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Why the job interviewing process sucks...

I just finished interviewing candidates for a new position at my company. A couple of deal breakers for me is someone that did no research into our company before the interview. Half of the candidates did no research at all. Yet these were the people that kept saying that they would be perfect for the company.

The second is having no questions. To me that shows a lack of interest and or passion.
 
A couple of deal breakers for me is someone that did no research into our company before the interview.
I'm curious why that's a deal breaker for you. In my experience, people who "researched" the company usually did a cursory read of the company's wikipedia page, and thus added nothing to the interview by mentioning their research. Heck, more than one torpedoed their chances by mentioning something and piquing my interest, only to fall flat on the follow up. It's not very impressive that you know the CEO's name or the single most popular consumer facing product this company produces. Even worse was after we spun off a portion of the business and people were saying "I really like your (insert product we spun off a year ago)."

I've never interviewed anybody who had any in-depth knowledge of the corporate context around the job they were interviewing for. (Granted, I've only interviewed for entry-level positions, so maybe it changes once the interviewees have experience) Most are just happy to have enough understanding to know what I'm talking about when I explain what their role would entail.
 
For those here that have commented on the fact that they interview for their company and have stated what were deal breakers of the kind of questions they've asked, I would find it more interesting and more helpful to hear the question you used and what answer you expected or would see as a positive rather then how people have failed or responded in a way that put you off.
 
I would find it more interesting and more helpful to hear the question you used and what answer you expected
I started interviewing for software engineers, which is very different from interviewing lawyers like I occasionally do now. To be clear, I'm talking a handful of interviews a year. It's not a primary job responsibility for me.

When hiring entry-level, I don't expect a ton of expertise, but I expect an interest in the subject matter. I'll ask a question like "what do you find fun about (subject matter)?" I'm looking for answers that show a genuine interest. One good answer was about an app that the candidate wrote to keep up with pro soccer scores and stats. His eyes lit up as he talked about it. One of the bad answers, besides being a rambling mess, was vaguely talking about datacenters and cloud and other technical concepts. It sounded like he was reciting information from a textbook.

Technical questions establish competence. Depending on the field, these may take different forms. In engineering, we'd grill them with various word problems interspersed between more subjective questions. We'd work them through harder and harder problems until they started to struggle with the answer to establish how much of the basics they truly understood. Some of the reactions to that line of questioning were puzzling, ranging from "I'll be happy to think about it more and get back to you" as if I cared whether they could google the answer, to an oddly insistent fellow saying it wasn't his best attempt and he'd like a redo. If you get stuck on or don't know how to answer a technical question, just say "I'm not sure how to answer that question, is there a specific way you would like me to approach it?" If their explanation isn't helpful, it's perfectly fine to say "I don't know." Also, think out loud. If you just sit there in silence for a minute and then blurt out an answer, they don't know your thought process.

On the legal side (again, entry-level), we don't really ask pure technical questions. We usually ask about a project or an essay they wrote during law school to see how well they understand and articulate the issues at hand, as well as a bit of passion/excitement. I find myself asking much more open ended questions in legal interviews. "What did you do while interning at firm XYZ?" "Talk to me about your law review article." etc.

What am I looking for in a candidate?
#1 is genuineness. I can fix gaps in your knowledge. I can't fix a hard-to-work-with personality.
#2 is clarity and coherence. If you're thrown off by a question, take 30 seconds to put your thoughts together. You'd be surprised how many people get a case of verbal diarrhea when asked something they weren't expecting.
#3 is to seem genuinely interested in what I and my company do. People like to talk about themselves, so you should take any chance you get to let them do so. A great question to ask is "You said you worked at company XYZ before coming here to company ABC, what are some of the things you like about working at company ABC, in particular?"
#4 is thoughtfulness. Like I said before, pause and gather your thoughts. You come off a ton better if you say something smart after 30 seconds of thinking than if you start vomiting out the first buzzword that hits your tongue. This also means being competent in your supposed area of expertise. It's very easy to tell when somebody is exceeding their level of knowledge.
#5 is to "act like you've been there before." I'm not trying to be inappropriate, but I've noticed that folks of certain genders and cultures fall into this trap more than others. Even if I'm interviewing you for your dream job, you don't need to treat me as if I walk on water and my company as if it is heaven on earth. When you're sitting across from me for an interview, I may be in the driver's seat of the conversation, but we're co-equals. Some people start off with something along the lines of "I am SOOOO excited to get to meet you, I LOOOOOOOVE your company and can't even believe that I'm getting the chance to interview with you!!!!"
Finally, #6 is confidence. This, again, comes with competence. The ability to let your resume stand on its own and talk shop with the interviewer is the ultimate show of confidence. If your interviewer comes away from the interview having learned something about their own trade, that's the gold standard.

