My Interviews – A series of unfortunate events

Being a Human Resource professional all my working life, I have taken hundreds of interviews for a wide range of mid-level to senior level positions. But after getting interviewed myself, in a prolonged process of the job hunt, I have learnt the many new ground realities.

I remember talking to a candidate in 2004 (being my first job) as part of the screening process. I was not having any clue about which role I was screening him, and I was honest enough to tell him about this. I asked him to just answer the transactional questions before I process him further.

My colleagues overheard and laughed; “why did you tell him that?” He must have felt puzzled.

I can only imagine that candidate’s plight more now than ever. 13 years later, now I am a candidate and most of the time I realise that I am talking to clueless recruiters. The only difference is that most of them don’t even know or realise that they are clueless.

Whether it is a single HR person or the interview panel, a bridge is to be formed by both the stakeholders, the company and the candidate for an effective and satisfying hire. Sitting on the other side of the bridge, I am sharing my story, from a candidate’s perspective.

Interviewer’s interviewing skills

The purpose of the interview is to gather as much information as possible from the candidate in order to judge if s/he will be able to perform well in the given job, or at least s/he has great potential of performing, as ready-made skills may not be available in the fast-changing world of today. In some of my experiences of interview giving, I realised that different levels of interviews are not synchronized. Each interviewer keeps on asking the similar set of questions and often the questions are not even relevant to the job.

I wonder, why many companies don’t invest in getting their interview panel go through an “interviewing training “or build an interviewer capability model, to prepare them for a right selection. Why it is often assumed that people know this skill if they are eligible to hire.

The dilemma of follow up

It’s really a dangerous space I have been in and have seen fellow job hunters in the same situation too. Most of the time the candidates’ deals with a cliff hanger response like, “We will get back to you” or worse “the forever silence” from the interviewing side. Although in many multinational companies it is considered polite to receive a ‘Thank-you’ mail from a candidate; but in the local scenarios the candidate is categorised as “Clingy”. I have considered myself lucky if the interviewer or recruiter has given me a timeline to give a response and stuck to it without my following up. But most of the time, there is some ambiguous response if one follow-up.

To follow or not? This is always a big dilemma for most candidates. They often wonder if the company is worth working if at all they are invited after a long suspense.

The Unexpected Response

After giving 4 to 6 rounds of interviews from junior to senior management levels, all you expect is a genuine feedback rather than a silence, or ambiguous response.

You feel you did great as you talked to the top management with very positive body-language, and discussed the future of the role. I had a long positive discussion with a company’s Board of Director as well and then …………. got the ‘unexpected response’. You hear things like, we don’t have the budget now, your skill sets are not matching, the position has gone on hold (Suddenly!), and there is a change in our business strategy (Overnight!)

Would it be so wrong to get a constructive feedback from the interviewer? Why in professional scenario giving a silence is a form of communicating ‘No’?

Career Break Phobia

A lot of recruiters suffer from this even now, especially in India. Although in most of the developed countries, it is considered healthy to take a break in the career for pursuing passions or further education. But In India, despite having long exposure to MNC culture, still people are judged based on breaks in their careers. While writing this article itself, I got a call from a recruiter and she disconnected the call after learning that I am not working currently. Why is it so wrong? Why the acceptability to have a career break is so low? Especially when the whole world is talking about innovation, thinking differently, developing a passion for performing new challenges, how can one get all these skills when stuck in only routine work day in and out?

The skills or talent gets only refreshed and one gets a new perspective to perform better in newer ways, with breaks. But some people still think such breaks reduce your talent or one unlearns everything one knows about performing a job.

I think India has a long way to go in order to be able to conduct interviews professionally and in an effective way. Fortunately, in some cases, the wheel is turning, but I wish transparent communication and basic courtesies would broaden the horizon in interviewing field.

What have been your experiences? And if you are a hiring manager, suggest how can you help your recruiters/ interviewers?

Looking forward to your responses in the comments section below.