A Tale of Two Interviews

“Do you know what job you applied for?” I asked. Yep, that off plan question found its way into an interview I held with a candidate for a job this week.

Monday started innocently. Two interviews for an open position were planned. The regular morning e-mail clean-out led to prepping for the first interview in the morning. The candidate was sharp, well researched and on point. The depth of his preparation demostrated by questions relating to a previous version of the company’s website he accessed online, details relating to the principal and the team, and specific comments about my background – details he would only have found by pulling up my LinkedIn profile. Overall, I was impressed. The candidate wanted the job, went out of his way to find out a lot about the company and proved his mettle at research while not coming off as prying, nosy or a know-it-all.

If only the second candidate could say as much. The usual order of interviews had me going second after the manager who had the position open in his team. This time, he was running an errand that got delayed so I kicked off the process and planned to hand it over to him after. The candidate was dressed well enough, started off well spoken and friendly. And then it went downhill.

I like to find out a little about the candidate’s background, have them walk me through their resume. The candidate had a little to say but kept his accomplishments at a pretty general level – I did not feel as though I knew too much more than what I read before he arrived. Next, I like to find out what a candidate’s done that has created skills that align with what is needed to succeed in the position for which they are applying.

And then it fell apart.

I asked, “So what skills have you built that align with the role we are discussing?”

He played back something that can be useful in an interview, but usually later, “Tell me what you are looking for with this position.”

I didn’t bite. I wanted him to tell me. I wasn’t there to speak. It was my turn to listen. Plus, what we wanted was spelled out in multiple bullet points on the job description. “I’d rather you articulate those skills which match up with what we posted. You had the job description, those are what we are looking for.” I had a sense something was awry.

He stumbled through, “Well, I saw the description Thursday and applied. I got a call on Friday to schedule a time to come in. My family was in town over the weekend. And today I’m here. I really didn’t have time to prepare a lot.”

“Well, you at least read the description and applied for it. So, what was it that caught your attention when you applied that you thought aligned with what you’ve done, probably most importantly in your current role?”

“It was the digital manager position, right?”

“No, we do not have a digitial manager position posted. Do you even know what job you applied for?”

“Well, uhhhh.”

I’d had it. I said, “Hold on, I’ll be right back.” I walked to a team member, asked for a printed copy of the job description, walked back in, handed it to the candidate and said, “Here you go. Read this and let our receptionist know when you’re ready to start this again. This should help you.”

I should have politely wrapped it up and gotten him out of the office but I felt compelled to see if even this would help it go anywhere. I was flabbergasted.

The national unemployment rate has started to decline, but it still hovers at higher levels than throughout most of my lifetime.

Experienced professionals are searching daily for jobs that they are overqualified for. Interviewing has become an art and a sales pitch. Jobs are not handed out. And here I sat across from someone who threw an application out that matched up reasonably well, put on a tie, drove to an office and thought that was enough prep.

Candidate 1 had dug deep into researching the company. The turnaround timeframe for both was close to the same. And I had someone who didn’t even know what job he was applying for.


One comment

  • Jocelyn

    Smooth tactic on not falling for the bait. So what happened – did he just leave after you handed him the job description?