Sorry for the essay!
 
I started interviewing for software engineers, which is very different from interviewing lawyers like I occasionally do now. To be clear, I'm talking a handful of interviews a year. It's not a primary job responsibility for me.

When hiring entry-level, I don't expect a ton of expertise, but I expect an interest in the subject matter. I'll ask a question like "what do you find fun about (subject matter)?" I'm looking for answers that show a genuine interest. One good answer was about an app that the candidate wrote to keep up with pro soccer scores and stats. His eyes lit up as he talked about it. One of the bad answers, besides being a rambling mess, was vaguely talking about datacenters and cloud and other technical concepts. It sounded like he was reciting information from a textbook.

Technical questions establish competence. Depending on the field, these may take different forms. In engineering, we'd grill them with various word problems interspersed between more subjective questions. We'd work them through harder and harder problems until they started to struggle with the answer to establish how much of the basics they truly understood. Some of the reactions to that line of questioning were puzzling, ranging from "I'll be happy to think about it more and get back to you" as if I cared whether they could google the answer, to an oddly insistent fellow saying it wasn't his best attempt and he'd like a redo. If you get stuck on or don't know how to answer a technical question, just say "I'm not sure how to answer that question, is there a specific way you would like me to approach it?" If their explanation isn't helpful, it's perfectly fine to say "I don't know." Also, think out loud. If you just sit there in silence for a minute and then blurt out an answer, they don't know your thought process.

On the legal side (again, entry-level), we don't really ask pure technical questions. We usually ask about a project or an essay they wrote during law school to see how well they understand and articulate the issues at hand, as well as a bit of passion/excitement. I find myself asking much more open ended questions in legal interviews. "What did you do while interning at firm XYZ?" "Talk to me about your law review article." etc.

What am I looking for in a candidate?
#1 is genuineness. I can fix gaps in your knowledge. I can't fix a hard-to-work-with personality.
#2 is clarity and coherence. If you're thrown off by a question, take 30 seconds to put your thoughts together. You'd be surprised how many people get a case of verbal diarrhea when asked something they weren't expecting.
#3 is to seem genuinely interested in what I and my company do. People like to talk about themselves, so you should take any chance you get to let them do so. A great question to ask is "You said you worked at company XYZ before coming here to company ABC, what are some of the things you like about working at company ABC, in particular?"
#4 is thoughtfulness. Like I said before, pause and gather your thoughts. You come off a ton better if you say something smart after 30 seconds of thinking than if you start vomiting out the first buzzword that hits your tongue. This also means being competent in your supposed area of expertise. It's very easy to tell when somebody is exceeding their level of knowledge.
#5 is to "act like you've been there before." I'm not trying to be inappropriate, but I've noticed that folks of certain genders and cultures fall into this trap more than others. Even if I'm interviewing you for your dream job, you don't need to treat me as if I walk on water and my company as if it is heaven on earth. When you're sitting across from me for an interview, I may be in the driver's seat of the conversation, but we're co-equals. Some people start off with something along the lines of "I am SOOOO excited to get to meet you, I LOOOOOOOVE your company and can't even believe that I'm getting the chance to interview with you!!!!"
Finally, #6 is confidence. This, again, comes with competence. The ability to let your resume stand on its own and talk shop with the interviewer is the ultimate show of confidence. If your interviewer comes away from the interview having learned something about their own trade, that's the gold standard.

