How not to conduct a job interview

Yesterday I had my first interview for a while. As explained recently (see here and here), I am losing my current job so have to now juggle jobhunting along with my normal job and training others to take over some of my tasks once I’m gone.

I managed to get a half day holiday in order to attend the interview. It took a while to get there as it was quite close to where I live. I allowed 2 hours for travel, though it only took 1 hour 20 minutes. So I was left wandering around for a bit beforehand, getting an earful of gentle abuse from the local schoolchildren who had just been let loose on the streets.

As ever, I ensured that I arrived a little bit early. 12 minutes to be precise. After this it all went downhill a bit. Having introduced myself to the receptionist and stated why I was there, she phoned the person I was to have my interview and merely said “There’s a young man to see you. He says he has an appointment for 4 o’clock.” This level of imprecision was not very good, in my opinion.

Then I was kept waiting. It’s one thing for an interviewee to turn up late, but given the interviewer was in the building and had been given 12 minutes’ notice, I really didn’t expect him to turn up 10 minutes late. So that meant I was waiting for 22 minutes in reception.

From the start, it was clear that he was totally disinterested. His handshake was limp and as soon as we had greeted one another he turned his back and mumbled “follow me.” We went to a little side meeting room, but he didn’t invite me to sit down or offer anything even so small as a cup of water. I think having been told I was young on the phone and seen my youthful looks (I am actually 28, but I do get ID’d in the supermarket occasionally) his mind was made up that I was not mature enough for the role.

His opening salvo to the interview was “Today’s been really busy. Monday is my worst day,” which I don’t think it’s unreasonable to interpret as “[I don’t want to be here. You’re taking up my valuable time.]” At the very least, it was not a ringing endorsement!

In most interviews, I would expect to hear a little more about the role and the company (which of course I would already know, having done my research) and about what they are looking for in a candidate. Instead, I was simply asked to talk through my CV. I did try to ask where he would like me start. My thinking was that I could go chronologically forwards or backwards.

He didn’t seem to care where I started, but then the rest of the interview he didn’t seem to care much about anything. The overriding impression I got was one of languid indifference. Part of the role involved accounting for derivative financial instruments. My current company doesn’t use these, so I have no experience in industry, although I did study them for my accountancy qualification. All I would need to do is go back to my textbook and notes and do a little swotting up.

I worded my response roughly as follows: “[I’ve not been required to do that accounting in my current job, so my experience is only in the theoretical at the moment. I would look forward to the challenge of doing this in industry]”

After this, he just seemed to want to end the interview as quickly as possible. I tried to carry on as best I could but given that he didn’t even make any notes, I was pretty sure he had lost interest. He asked if I had any questions, which I had of course.

Some of these revolved around the day-to-day working relationships (who do you work with, what format do your reports take, what’s the monthly timetable) but his reaction was sort of surprised antipathy as if to say “[why are you bothering to ask that?]”

Possibly the most revealing answer came when I asked the one question I ask everyone: “What’s the best thing about working here?” The response often tells me as much about the individual as about the company. All he could come up with was “it’s a big company” as though this were a virtue in and of itself (which I don’t believe it is). If that’s the best that one could come up with, then it doesn’t bode well. Is it not a joy to work with the people that you do? Is there no Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) scheme?

I don’t know if I passed their interview. I doubt it. Even if I did, they didn’t pass mine.

6 responses to “How not to conduct a job interview

  1. Urgh. What an uninspiring experience. You’d think they’d at least be courteous when you’ve made the effort to be there. And he doesn’t seem particularly keen on working there himself!

    • Not my style. I wouldn’t want to get drawn into potential libel. The individual was acting on behalf of the company, and while it did affect my opinion of them, I wouldn’t want to cite this as being representative of the whole company (which employs about 4,000 people across the country).

      Their recruitment into areas of the business other than finance may be much better.

  2. Would have been nice if he had at least acknowledged that job hunting is stressful and treated you with a bit of humanity.

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