In the workplace

How not to interview a candidate

I recently started a new job. I interviewed for a few companies and got a few offers on the table. However, one interview stuck out for me because, well, let me tell you the story…

I interviewed for a company and the first interview went really well. I liked the guys that were interviewing me and everything went really positively. They also liked me and invited me back for a second interview. They explained at the end of the first interview that the second interview was going to involve some technical competency questions, whiteboarding and so on. I was looking forward to it.

A few days later the recruitment agent called to confirm the time for the second interview and I duly turned up at the appropriate time. The second interview had a different panel to the first which isn’t unusual. However, the format was very similar to the first interview.

Towards the end of the interview one of the interviewers asked me about Scottish Developers, the user group I help run. This is not unusual. Companies are often keen to see such passion for the job that they see this as a positive. Not this chap. I was subjected to several minutes of questions about how my involvement could negatively impact the company and what I’d be doing to mitigate that.

I have found that negative leaning questions fail to understand the implications of running a user group. I run Scottish Developers as part of my own personal training and skills improvement programme, it also benefits many people around me also. To ask how that might negatively affect the company and to seek further assurances that any activities that are organised in my own time, which they are, and are done so well in advance displays a level of control that would be unacceptable, not to mention detrimental to them as I would not be able to keep my skills as up-to-date as I’d like. Something that benefits them more than it does me. I do this because I enjoy software development and I want to continually improve, the side effect of this is that they get a employee that is highly skilled and highly motivated. To cause demotivation in that way would be detrimental to both of us.

Suffice to say that line of questioning left a bitter taste in my mouth.

Then they asked me what I thought of the interview process, so I mentioned in my answer that I thought that the second interview was going to be the more technical and there would be some whiteboarding, problem-solving, and technical questions.

“Where did you hear that from?” was the unexpected, almost barked, response.

“Well, I was told…” was as far as I got in a reply.

“Was it the [name-of-recruitment-agent] at [recruitment-agents-firm]?”

“N…” again I didn’t get a chance to respond.

“I’m going to have to have words with her. That’s not acceptable”

And that was when a previously very positive impression of the company turned into a very firm definite rejection.

He refused to listen to my answer. In fact, he refused to let me speak. He made a wild assumption, which was wrong, and wouldn’t let me correct it. Finally he set out a course of action he was going to take based on that incorrect assumption which was to chastise the recruitment agent for something that was clearly not her fault.

Some interviewers forget that an interview is a two way process. The company want to see what the candidate is like and the candidate want to see what the company is like. For an interviewer to act in such a way was quite revealing.

In one respect I was glad that he did react this way at the interview stage, it saved me finding out once I actually started with the job.

One thought on “How not to interview a candidate

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