Sorry for the essay!
No apologies. Thank you for the clear answer :thumbsup:
 
I started interviewing for software engineers, which is very different from interviewing lawyers like I occasionally do now. To be clear, I'm talking a handful of interviews a year. It's not a primary job responsibility for me.

When hiring entry-level, I don't expect a ton of expertise, but I expect an interest in the subject matter. I'll ask a question like "what do you find fun about (subject matter)?" I'm looking for answers that show a genuine interest. One good answer was about an app that the candidate wrote to keep up with pro soccer scores and stats. His eyes lit up as he talked about it. One of the bad answers, besides being a rambling mess, was vaguely talking about datacenters and cloud and other technical concepts. It sounded like he was reciting information from a textbook.

Technical questions establish competence. Depending on the field, these may take different forms. In engineering, we'd grill them with various word problems interspersed between more subjective questions. We'd work them through harder and harder problems until they started to struggle with the answer to establish how much of the basics they truly understood. Some of the reactions to that line of questioning were puzzling, ranging from "I'll be happy to think about it more and get back to you" as if I cared whether they could google the answer, to an oddly insistent fellow saying it wasn't his best attempt and he'd like a redo. If you get stuck on or don't know how to answer a technical question, just say "I'm not sure how to answer that question, is there a specific way you would like me to approach it?" If their explanation isn't helpful, it's perfectly fine to say "I don't know." Also, think out loud. If you just sit there in silence for a minute and then blurt out an answer, they don't know your thought process.

On the legal side (again, entry-level), we don't really ask pure technical questions. We usually ask about a project or an essay they wrote during law school to see how well they understand and articulate the issues at hand, as well as a bit of passion/excitement. I find myself asking much more open ended questions in legal interviews. "What did you do while interning at firm XYZ?" "Talk to me about your law review article." etc.

What am I looking for in a candidate?
#1 is genuineness. I can fix gaps in your knowledge. I can't fix a hard-to-work-with personality.
#2 is clarity and coherence. If you're thrown off by a question, take 30 seconds to put your thoughts together. You'd be surprised how many people get a case of verbal diarrhea when asked something they weren't expecting.
#3 is to seem genuinely interested in what I and my company do. People like to talk about themselves, so you should take any chance you get to let them do so. A great question to ask is "You said you worked at company XYZ before coming here to company ABC, what are some of the things you like about working at company ABC, in particular?"
#4 is thoughtfulness. Like I said before, pause and gather your thoughts. You come off a ton better if you say something smart after 30 seconds of thinking than if you start vomiting out the first buzzword that hits your tongue. This also means being competent in your supposed area of expertise. It's very easy to tell when somebody is exceeding their level of knowledge.
#5 is to "act like you've been there before." I'm not trying to be inappropriate, but I've noticed that folks of certain genders and cultures fall into this trap more than others. Even if I'm interviewing you for your dream job, you don't need to treat me as if I walk on water and my company as if it is heaven on earth. When you're sitting across from me for an interview, I may be in the driver's seat of the conversation, but we're co-equals. Some people start off with something along the lines of "I am SOOOO excited to get to meet you, I LOOOOOOOVE your company and can't even believe that I'm getting the chance to interview with you!!!!"
Finally, #6 is confidence. This, again, comes with competence. The ability to let your resume stand on its own and talk shop with the interviewer is the ultimate show of confidence. If your interviewer comes away from the interview having learned something about their own trade, that's the gold standard.

Sorry for the essay!
Excellent information. Thanks for taking the time to share your insight.
 
The second is having no questions. To me that shows a lack of interest and or passion.
I always have questions prepared ... among my favorites:

"Is there a lot of turnover in this position?"
"Will I need to join any Labor Unions at this company?"
"How many more interviews are necessary before a decision is made?"
"Assuming that I meet your qualifications, when would you like me to start?"


Asking any of these have generally meant an immediate end to the interview ...
and they rarely give me an answer to my question(s) ... they just turn it around and ask me more questions.

