Trial by Fire? No, it’s a Bad Interview

Corporate interviews have become endurance tests, a common way of simulating how candidates will respond if hired. Job candidates sitting on the hot seat can expect to hear the same questions posed four to seven times in a single afternoon. While job seekers are judged on every little detail, feeling pressure not to make mistakes, paradoxically, interviewers often believe they have latitude to come across as aloof, disorganized or rude.

But in a future tightened labor market, candidates may experience a role reversal. Savvy employers may drop the fortress mentality – lowering a drawbridge across the moat of fire. For example, some firms may devote more of the interview process to “sell” candidates on the company.

Not surprisingly, job seekers have a litany of complaints about the interview process. According to a study of 3,725 job seekers, conducted in five global regions by Development Dimensions International (DDI), in conjunction with Monster, the biggest complaints interviewees make are these:

Interview Habits That Most Annoy Job Seekers
Interview Habits
Source: Development Dimensions International, Inc.

The situation is dire when even recruiters harangue their peers. Allison Boyce, Candidate Development Manager, Deloitte Services, asserts in ERE.net (a recruiter publication) that some of her peers haven’t changed tactics to fit the current talent shortage. Boyce says that many of her peers are guilty of:

  • Waiting two weeks to respond to résumés
  • Missing interview days/refusing to schedule interviews
  • Missing telephone screens
  • Taking three to four weeks to extend an offer
  • Allowing one person’s opinion to override six other decisions to hire.

That sounds like a process ripe for reform. “Believe it or not in the US we probably do the best job of any country in how we treat candidates. It’s absolutely medieval in the UK,” contends Boyce, who emphasizes that she is expressing her own opinions. In Boyce’s view one of the problems is that candidates aren’t told what to expect from the process, which often drags on for months for executive hires.

In theory, job interviews can be “dealmakers or deal breakers” say the authors of the DDI/Monster Study. The study finds that two-thirds of job candidates say that the “interviewer moderately or significantly influences their decision” to take the job if offered.

What does the interviewing process tell job candidates about the employer? “The interview process with the recruiter doesn’t give me much more insight into the company than I already had via my own research and networking,” says B. Lee Jones, former CIO of a midsize, multinational company in Silicon Valley. “The only thing that is sometimes beneficial is their perspective on what the employer is looking for.”

Knowing a recruiter or colleague inside the company can prove invaluable. But unfortunately for most job candidates, researching how employers conduct a hiring process is rarely possible. While it is easy to find corporate mission statements, there is little to no information posted on corporate careers web pages that help a candidate prepare for what’s often a trial by fire.

According to the DDI/Monster job seeker study, at least one interviewer posed the following insightful question: “If you were a dog, what kind would you be?” That’s a tough call, but in a situation like that, I would have to go with pit bull. Let them draw their own conclusions.