Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Hints for interviewers: Be Sure You Actually Interview

My last post addressed the issue of telegraphing answers.  Essentially, this means feeding the response you are looking for to the interviewee as the question is asked.  This often happens when a candidate is very senior, very well known or has a résumé which suits the job perfectly.  Another thing that happens under these circumstances is that the interviewer is so impressed by the résumé that they chat rather than interview.

An agency president told me a story recently about a well known recruiter who, many years ago when this president was an EVP, asked her for breakfast.  The then EVP brought her résumé, had a lovely conversation but was never interviewed.  The recruiter never asked key questions which had been expected – why she was looking, her career objectives, her current compensation.  The recruiter was so overwhelmed by the candidate’s title and position, that she forgot to conduct a proper interview. 

This happens at companies all the time.  The late, wonderful character, Jim Michaelson, (one of the ad business great new business gurus during the sixties, seventies and 1980’s) had an expression about some people who are less than fabulous but who keep getting more and better jobs.  He called it, “falling up.”  I think this is a wonderful term which describes all too many executives.  They seem to go from job to job, always getting better titles and more visibility, but they have little to show for it.  This happens because we have all seen reasonably incompetent people who keep falling up.  It is because someone is hiring their résumé and credentials.  They are so impressed with the background that they don’t  interview to find out what makes the candidate tick or whether they will be a good fit for the company or its culture.

This also happens during courtesy interviews which tend to be a chat rather than a real interview.  The result of this kind of talk is often a missed opportunity – on both sides.

When a candidate shows up for an interview, they love to talk, but they expect to be interviewed.  Simple as that.  Over the years, I have had many a chairman or president tell me that they couldn’t understand how they hired an incompetent senior executive.  They tell me things like, “ he was so successful at his last company.”  And after they are hired, it is discovered that the person cannot do the job.  My answer is that they didn’t interview him or her.  If they had, they would have discovered their shortfalls. 

I can think of one agency president who hired someone to run a subsidiary company.  It was a disaster and the subsidiary agency actually closed about a year after the bad hire which was the result of an entire board of directors merely chatting rather than interview.  The point is that no matter how good the résumé, it is essential that the candidate be thoroughly interviewed and nothing should be taken for granted.

This isn't just true of senior executives.  It happens with writers and art directors with good portfolios and with account managers who have seemingly great credentials.

Got any good falling up stories to share with my readers?

1 comment:

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

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