Don’t always assume your interviewer knows what s/he is doing…

You’ve heard it time and time again.  When you go on an interview come prepared with questions.  Questions about the company, the position, your future/potential responsibilities, the culture, etc.  Why bother going at all if you’re not interested enough to care to ask questions?  I’m a firm believer the candidate should always be the most prepared person in the room during an interview.

Everyone is busy right?  Employees at all levels in every organization are consistently asked to do more with less.  Everyone is stretched thin.

Just because there is someone sitting in front of you conducting an interview, that doesn’t mean they necessarily know what they’re doing.  Chances are great they have never had any training on how to conduct an interview.  Because of this they may be overly cautious in their approach.  They’re on guard, scared of making mistakes or asking an inappropriate or even “illegal” question.  And yet, they think since they’re the interviewer they are in a position of superiority.  That is a recipe for a very bad experience.  If that’s the case, how much value do you think anyone is going to get out of the interview?  You, them, the company?  It’s not good for anyone and it has the potential to be a big waste of time.

Remember, you’re there to land a job.  I’m not in the habit of wasting time going on interviews that won’t go anywhere.  I know you aren’t either.  I’m there to fight tooth and nail for it.  You’ve done the research, you know why you want the job, why you like the company and why you’re a great fit.  Don’t leave anything to chance.

Because you are so prepared and excited, it can be terribly disappointing when you show up and it’s obvious the interviewer hasn’t spent any time reviewing your information or bothered to prepare any thoughtful questions.  If they don’t have any thoughtful, substantive questions it’s another sign they don’t have much interview experience.

I once interviewed for a position I was very excited for.  The position would enable me to do things with my career I had not done yet and was excited about doing.  I was back for an in-person interview for the third time.  By this time, my references had already been checked.  We were close to closing the deal.  The only step left was to interview with the person that would actually be my boss.

When I arrived, the recruiter I had been working with let me know that my potential future boss got stuck in a meeting and it would be another 30 minutes before he was available.  Everyone is busy right?  I didn’t think anything of it other than the recruiter now had to keep me company for the duration.

Now would be a good time to mention that when I first walked into the recruiter’s office I noticed a resume printed out and sitting on the very corner of his desk.  As I sat down, it was easy to notice that it wasn’t mine.  I didn’t mention anything about it.  Why would I?  It wasn’t my office and certainly none of my business.  When my potential future boss walked in, we were introduced and, as he walked past the desk, he grabbed the resume off the corner and started to look at it.  He then proceeded to ask me what I thought were very confusing questions.

My background is recruiting sales people.  He was asking me IT-related questions.  When I mentioned I didn’t have that kind of experience he asked “then why does it say on your resume you have recruited IT for the past five years?”  I told him that “while I do have some IT recruiting experience, the vast majority of my experience is in recruiting sales people.  You have someone else’s resume.”

Obviously, he didn’t spend any time reviewing my information before hand.  Nor did he recognize the name on the resume wasn’t mine.  After all, he just met me 10 seconds ago.  He didn’t ask the recruiter if it was my resume.  He came in, grabbed a random document and started making assumptions.  As a result, he looked foolish and unprepared.

Pay attention to all the details when you are interviewing.  Even though the hiring authority in this example came across looking foolish, I was too blinded by the excitement of the possibilities to see what kind of boss he would be.  As a result, I was the fool.  I accepted the position and quickly learned it was a mistake.  I spent the next year or so figuring out how to get out of there.  Lesson learned.