10 Phone Interviews I’ll Never Forget

Tony Compton, Managing Director
GettingPresence

I’ve had plenty of phone interviews over the years – on both sides of the #hiring and #employer conversation. As an interviewer, and as a job candidate. This post is about my Top 10 phone interview experiences as a candidate, and I’m happy to share some of my #lessonslearned from the not-so-enjoyable side of the rude, unprofessional, inconsiderate, time-wasting, and (fill in the blank with your own adjective) portion of the #hiring process.

Though there’s really no way to be completely guard against it, but I hope that I never again have the pleasure of interviewing over the phone with:

1. The Unprepared, Uninterested, and Arrogant

I recently had the “pleasure” of a conversation with a hiring manager who asked a total of three questions during the phone interview, only one of which had any substance. The other two were of the “tell me about yourself” variety. After a total of 11 minutes of conversation I was asked, “So, do you have any questions for me?” (That’s never a good sign.) After more chit-chat and back and forth I was told about how they’re going to keep “going through resumes” for another two weeks, how the company has to “get it right” and how they even left one (or more) senior-level positions open for a year. Yep, a year. Is that something you really want to tell candidates, or are you intentionally trying to push them away? Business moves at a lightning pace, but apparently not at that company. I think they’re still looking… While they look, I’ll move on with the rest of the business world.

2. Everybody (Employed at the Hiring Company)

Not too long ago, one of my job pursuits was with one of the Big Shot global consulting firms. One of those that advertises in airports and is easily recognizable to anybody in business. (That’s as far as I’ll go to identify the company.) After some initial positive vibes with a point person in the hiring process, I was sent on a global telephonic journey to have conversations with multiple people scattered about Planet Earth. Paris, London, etc. Last count I had was eight hour-long phone interviews. The only person left untapped for an interview was the overnight security guard. Nevertheless, after investing in hours of phone interviews (which I thought went well) with good people in different time zones, I was eventually informed of the decision to go with an internal candidate. And I was only told that because I asked. Big Shot consulting firm took no initiative to let me know of their decision. Do the math around this exercise in futility and you’ll understand why this was an experience I’ll never forget.

3. The Checklister

Interviewing with #HR reps or corporate #recruiters who know nothing about a specific opportunity don’t really qualify as interviews. They’re more like one-sided phone conversations that only benefit the hiring company’s information gathering system. These conversations are easy to decipher shortly after the call begins. The tone of voice of the interviwer, the pause between scripted questions, the typing of answers… they’re all dead giveaways. What makes matters worse is when I was asked to “officially and formally” apply in the hiring company’s system. Being told that I would not be considered for an opportunity unless I spent an hour with the black-hole application on a #career website has been never produced a positive outcome. For those who employ this tactic, allow me to recap: I spend 30 minutes on a phone interview with somebody reading off a checklist of questions. There’s a 99% chance my answers will never see the light of day. Then I’m told I have to apply through your career website because I have to in order to be considered. Lastly, I get no response from you. No status check. No updates. Nothing. Yeah…ummm…No thanks.

4. The (Allegedly) Date and Time Challenged

I’m starting to run out of fingers and toes to count the number of times I’ve waited by the phone waiting for an interviewer to call. 10, 15, 20 minutes go by. Sometimes the phone never rings as scheduled. Meanwhile, I’m confused as to why those who schedule phone interviews fail to understand that it’s not just the 30 or 60 minutes of scheduled time, it’s the prep work that goes into getting ready for the call. The research, homework, and securing the environment to have a productive call. Not to mention that time is an asset that I wish to use wisely, not sitting around waiting for somebody to call. Imagine if the shoe was on the other foot. If you’re going to demand that candidates respect the process, so should interviewers and hiring managers.

5. The 12th Player on the Bench

The 12th player is a basketball reference. It’s the last player on the bench. They’re on the team, but they’re the last player a coach would use in a game. They’re also the last to know anything. The answers commonly repeated by 12th players (some recruiters/ interviewers) to questions about a job or the status of a hiring process is “I don’t know” and “Let me find out.” Of course, they never, ever come up with helpful answers. It’s usually a strung out series of quick phone interactions culminating in “I don’t know what’s going on, I haven’t heard anything. I’ll let you know if anything changes.” Time flies, the process ages, and we only get older. I think I’m still waiting on some people from 10 years ago to get back with me with new information on job applications.

6. The Blabbermouth

There’s a questionable rule of thumb that if a hiring manager goes on and on about the company, the job, and themselves, let them talk. They’re supposed to feel good about themselves, and the interview. But I’m not so sure. In my experience, some phone interviewers go into a history about the company, and themselves. It usually happens when they haven’t prepped for the interview. To compensate, they fill the time with an endless string of long-winded statements. While there can be some value in that, and some information may be gathered, by the time some blabbermouths keep quiet they’ll say “It’s three minutes to the top of the hour and I have a hard stop. What questions can I answer for you?” Instead of having a conversation, candidates are treated to a phone speech. Then jamming poignant questions into three minutes. Oh, BTW, there is no next step in this “hiring” process.