So far, I've only found one safe question to ask ...
"Is there a dress code here?"
 
I'm curious why that's a deal breaker for you. In my experience, people who "researched" the company usually did a cursory read of the company's wikipedia page, and thus added nothing to the interview by mentioning their research. Heck, more than one torpedoed their chances by mentioning something and piquing my interest, only to fall flat on the follow up. It's not very impressive that you know the CEO's name or the single most popular consumer facing product this company produces. Even worse was after we spun off a portion of the business and people were saying "I really like your (insert product we spun off a year ago)."

I've never interviewed anybody who had any in-depth knowledge of the corporate context around the job they were interviewing for. (Granted, I've only interviewed for entry-level positions, so maybe it changes once the interviewees have experience) Most are just happy to have enough understanding to know what I'm talking about when I explain what their role would entail.
To me not doing any research on our company and or the industry appears to me that that he/she doesn't have a strong interest in the company. When they ask questions based on their research, I am looking to see what their thought process is. The actual question is not that important. What our company does is tough to understand for somebody not in our industry. I just want them to be interested.
 
I always have questions prepared ... among my favorites:

"Is there a lot of turnover in this position?"
"Will I need to join any Labor Unions at this company?"
"How many more interviews are necessary before a decision is made?"
"Assuming that I meet your qualifications, when would you like me to start?"


Asking any of these have generally meant an immediate end to the interview ...
and they rarely give me an answer to my question(s) ... they just turn it around and ask me more questions.

So far, I've only found one safe question to ask ...
"Is there a dress code here?"
Over the six interviews I did, I was asked those questions and more. I am hiring for a sales representative for a position that acts almost like a consultant for our companies. To me questions show an interest in learning.
 
I always have questions prepared ... among my favorites:

"Is there a lot of turnover in this position?"
"Will I need to join any Labor Unions at this company?"
"How many more interviews are necessary before a decision is made?"
"Assuming that I meet your qualifications, when would you like me to start?"


Asking any of these have generally meant an immediate end to the interview ...
and they rarely give me an answer to my question(s) ... they just turn it around and ask me more questions.

So far, I've only found one safe question to ask ...
"Is there a dress code here?"
"Do I have to take all my vacation time?" is a safe one.
 
As a manager, the interview process is no fun either. Here are my responses to the OP's points. I know this was just for fun but there are some good points in there:

If you overdress, you fail. If you dress too casual, you fail - I suppose it depends on the job. I wouldn't "dock" a person either way. We are very casual at my employer but appearing in a smart suit or dress starts the first impression off right. I know it's casual, if you did your research you know it's casual, but obtaining the job means enough to you that you want to put your best foot forward.

If you are too confident, you fail. If you aren't assertive enough, you fail. - I think one needs to be confident in their abilities without crossing the threshold of cocky.

Experts say "prepare, prepare, prepare". Then if your answers sound prepared, you fail. - The first question is for the prepared response, the second question is for how that prepared response relates to your experiences (or how you will apply your experience to my position).

They ask questions about weaknesses, but if you give honest answers you fail. - The interviewer knows that this is one of the questions where we will get lied to. It's not so much to find out what your weakness is but your ability to wordcraft.

They ask people to interview for positions that are already filled. - I would not waste my time doing that.

They ask why you quit or intend to quit a job. If you're honest, you fail. - Some people have valid reasons. Other people should choose to state the "minor" reasons for quitting. For example, I asked a candidate why she was looking to leave her job. Her response, verbatim, "I don't get along with my boss". Fair enough but you have not given me any reason to believe that it was only the boss at fault.

If you're too young, you fail. If you're too old, you fail. - This does not factor into my decision process. I've hired people both older and younger than me.

We live in a society dependent on money...if you ask about money, you fail. - Not in my book. I don't want to waste my time interviewing excluding other potential candidates to have someone turn down the job based on money. Truth is as hiring managers we may not know the exact pay we'll offer you but we know the range. As long as we're close, we can make it happen.

