Interview or Interrogation

Job interviews should be a two way street. Both parties stand to benefit from a positive result. It boggles the mind that (some) HR still can’t get it right.

This is a guest post by Laila Noort

I have had a reasonable successful career as an office administrator for the last 25 years. Successful because I have almost always had a job. I started out working for employment agencies in a time where jobs were plentiful, job hopping from one to the next. To be honest, I can’t even count the amount of job interviews I have done.

You can rest assured that I have seen it all.

Last week I had another job interview. As always I prepared a little by going over the companies website. Preparing some clever questions to show I am interested in the company I might be representing in the near future.

I am greeted at the reception by the lady from HR. No reassuring smile, and with a somewhat disapproving face she installs me into a small closet kind of room (there are cupboards, but no window, and the walls are unfinished concrete). Here she tells me I will be having the interview with the department manager. She leaves with a sigh of relieve and without offering me a drink of water.

The manager

The manager enters 5 minutes later, with my CV in hand he sits down across from me and starts to study it. I have seen this happen so many times before. I prepare myself for an interview, why doesn’t he? So we go over my CV which is a 2 page deal with the emphasis on the last 10 years or so. After my part of the interview is over he starts to talk about the job.

It is clear that he is not a trained interviewer. In his honesty he discloses everything unpleasant about the job. The company has been sold recently and lots of people in the department have problems with this. They are on the brink of retirement, and clearly show their discontent. I should be aware of this before I start working, oh, and their IT systems are out of date so most of the time you can’t even do a proper job, but we still expect you to do so regardless.

Not once during the talk did it became clear why I should WANT to work there. I ask him about the company, the department and more questions that show I am interested, and to get more information. He was somewhat caught of guard, not expecting these questions… After 20 minutes he says goodbye and tells me I will now have a talk with the HR lady who will give more information.

The HR lady

I wait for another 10 minutes in that depressing little room until she enters. She immediately gives off a vibe that she dislikes me. I have seen this happen as well. Dear HR people, it is OK to be nice in an interview, and smile occasionally, you are not superior beings, you are Human Resource people, the human part is in front of the resource for a reason.

She picks up my CV and says she does not understand why there is no mention of the early years of my career, from 1989 until 2000. I told her there is, that I have grouped these years together, and have mentioned them as “diverse administrative duties via various employment agencies”. If I would mention all these jobs my CV would be 10 pages long. She said it is not on my CV which is another indication that she did not read it at all.

Again I have to go through my entire CV, the same conversation I had 20 minutes before with the manager. It is a mystery to me why they could not have done this interview together.

When she starts to ask those typical HR questions I am getting irritated. “Where do you see yourself in 5 years”. How would I know! Hopefully still in good health because that is the most important thing in life, right? was my reply. I asked her if she knew how she sees herself in 5 years. Big mistake of course because I am the interviewee, I am supposed to listen, smile, be enthusiastic. She continues with the ubiquitous standard questions; what my weak and strong points are. At this moment I have a hard time being that enthusiastic smiley-face job seeker.

So guess what, after 2 weeks they came back to the employment agency that they are not going forward with my application. They do not think that I am enthusiastic about the job or interested in it.

Two Way Street

Good jobs are hard to get by these days. That does not give companies the right to treat job seekers in a demeaning way. A job interview goes both ways. The people who seek employment are going to spend an enormous amount of their time at work. It should be a good fit. We should be made feel welcome, give the impression that we could already belong there. At least give off the vibe that you are happy I am there. Do not only tell me why I shouldn’t want to work there, bring something positive to the table.

But above all else, when you promise to call with a final decision the next day, do so. People are waiting for that call. They are sitting next to the phone in the hope that the next call will be you with good news. There might be a hundred reasons for people to change jobs, one of them could be that they really would like to work at your company. Your arrogant way of handling these situations must reflect in your daily business which eventually will cost you more than it should.

Go back to the human part in human resources. Remember why you are there. Without good personnel you have no company, and you are looking for good personnel, right? Because why else would you advertise these jobs on the job market.

Author: Laila Noort

My name is Laila Noort. Originally the gardener of a 2×2 square metre garden, balcony and windowsill in Rotterdam in the Netherlands, I am now the owner of more than 2,000 square metres of grassland in the Belgian Ardennes. I used to work as a secretary in an office but always felt there must be more to life…

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