Are You a Jerk When You Interview?
Remember what it was like to be a job candidate? You made sure your best suit was back from the cleaners. If you're a woman, you fretted over whether it was okay to wear pants (it is). And you had to come up with a plausible excuse, for your current boss, as to why you needed a Tuesday morning off. Then, with extra copies of your resume in a nice folder, and your cell pone turned off, you nervously walked into the unknown, hoping to be able to impress the heck out of everyone you talked to, and land that shiny new job.
Remember that? Of course you do. So, now that you're sitting on the other side of the desk and interviewing job candidates rather than being a job candidate, why have you turned into a jerk? While not all hiring managers are jerks, the behaviors are prevalent enough that you should go down this checklist and see if you've fallen into this trap.
You leave a candidate waiting for you. Emergencies happen. We understand that. But, your previous meeting running long isn't an emergency. Nor is you chatting with someone else in the hallway, eating lunch, or finishing up this last Power Point deck. Meanwhile, your candidate is sitting in an uncomfortable chair, trying to make polite chit chat with the receptionist, or resisting the urge to play games on her phone. She's taken time off her current job to be there. Making her wait is just downright rude.
You pry into a candidate's history without being willing to share yours. A job interview should be more like a date than a beauty pageant, with questions going both ways. Jerky interviewers bombard their candidates with questions, but freak out when the candidate starts asking questions about expectations, the stability of the company or where you see yourself in five years. Remember, you're both trying to see if this would be a good fit for both of you, so be open and honest about life at your company.
You don't keep candidates informed. If a job posting brings in 150 resumes, no one expects you to do more than simply confirm receipt of the resume. But once a job candidate comes in for an interview, you owe it to them to keep them informed. Many managers sputter at this point, "But that's HR's job!" Well, sure. But they aren't doing it either. You come off as a jerk if you bring in a candidate, conduct an interview, and then go into silent mode. A two line email saying, "Thanks so much for coming in. We've decided to not hire anyone at this time," is all that it takes to keep you out of jerk mode. Just be honest. Don't leave your candidates hanging.
You demand salary histories but won't speak up about your budget. So, so many companies want to know exactly how much money job candidates made at their previous companies--even going to so far as to ask for W2s to verify. First of all, your salary offer should be based on the the market value for the position, not on the person's previous salary. Second, you should be the one that speaks up first, "The salary range for this position is $50,000 to $65,000, depending on exactly what skills and experience the right candidate brings." Then candidates can self select out if that's too low. You really have no need to pry into a candidate's financial history to make a job offer. But many, many managers treat salary ranges like state secrets, which is just dumb.
You ask condescending or stupid questions. Some companies swear by the unusual job interview questions. Not my style, but if you know what a good answer looks like and why that answer means the person will be a good fit, go right ahead. But, if you don't know what you hope to get from this weird question, then it's just a jerky one.
You are looking for perfection. It's not there. You can find something wrong with every single job candidate. If you hold candidates to unreasonably high standards, you'll waste a whole lot of time for them--and you--and not be any closer to making a hire. If you automatically reject people because they 1) went to the wrong school, 2) made too much in their previous job, 3) made too little in their previous job, 4) don't look right, 5) don't have every single skill on a page-long list, 6) made a single typo on a resume, 7) can't read your mind, hasn't done this exact job before, 9) has something stuck in her teeth after lunch, or 10) isn't exactly what you imagined, you're a jerk interviewer. You are looking for the best candidate, not the perfect one.
All of these problems are easy to fix. And why should you? Because it's good for your business. Remember, your job as an interviewer is to convince the candidates that this is the right place for them. While it may seem like it, you truly don't hold all the cards. Many quality candidates will walk away from the jerk interviewers, and your business can't afford to lose them.
SUZANNE LUCAS | Columnist
Suzanne Lucas spent 10 years in corporate human resources, where she hired, fired, managed the numbers, and double-checked with the lawyers.