If the resume is too short, you fail. If it's too long, you fail. - This is a good one. I've seen both but never excluded a candidate based on the length of their resume. As a manager you can typically "fill in the blanks" by knowing the field and the company they worked for. Resumes that do "fail"? Spelling and grammatical errors. Even if one is unsure, Word has automatic spelling and grammar checks. There is no excuse for these errors.

They ask an unemployed person "Where do you see yourself in five years?", and expect a concise answer. - I don't expect a concise answer, I don't know where I'm going to be in 5 years. Generally the response should fall in line with the work experience and the position. If I'm hiring an entry level staff accountant and they tell me they're going to be CFO in 5 years...well there's a problem. But if the tell me that they want to continue to grow and learn and progress within the company as it relates to the position, then I appreciate that. Random note - not everyone wants to advance in their career and that's fine too! Some really smart people are just looking for a job to pay the bills and are content doing what they're doing. Just be honest!

They ask situational questions, which we all know are just an exercise in fictional storytelling. - Right...but it's also a test because throughout the day situations arise. There are times that conflict rears their ugly head. I want to be sure that the candidate can handle the pressure and work through issues.

Search committees...they're the business version of juries. A bunch of random people who you can only hope are objective enough to see both sides. - We don't use search committees but we do have candidates meet with about 4-5 people. HR, myself, one of my staff and my boss. All 4-5 people have to give the "thumbs up" to the candidate. I've not hired someone because one of my staff did not like the person. They are the ones who will work side-by-side so no matter what I think I want my staff happy and productive.

If you show up late, you fail. If you come in early, you fail. - I wouldn't fail someone for being early. You just have to wait, I start my interviews on time. Late may be an annoyance, doesn't automatically disqualify a candidate, but I need to know that you're serious about this.

My two cents anyway. I tell colleagues that when interviewing keep it simple and be yourself. Make sure your resume is good, arrive on time and answer questions honestly. Let your personality show, I'd rather hire someone under-qualified with drive and a great personality than someone who meets the qualifications exactly but I don't care for their personality (I've had one of those candidates). One more thing, if you're interviewing at a company that consistently ranks as "one of the best places to work" in a given area, don't go on and on about the benefits and perks. We know, we work here. We don't want to think that's the only reason you're coming (had one of those too).
 
Much of this is 'bout finding the right match--- for all parties. The gal who could be a great salesperson might be a terrible sales manager. Different skill set. The fellow who might be a good college dean might make a bad admissions director.

No question the hiring process is, like dating, less than perfect.

The candidate who demonstrates s/he has a passion for the position/job/career field sure has an advantage over those who are just chasing a paycheck.
 
I should mention my personal process for approaching interviews (on the hiring side). Again, this is entry-level only, so some of this is specifically because of the wide variance in quality of candidate that comes from recruiting at colleges.

I start with a pile of resumes sent to me "from above" (usually the resumes have been pre-filtered by the colleges and then by our HR department). Usually, it's 10-30 resumes for a position once the stack is handed to me. I skim through all of them to get a feel for the average experience level, average GPA, etc. Then I wait a little bit (sometimes an hour, sometimes a couple days) and do a second pass with a fine toothed comb. I usually print them off and mark them up as I go through them. I'll put checkmarks next to things that are positives on the resume, I'll put X marks next to things that are negative on the resume, and I'll circle things that I want to ask questions about. Then, I'll give a score to the resume from +2 to -2. +2 is a stellar candidate, -2 is getting some interviewing practice with me (if we're interviewing on campus, we're not allowed to cancel interviews with students).

Before the interview, I transcribe the vital information into a notebook. Essentially it'll have the name of the candidate, the resume score, and any questions I want to ask from the resume written at the top of the page, and the rest of the page is for notes.

During the interview, I usually start with an introduction and then let the candidate introduce themselves. I go through their resume first, asking any questions I may have. From there, it's pretty much freestyle. I try to ask some questions about what they've done in law school. I try to ask some about what kind of person they are outside of school. I try to ask some about what their interests are and why they're applying to our company. I also try to give them ample time to ask questions about what the work environment is like. Many of these students don't even know where to start because they've never worked a real job before, so I try to guide them into thinking about the right things and asking the right questions about my work.