7. The Send Me Your Stuff-ers

You have a good phone interview, and it concludes with the request for work samples. My initial answer is to Google my name and any one of a number of other keywords that will instantly provide a number of publicly-available examples. Or just look at my LinkedIn profile. Some stuff is there, too. Quick, simple, and easy. You’ll find enough of what you’re looking for, but I’ll provide more if what you see isn’t what you want. But nope, that doesn’t seem to work. So time is spent gathering specific examples of relevant material and sending (emailing) them. Material that won’t ever returned. But how do the “Send Me Your Stuff-ers” usually reciprocate? With silence…

8. The Repeat Offender

A distant relative of The Date and Time challenged, these interviewers are in a league all their own. Scheduling mishaps occur. I get it. They’re a part of corporate life. Things happen. Schedules change. No problem. I’m a good natured, understanding, easy-going guy. But beyond waiting by the phone for one scheduled call from a hiring manager that never comes, is a willingness to be scheduled for a phone interview with an interviewer multiple times. And still they don’t show. This happened not too long ago when I was scheduled for call that never came. The call was reset, but that date and time also came and went. So I spoke up and expressed my displeasure. The apologetic response (from the person doing the scheduling) was that the blown off phone calls were not indicative of the person’s character, nor the corporate culture. So I acquiesced and set a third call. That never came.

9. The Unexplainable

I was going to entitle this section “The Angry” but that would seem overly harsh. But I’ll never forget one 30 minute call I had with a VP that seemed too busy, too tired, too angry, too jet lagged for the call. By the end of the call I’d swear I was hung up on. It was like hearing “Gotta Go, Bye…click…” I didn’t know this person. Never met. No previous interaction of any kind, ever. Of course, my follow-up inquiries were met with silence until one day I emailed the recruiter and shared that my personal travels are bringing me close to their corporate hometown, and I would welcome the chance to introduce myself in-person. Lo and behold the recruiter quickly responded to that email to tell me they had gone in another direction. Again, imagine if the “having a bad day” shoe was on the other foot and candidates started to hang up the phone on hiring managers the end of calls. The candidates wouldn’t stand a chance.

10. The Unappreciative

Nobody likes to lose out on a good job, but it happens and I understand that hiring decisions won’t always go my way. But I’ve learned (especially in my more recent years) to always say “thank you” to those who have taken the time to show interest in a position, and a company. The investment candidates make goes way beyond the time spent on a phone interview. The work before, during, and after call quickly adds up. The investment in time, energy and resources is substantial. I don’t care if a recruiter, interviewer, or hiring manager is busy. Everybody is. Nothing substitutes for courtesy, respect, and appreciation of a candidate’s time – even if it is “just a phone interview” to some.

I recently wrote (an unexpectedly popular) post on things companies must do to improve the overall hiring process. Some of that is reflected in this post, but sharing the stories behind bad phone interviews deserved its own article. No doubt you’ve had your share of challenging phone interviews, including the ones that were scheduled but never actually occurred. Please pop over to LinkedIn to comment and share your experiences. There’s nothing more valuable to the audience than to learn about real-life situations, especially in the #employment world of #recruiting, #interviewing, and #hiring!

10 Things Companies (and their People) Must Do During the Hiring Process

Tony Compton, Managing Director
GettingPresence

There’s been a handful of posts lately about what job candidates need to do to be successful during the #hiring process. These articles have included do’s and don’ts for the phone screen, the in-person interview, and the salary negotiation phases of the hiring process. (Of course, there are other steps.) I found the articles to be valid, useful, and timely pieces of content. Though a bit one-sided. I’d like to turn the tables in this post. I’ve had plenty of interviews over the years, and I’ve come away with a number of observations on what companies should do during the hiring process to treat candidates with a measure of professionalism, courtesy, and, most of all, respect.

1. If You Schedule a Phone Screen, Make the Call

I get it. Stuff happens. And I’ve been more than understanding when a phone screen is scheduled, then postponed or canceled at the last minute. But I’ve been on the other end when this has happened more than once with the same person, at the same company. Companies should convey to their people that when a candidate schedules 30 or 60 minutes for a phone screen, the time invested is far greater than a simple hour. There’s prep time, research, homework, and setting aside time before, during, and after a call for all of the logistics. Plus the time itself that can be used to pursue other opportunities in a highly-competitive job market, in a mediocre economy. If you’re going to book my time for a phone screen, make the call.

2. Prepare, Yourself

If job applicants need to be prepared for all steps in the hiring process, so should all those doing the interviewing. I can’t tell you the number of times I got on the phone with somebody who said, “I just got your resume and haven’t had a chance to review it.” If it’s a cardinal sin for a candidate not to do homework on the company and the interviewers ahead of time, the company rep should not get a pass on this one. And by the way, it’s not just my resume that should be reviewed, it’s also my #LinkedIn profile, publicly-available samples of my work, and social media accounts.

