many candidates, particularly senior executives, have confessed to me that they blew interviews because they considered the people they were talking to be irrelevant or inferior.  This often happens when senior executives are asked to meet human resources people towards the end of their interview process. While these interviews may be more courtesy than real, a bad or dismissive attitude can cost a job. 

One very senior human resources candidate told me a story which illustrates this point.  He was almost through the interviewing process at a major company.  He had one final interview. His last interview was with an older person who was nearing retirement and had had this job many years before.  He took this interview for granted - it was at the end of a grueling day of multiple interviews and the candidate just assumed that it was a courtesy interview with the outgoing person. He told me he may have been dismissive.

Unfortunately, he got dinged by the interviewer who thought he was rude.  My candidate confessed that his obvious disinterest in the interviewer cost him the job. Ironically, my candidate was a very senior (and expensive) human resources executive; he told me that he learned a big lesson from this error in judgement on his part. 

When I was an advertising agency executive, Ii was once on an interview to become head of account management at a small agency. While I was waiting for the CEO whose name was on the door, i was brought into a small room which looked like a den. A disheveled woman came in and offered me soda or coffee. She sat down to chat with me while I waited to be interviewed by the CEO. After about ten minutes of chit-chat, I realized she was interviewing me. I had no idea who she was and she certainly didn’t look like an executive.  She actually was wearing a dress, but had stockings rolled down to her ankles. Finally the CEO came in and she sat through his interview with me.

It turned out that she was both the office manager and the CEO’s girlfriend.  I was totally turned off and uninterested in the job. But the point is that anyone who meets you from a company may have the ability to ding you.

These days of casual clothing, people come to meet me, especially on Fridays, wearing ridiculously inappropriate clothing.  One young executive actually told me she would not dress this way on a “real” interview.  Little did she understand that meeting a recruiter might be far more important in the long run than any single person she might meet at a company..

There is no such thing as a courtesy interview.  Anyone you interview with may have the ability to ding you and, on the other hand, could introduce you to other people within (or out) their company.


  1. Great blog! It reminds me of a book I just finished that I can't recommend enough: "Disrupted" by Dan Lyons - a 50-something writer who got hired at HubSpot - a dot-com startup. On his first day of work, a 22-year-old was showing him around when he suddenly realized the kid was his boss, not an intern.

  2. This also happens when a senior account person is asked to meet junior team members. Although this is usually more a "chemistry check" if the team members who would be reporting to this person feel that they're being talked down to, the outcome can also be a negative one for the candidate. Companies are looking to build cohesive teams.

    1. Fully agree, Louise. There is no such thing as a courtesy interview or a pure chemistry check. I have seen candidates blow their final interview because they assumed they have the job and took the interview for granted.

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  3. Great advice, AS ALWAYS, Paul. When I started working following graduation, my dad, who was also in advertising told me, "Be nice to everyone; you never know." Still good advice decades later.

    1. In the upcoming weeks I'm going to post a story of what happens when somebody isn't nice.


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