Happy October readers! Welcome to the season of gorgeous foliage, hot apple cider, and everything spooky. To get into the spirit, this month our blogs focus is on cautionary tales and anecdotes from the careers of our clients, candidates, and readers – and we want to thank all of you who shared so generously. Picking up from last week’s strategies leaders use to develop leaders, this week we will share what it looks like when leaders show up in interviews as, frankly, less than leaders.
I was in the final interview stage for my dream job with a NY consulting firm. I aced my live interviews but was unable to meet with a key decision maker due to a (his) emergency. A week later I was set up for a phone interview with him. When I picked up at the appointed time he said, “Hello, this is name with company name, is this [papers ruffling in the background for 3-4 seconds], Paul, right? I’ve heard great things about you.”
“No,” I said, “I am Jamal.” It didn’t get any better from there, but I did get the job offer. I politely declined.
I was interviewing for a position at medium size company. I was excited as they had great Glassdoor reviews and positive news coverage. We started on time, but the person interviewing me didn’t spend any time getting to know me. He read from a script – word-for-word from a printed out piece of paper. He must have done that with 15 or more questions, even inadvertently repeated a few. Sometimes he caught himself, generally he did not. It was unbelievably uncomfortable… the longest hour I can remember. I left the interview with mixed thoughts, almost hoping NOT to get the offer.
Process is great, and necessary as you will see below. BUT be sure to prepare your hiring manager’s with interview skills training and opportunities to practice any new process before you ask them to implement it. We know it is difficult to get your people into training – make sure they know what’s in it for them and make it as accessible as possible by using multiple paths for delivery (live and virtual workshops, eLearning, microlearning, tools, and resources.)
I was interviewing for a position as a Program Coordinator with a high-tech firm. My interview was scheduled for 10 am. I arrived 15 minutes early and the meeting started on-time. After meeting with the recruiter for 45-minutes, and the incumbent for another 30-minutes, I finally met with the hiring manager. When we finished at 12:30 pm, I was confident. Ten minutes later instead of the recruiter coming in to close the interview, the head of their training group came in and spent 30-minutes with me. After that the head of business development (30m), a project manager (45m), and, finally, a member of the legal team (30m). Not once did anyone ask me if I needed a break, some water, or even to go to the bathroom. Against my better judgment, I took that job. I left less than 6-months later.
During an interview for a senior leadership role in HR, the SVP asked me 4-times if I was bilingual in Spanish. Not only did I answer him each time, but that information is on my resume, LinkedIn profile, and their application (as well as a job requirement.) He talked about his challenges with the current team’s inability to grasp their political climate – “We have team members who are Republican and get offended by any talk of politics, being in healthcare most of us are Democrats and justifiably worried the company is at risk.” He also asked me personal questions about my marital status and family plans, “I have three business partners going on maternity leave over the next 5 months, it’s going to get crazy. Don’t get me wrong, I love kids, do you and your husband have any?”
I was interviewing for a senior position with a small business originally built by 5 best friends. The recruiter shared that they wanted to “create a work environment that was profitable and could employ them and their families for years to come.” They did that and more. They are one of the most successful high-tech companies in the US outside of Silicon Valley.
30-minutes into the interview the CEO asked where I go to church. Stunned I replied, “I don’t talk about my personal beliefs in the workplace. It can create divides.” A few minutes later he asked, “how many times have you been married?” I knew I did not need to answer. Really, I shouldn’t. But I wanted to see where he was going. “Twice,” I responded.
“So, you lost your first husband?” he said.
Awkward pause and I say, “Unfortunately I know exactly where he is, but what on earth does this have to do with the job?” The CEO went on to tell me that the company is based on Christian values. He said he could not, “in good conscience,” hire a woman into a leadership position that was not a good role model. So, I told him how illegal his questions and criteria were, not to mention small minded. Then I left. That afternoon I reported them to the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC). The case is still under investigation, but they have contacted my lawyer twice, so far, to try to settle.
Thanks for joining us today. Come back next week when we flip this topic around to tell the scary stories hiring managers have shared. Do you have a short story you want to share about a less than ideal employee experience as you were recruited, developed, managed, or even exited? Please send them to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Lisa Crockett is a leader and professional development coach with more than 20 years of experience in Human Resources, Organizational Effectiveness, Project Management, and Learning & Development. To learn more about her professional career visit her on LinkedIn.