Published on: Friday, August 13, 2010
When Bad Interviews Happen to Good Candidates
I first interviewed with ExecuNet around Halloween and was charmed by the decorations until I saw the giant, purple inflatable spider standing guard in the center of the office space. Despite the combination of two big fears — job interviews and giant spiders — I performed well enough to get the offer. (The spider now appears annually right outside my office.)
This story pales in comparison to candidates who saw dream jobs turn into nightmares when confronted by interviewers behaving badly. We've collected some of the
worst job interview stories from ExecuNet members and asked some of our expert executive coaches to give their feedback. We've excerpted a few for you here.
At a dinner meeting with the CEO and other key company executives, this candidate said the questions were unusual: "What did my watch cost? Why did I buy such an expensive watch? Why did I come in a suit to dinner? How much did my suit cost? Did I know the job was in Raleigh?
"The next morning I arrived at the reception area; and after waiting 30 minutes I was escorted to a phone so an HR person in another city could tell me that there would be no interviews, and I would be free to catch a cab back to the airport," recalled the candidate.
Meg Montford, career coach and president, Abilities Enhanced
, responded, "Every candidate needs to know when to cut his losses and move on. Lesson here is for the candidate to exercise his veto power before investing time and energy in a situation that doesn't fit. Interviewing is a two-way process. A candidate has to assess if the company is right for him as much as the company assessing the candidate."Say What?
"One company told me that if I was made an offer, I would have to sign an agreement that stated I would not be offended if I heard foul language in the workplace. I had to wonder how bad the language must be to require a waiver, rather than telling employees to clean up their act," said an ExecuNet member.
Linda Dominguez, CEO and executive strategist for Executive Coaching and Resource Network, Inc.
, noted the agreement asks the candidate to sign away rights that fall under harassment laws and is probably illegal. "It certainly makes you wonder what other laws they skirt by way of side agreements, doesn't it?
"Part of the due-diligence research job hunters can do prior to interviews is on communication style, management style and culture — if you network to do this research you're also building your own brand and broadening your network. Go ahead and ask your network if they know anyone who currently works at the target company (or an ex-employee!), so you can get the real scoop. If you don't like what you hear, you can participate in the early interview stages, then withdraw your candidacy if necessary."Takes One to Know One
"During an interview, the regional VP was explaining why the position was open. He stopped mid-sentence and explained the previous manager was one of those women in her mid-40s who had decided to have a baby, and asked me if I knew the type. I nodded sympathetically. I do know that type — I am one," said a telecom executive.
"This is tricky business but don't be tricked into thinking you know what he means," responded Executive Coach Judy Rosemarin, founder of Sense-Able Strategies, Inc.
and facilitator of ExecuNet's New York networking meetings
. "If he will be your boss, you have to decide if you can tolerate his bias, as it seems he might have one. If I were to replay that scene, I might ask, 'I really don't understand what you mean. Could you explain it?' That way you would get a closer look at how correct your suspicions might have been."Have a story of your own to share? Your comments are anonymous!