Even Professionals Have Nightmare Interviews

I’ve sat through a lot of interviews during my career, on both sides of the table. A few weeks ago I endured one of the absolute worst interviews I’ve ever been a part of!

A local company was looking for an HR Manager and found an old resume of mine online somewhere. A woman reached out to me, we had a nice phone conversation, and she invited me in for an in-person interview. Not one to let a possible opportunity pass me by, I agreed.

When I arrived, I met with the woman I had spoke with previously and we had a decent conversation – it was basically a repeat of our phone conversation, but it wasn’t terrible. She advised me that I would then be meeting with three members of the executive team and left me to go find them. Not long after, one of the executives came in, sat down, and introduced himself. So far, so good.

It didn’t stay that way long.

He began by asking me very general questions about my career and how I got to where I am today. Immediately after asking the question, he picked up his phone and was completely engrossed in it. At first I thought maybe he was reading through my resume, but he had a hard copy in front of him. Maybe he was taking notes? He wasn’t typing, just scrolling and reading. I gave him the benefit of the doubt, maybe something urgent came up that he needed to check in on. As I gave my answer to his question, I would get the occasional “uh huh”, but no other interaction from him. When I was done, he asked me another question and again, immediately picked up his phone. This man didn’t hear a word I said. I awkwardly trailed off and didn’t even finish my response, and he didn’t even notice. After a few more of these I was completely annoyed and started providing very short answers. He didn’t even notice.

Eventually, he stopped asking me questions and asked if I had any for him. I did actually, as I didn’t know much about the position up to that point. When I asked him open-ended questions, he replied with very short and sometimes only one-word answers. Then he would ask again if I had any other questions. After three of these exact same types of responses, I told him I thought I knew enough at that point. He jumped up and thanked me for my time and was out the door. As I was expecting to meet with other members of the team, I stood to shake his hand and thank him for his time as well and then sat back down to wait. He said, “oh no, we’re done, interview’s over” and practically pushed me out the front door. To say I was in shock, and completely annoyed, would be an understatement.

I felt completely dismissed and disrespected. This company who found me (I did not apply for), who invited me in to their office to meet in person, acted like I was completely infringing on their time and couldn’t be bothered to even give me their attention for 20 minutes. The next day I sent an email to the woman who had initially reached out to me and told her that I was no longer interested in the position and told her exactly why. Who knows if she’ll pass along my feedback, or even cares, but I felt it was important to let them know how I felt. If this was a position that I was hiring for and a candidate had a similar experience, I would want to know about it.

When I’m on the other side of the table, as an interviewer, I make it a point to always give my candidates my undivided attention. I make sure to read through their resume and prepare questions ahead of time, and to do everything in my power to make them comfortable, as interviewing can be very nerve-racking for some people. Even if an interview isn’t going well or I get the impression early on that the candidate is not going to be the right fit, I still give them the respect of my time and attention. It’s a small world and you never know when you might run into someone again. Just because they may not be a fit for a particular position, doesn’t mean they may not be a fit for something down the road. By treating each person with respect, it enables me to start a relationship with them, to be able to network with them, and to possibly help them out in their search if I know of someone else who’s hiring for a position that they may be a better for.

So please, please, to my HR, Recruiter or hiring manager peeps, remember to treat each person with whom you meet with the utmost respect as we re all human and deserve to be treated as such.

To my fellow interviewees and job hunters, please remember that you are interviewing the company just as they are interviewing you – you want to make sure that the company and the position are going to be a good fit and help you meet your professional goals. Sometimes it’s not so easy to determine that until you’re in the door, but other times there are glaring red flags – don’t ignore them! If you’re not treated with respect during the interview process, imagine how you will be treated as an employee.

What interview (as the interviewer or interviewee) horror stories do you have? How did you deal with them?

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