Immediately after they walk out of the room, I give them a score +2 to -2 on their interview, trying not to take their resume into account at all. Sometimes I don't take as many notes during the conversation as I'd like, and after 15 interviews in a day, all the details blur together. That makes it important to score them while they are fresh in my mind.

Once all the interviews are done, I converse with the other hiring folks in the room to make sure we were seeing the same things (this also happens between interviews). Then, as soon as I get the time, I sort the resumes into 3 piles. First pile is "No", second pile is "Maybe", third pile is "Yes". Once I have those piles, I do whatever is required by my boss. Sometimes it's "choose one candidate", in which case the No and Maybe piles go in the trash. Sometimes it's "send me your best 5 to 10 candidates", in which case I may start dipping into the Maybe pile, depending on the specifics. Sometimes it's "rank the candidates." Sometimes it's "if anybody sticks out as an amazing candidate, let me know... otherwise we're not hiring this cycle."
 
This notion of "passion" is intriguing. How is it displayed? Why isn't competence sufficient? Should prospective employers show "passion" for their employees? If so, how?

"Passion" strikes me as an employer's tool for getting more from the employee than it is paying for.
 
This notion of "passion" is intriguing. How is it displayed? Why isn't competence sufficient? Should prospective employers show "passion" for their employees? If so, how?

"Passion" strikes me as an employer's tool for getting more from the employee than it is paying for.
The person who says "I love what I do" is passionate about it. Who wants a 4th grade teacher who dislikes kids or is bored teaching? Who wants an indifferent salesperson or lawyer or doctor? If you are gonna mop floors, take pride in it. It is all honorable work.

If you don't like your line of work, find one that suits you...is my advice.
 
Who wants an indifferent salesperson or lawyer or doctor?
I hated practicing law from the very first day. Didn't take me to lunch that day to know I made the wrong career decision. In 11 years of trying cases, I did not lose a single trial ( . . . settled the duds). Are you sure you don't want me, a very indifferent lawyer, trying your case? [Yes, it took a long time to get out. I no longer practice law. My first interview with my current employer, a company everyone knows, was over steak and Labatts. We didn't discuss my "passion" for the law, fyi.]
 
Glad you moved on, and sorry you spent years doing something you disliked.
Thanks. I guess my rambling point was, I'll take competence over passion nearly 100% of the time. BTW, you're wise not to take me up as counsel. I wouldn't know an evidence rule now (20 years later), if I tripped over one.
 
I hated practicing law from the very first day. Didn't take me to lunch that day to know I made the wrong career decision. In 11 years of trying cases, I did not lose a single trial ( . . . settled the duds). Are you sure you don't want me, a very indifferent lawyer, trying your case?
As a relatively new lawyer struggling with motivation issues, I'd be fascinated to hear what you hated so much about it. I'm on the corporate side (IP, if you can't tell by the avatar), and I struggle with sitting behind a desk for 9 hours a day staring at spreadsheets and emails. I feel like I'm slowly withering away. On the other hand, I felt the same way to a lesser extent about being a software engineer. Something about being a desk jockey just doesn't sit well with me.

Sorry for the hijack. I'm happy to discuss over PM if that's a more appropriate venue.
 
Reading through this thread has raised some memories.

I worked for a company for 25 years and got several promotions. When new folks were brought in to "save" the company they believed that anyone who had been there for more than five years. So, at the age of 55, I decided to change jobs. I read some books, changed my resume, and the result was the same: I got interviews but no action. Then one day I read an article in a trade magazine and wrote to the CEO who was interviewed and wrote
This was a national chain of retail stores, with headquarters in Texas.
My interview took place in Maryland.
I was am employment-labor law attorney for two different national retail chains. Since the chain you mention has headquarters in the Dallas area (Plano?) I knew individuals who worked for them. I definitely would call it to the corporate office's attention. If this is the same retail company based in Plano, the CEO happens to be an African-American. In fact, they have a hotline for these type of complaints.
 
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