A lot has been said and written about how a candidate should dress, groom, speak, behave, non-verbally communicate, answer the questions at an interview. While most of these suggestions are taken seriously and often followed, it brings me to wonder about the lack of such suggestions for the interviewer. After all, an interview is a two way process.
Consider then this anecdote shared with me by a very good friend:
“When I received a call for an interview at the firm’s residential guest house rather than the corporate office, I had to wonder whether I would be subjected to a “casting couch” of sorts. Considering the person interviewing me was the Sales Head of one of the largest IT firms in India, I gave him the benefit of being impossibly busy. Being the professional I’d like myself to be projected as, I landed at the address, dressed impeccably in suit and tie, even though it was the end of a long gruelling day.
When I reached the place, I was asked to wait for exactly 27 minutes. If I were in an office, I would have asked to be announced again. However the caretaker of the guesthouse had already done so… twice! As I was just about to leave a note, I was greeted by an unshaven man, dressed in a loose T-Shirt and Bermuda shorts, holding a copy of my resume. I was informed that the original person, the erstwhile Sales Head was unable to make it to the meeting and this person, another Sales Head at par with the original interviewer in the corporate hierarchy, would now be taking my interview.
What followed was perhaps the worst interview of my life. Rather than discuss my strengths and weaknesses as suited to the role, this person started off a diatribe about various competitors and industry individuals. That, using some of the most colourful language I had heard. He spoke about people in the industry who I worked with and had learnt a lot from. After about 10 minutes into the “knowledge session”, I excused myself and called the interview to a close, when I realised that this individual would be a regular contact during my workday, if I chose to join the organization.”
While I listened to my friend, I realised that this is not some obscure firm operating out of a small town in India. This is one of Indian IT’s biggest powerhouses, held as a shining example of professionalism. And I could not help but wonder:
1. What kind of impression did my friend now carry about this organization?
2. What would be his feedback to his circle, should someone ask him for his opinion about this firm?
3. In the future, if my friend had to make a decision about business deals with the firm, how could it be anything but negative?
4. For a third party listener like myself, what is my impression about this firm and its care for its brand?
Probably this is a stray incident and it might be an exception rather than the norm. However, this was a senior level position my friend was interviewing for. There would have been some ways the whole incident could have been managed:
1. The original interviewer could have been courteous enough to call and let my friend know directly that he would be late or unable to make it to the meeting.
2. Reschedule the meeting rather than allow the meeting be conducted by a proxy who obviously had no clue about the position being hired for, much less the skills needed for interviewing.
3. Ensure the meeting is held in a formal manner. Treating the same casually like a chore to be "ticked off the To Do list” just leaves a bad impression on the candidate.
4. Remember the axiom “A good customer tells three, a bad customer tells nine”. This holds true for partners, vendors and potential employees.
5. Protect your brand value. Marketing can build a brand only so far. It is the “moments of truth” that actually build the brand.
Just like hiring managers would not hire an unprofessional, shabbily dressed, ill mannered and casual candidate, the same holds true for candidates. In today’s day and age, where the average employee lifespan is 18 months, it is important that employers extend the same professionalism that they expect from their candidates, not just in the work life once they’re hired, but from every “moment of truth” that they have with the candidate.