Tuesday, May 28, 2019

What Interviewing Should Really Be About

This is a post that should be read by everyone at every level of business from junior to very senior executive.

People go on interviews for all kinds of reasons.  I posted that there is no such thing as an informational or networking interview; people who understand that are way ahead of the game.

Let’s start out by saying that when hiring, companies often hire a person who is very different than what their job specs called for and what they had initially conceived of.  Companies often refine their specs as they interview, which is perfectly acceptable.  It is for that reason that I am writing this post. Of course the obvious reason for interviewing is to get a job.  But it goes way beyond that.

The purpose of interviewing, simply put, is for the company and the candidate to gather information about each other. The more information you get, the better informed the decision you can make.

First interviews, generally conducted by human resources professionals, are for the purpose of determining cultural fit (personality and interests) and to make sure that the candidates they see have the skill levels that the job calls for. When a candidate does not get passed on to the hiring manager or next level, it is generally because of a lack of fit or missing skills.  (Rarely does HR rule someone out unless there is a valid reason.In this first interview, candidates should be able to find out a little about the job at hand.  But the real information will develop at the next level of interviews, usually with the hiring manager.  That is why I am always surprised when candidates see HR and announce to me that they are not interested, even if they are being passed on.  It is the wrong time to drop out.

Even after the second interview, if there is interest on the company’s part, candidates should pursue the job and meet successively higher levels of management.  If there are questions or unresolved job issues, those questions may be addressed by more senior people in subsequent interviews. 

Of course the purpose of interviewing is to get a job, but the objective of interviewing is to meet the most senior person you can meet.

The most senior people have the ability to address issues and even change the job to fit a job applicant’s needs if they like the candidate enough.  I recently published a post talking about the fact that résumés only tell part of the story.  I received a comment in which the person said that the senior person saw in him other attributes which were not evident initially and he was hired, probably for jobs he did not apply for.  That is reason enough to meet a senior person.

All business is filled with people who were initially hired for jobs or responsibilities that they did not interview for.  But this can only happen when the process continues to a logical conclusion with the most senior manager.

Besides, the senior person can influence subsequent hires and may even have friends in other companies to send you to if you are actively looking for a job.


  1. I need to challenge some of the comments from your well-written article:

    -First, as a marketing and advertising professional, I can attest that most of the HR people I have spoken with are either ill-prepared or severely unqualified to pre-screen candidates in this talent pool. Unfortunately but frequently, the most basic conversations with HR quantify this theory. In addition, a recent trend I've noticed is the "immediate" interview, which is when an HR person contacts you either via email or phone and expects to speak in detail without basic candidate preparation time. (Often, applications for these positions has happened weeks before.)

    To me, this seems more like "trickery-for-a-quota" than genuine interest in securing solid caliber talent. (Quantity not quality, right?)

    On a different note, marketing has long lacked accountability against ROI. This is evolving and a frequent requirement recently is "performance-driven." Question: how can those that haven't been accountable possibly understand how to properly staff accountable talent to achieve these goals? (This is kind of like the 30-year "career-marketing person" for a "economically-challenged" Fortune 100 company who was hiring a Digital Marketing position and didn't understand basic acronyms like AOV, CTR, CPA, CPC, CPM, KPIs, PPC, CRM, etc. So, our conversation was not very satisfying and I couldn't help but notice that this position is now posted for the third time in 11 months.)

    So, I ask, how, if I can't get past the initial stage(s), can I possibly get to the highest level of exposure? I am wide open for suggestions and would really like to hear some REAL, hero stories from people that have overcome obstacles like these.

    Sadly, I'm not alone in these thoughts and have heard similar stories from numerous people in my profession.

    1. Thank you for your reply and comments.

      In fairness to HR, they are charged to find a specific person with a specific backround. You can ask what they are looking for that you have or don't have. If you do ask this, be careful not to back them in a corner.

      What you wrote is one of the great problems with interviewing. If you read me regularly, I have written many times that companies don't know how to write actionable specs, nor do the know or understand how to define their problems so that they can find a person who can solve them. Further, most don't really know how to interview.

      It is a tough conundrum.


I would welcome your comments, suggestions or anything you would like to share with me or my readers.

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