Recently, I had a hiring manager ask me if I was “slow”. This inquiry came during a call after a host of interviews, dinners, meetings, and interactions across two weeks. Like most other people who have worked at Google and placed in the top-tier of business school graduates, I never thought of myself as being someone characterized as “slow” or working to overcome a learning disability (which many successful employees do).
As I thought through the question, I couldn’t identify anything in the interview process that might call into question my domain knowledge or intellectual capacity. The worst part of this experience is the question wasn’t surprising. He was the hiring manager for an influential organization within a very significant market, but that hadn’t stopped him from asking me my age and marital status in the first telephone interview. He had years more of professional experience than I currently have, but that hadn’t stopped him from asking other bad questions.
Unfortunately, this wasn’t even an isolated experience in my experiences with the company. Originally, I had high hopes when they contacted me and asked me to interview for this role. I traveled to another state to meet with a dozen different internal stakeholders. While I met multiple individuals who seemed friendly, smart, interesting, competent, and worth associating, there were two other managers that left me wondering. One opened an interview with the question, “Tell me what you think I should know about you.”
When I started to describe my background in social media, building brands, and managing teams, I was rebuffed with a dismissive, “I don’t care about that. Tell me something else.”
When I tried to start with a different set of experiences and talents, I was again interrupted with negative reinforcement. In deference to this seemingly single-minded manager, I asked him what he was interested in knowing about me. At this point, I had hoped it would be clear what I could do to prove I matched the role, but instead this peer of the hiring manager told me this interview was merely a formality and he didn’t care about my qualifications or filling the open role. He went on to paint the corporate culture in a negative light with examples of toxic interactions, innovation-resistant practices, and feuding management focused on building internal fiefdoms.
At this point, I feel like this organization doesn’t have a lot of respect for me as a candidate. After weeks of interviewing, investigation, and research, it doesn’t feel like the first lines of management have articulated a clear vision of their product trajectory or how to fix the culture problems they raised.
Given how the experience went, it left me thinking about how I have conducted interviews in the organizations I’ve worked. We all know not every applicant is a good fit. But regardless of the fit, I try to keep it professional and focus on the most important things:
- What professional experiences have prepared the candidate to be a good fit for my organization?
- Is this someone that can do the job I am interviewing them to fill?
- What professional strengths/limitations does the person have? And are they material to the job?
- Is the person respectful of the role, me as a representative of the organization, and the trust that would be demonstrated in bringing him/her into the team?
- Are my questions respectful to the individual and worth the time of asking?
What are the most effective questions you ask? Have you ever asked some bad questions in an interview? And what do you look for in the candidates you consider bringing into your company? Discuss it in the comments and we’ll be sure to be quick in responding.