3. Be On Time

Maybe you’ve had that phone screen set for 1:00 pm. And you wait. And wait. The phone may ring at 1:05, 1:10, or 1:15. If candidates consistently showed up 5-10-15 minutes late for #interviews, hiring managers would not be happy and eliminate those applicants from consideration. Why should candidates be expected to stand-by and wait by the phone?

4. Stop Asking for Free Consulting

It’s come to the point that I can smell this one a mile away and now flat out refuse to do any free #consulting during the hiring process. Over the years, I’ve been asked to review websites, write long-form pieces of content, and answer questions about solving specific business challenges. Being interactive and responsive during the hiring process is fair game, but there’s a line that’s crossed into the territory of free consulting. If you want to hire me as a consultant, there’s an hourly rate for my services.

5. Express Gratitude

I’ve been on both sides of the phone, and conference room table, during the hiring process. The effort, time, and investment made by candidates in the hiring process is extensive. If I’m doing the interviewing, I’ve made it a point to sincerely say “thank you” to the applicant for taking an interest in the company and participating in the process. And I mean it. Having been on the receiving end of treatment by companies that couldn’t care less about how their candidates are treated, I go the extra mile to acknowledge all applicants. I know it makes a big, positive difference in building personal and corporate reputations.

6. Communicate

This goes beyond the “black hole” of generically emailed #resume submissions, online applications, and #career portals. I have little confidence in those. This refers to those interviewers and hiring managers who simply disappear during the interview process. Sure, they’re busy. (Who isn’t?) And again, stuff happens. But that’s the exception, not the rule. It’s incomprehensible to think that after one, two, three, or more good interactions that a candidate isn’t entitled to some form of response to a professional, periodic status check of the hiring process. Interested in another candidate? Say so. There’s no update? Say so. But don’t go radio silent.

7. Acknowledge Receipt

This is different than expressing gratitude. There have been times when I’ve been asked (instructed) to take an online test, only to finish the test and see and hear nothing. There have been times when I’ve been asked to submit samples of my previous work, only to see and hear nothing in return. No acknowledgement of receipt, and certainly no note of gratitude. If companies ask candidates to spend time taking tests, and reviewing their files to submit previous samples of work, they should acknowledge that those activities take a significant amount of time and at least provide a note of receipt.

8. Make Up Your Mind

I interviewed with one company in three different offices, with different people, over the course of three months. Another, I drove hundreds of miles on every round-trip, on numerous occasions. Yet one more process involved a ‘good’ phone screen, followed by a rejection email (that was later retracted) only to be followed by visit to a #tech facility where I was given a tour, then sat down and asked if I had any questions. I had to carry that conversation for almost an hour. The hiring manager didn’t ask one more question. Not one of those opportunities panned out. And those are just three quick examples. Life is too short to waste on companies that can’t figure out what they want to do and I have better things to do with my time.

9. Save It

Put away your checklist sheet of mundane questions. Don’t put me on the phone with somebody in #humanresources or #recruiting that knows nothing about the business challenges your company and industry face. And please don’t ask me to go online and fill out the website #application – only to be treated to silence in return. Those never-ending applications take too long to complete and do more for HR and recruiting to pump up their number of applicants than they do for the candidates, or for solving any of the business challenges keeping executives up at night.

10. Offer the Candidate a Glass of Water

This one I’ll always remember. I was on an out-of-town personal trip when I got a call from a #recruiter about an opportunity with a company that happened to be in the same city. Pure coincidence. Since I was in the neighborhood, I took a hastily-arranged meeting with the hiring manager. Our meeting took place in a restaurant/bar/grill – but the meeting was in the morning. As we sat down, I expected be offered a glass of water. But I wasn’t. There was no wait staff, so nothing was ever ordered to eat or drink. Strange. I always offer a glass of water, coffee, or tea to those I’m interviewing. Over the course of our 60-90 minute meeting, I was never offered a glass of water. This is the one and only time I can recall that ever happening to me.

I know that are no guarantees of a job at any stage in the hiring process. And nobody is a perfect hiring manager, or interviewer. But over the decades, I’ve grown to appreciate the opportunities to interact with every person, at every organization, when job opportunities presented themselves. I’ve also enjoyed meeting every person that I’ve interviewed. The market is filled with some very good people doing fascinating work, and there are companies who take the candidate experience seriously.

But if companies want job applicants to be prepared for the hiring process, their recruiters, human resources staff, interviewers, and hiring managers should do the same. After years in a bad economy, the days of companies having the upper hand in the job market are now over. Employees are now back in control of the direction of their careers. For those companies who treat candidates with arrogance and disrespect throughout the hiring process, they not only run the risk of losing talent, they run the risk of being at a severe competitive disadvantage.

Treat candidates the way you would like to be treated, and it’ll make a world of difference for everybody.

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