I’ve had many job interviews over the years. The ones that went badly were sometimes due to me being unprepared or too anxious. However, the attitude of the employer was significant in some of them, illustrated here…
- In the basement of W H Smith (the stationery shop), a group of at least 30 candidates were sat in a circle. Some giggling supervisors asked us to sing or tell jokes. Candidates who did this would have a better chance of getting a job. In fact, there were no other assessments. I think we were all bemused and not a little terrified. A few outgoing types did some singing and dancing, while the rest sat in embarrassed silence. I still don’t know how this qualified anyone for a temporary Christmas job stacking the shelves with jigsaw puzzles and chocolates.
- I arrived in good time for an interview at a college. I was asked to wait in an area where students were working. I sat there for a few minutes, thinking that probably the interviews were running a bit late, as often happens. But I waited. And waited. I started to get hungry. I felt awkward sitting there in my smart clothes, surrounded by students and staff who gave me curious glances. The longer I had to think about what was to come, the more nervous I became. My interview started 40 minutes late, no adequate reason given. I had to pretend not to mind.
- At a music shop, the staff talked around and over me while I waited to see the manager. The shop was opening up for the day and I was left there like a spare part while the activity was going on. The fact that I was 16 might have contributed to their lack of respect. Then when I was actually interviewed, it became clear that my application hadn’t been read properly. I didn’t play enough instruments to be a viable candidate in the first place.
- A man on the interview panel for a university job made it extravagantly clear he was bored and that interviewing me was a waste of his precious time. He asked me for my experience of a particular task and then while I was talking, he put down his pen, raised his eyes to the ceiling and slumped back in his chair. Maybe he even checked his watch. It was very off-putting and I knew straight away that I wasn’t getting hired.
It’s a pity that some recruiters’ attitudes are so poor. Candidates may be desperate for jobs but they should still be treated with respect. Employers’ reputations are also at stake, so it’s in their interest that interviews are well-conducted. Here are my suggestions for recruiters, should any be reading this:
- Read the job applications, or tell the staff who screen the applications exactly what your criteria are. This saves everyone’s time and it saves suggesting to a candidate’s face that they’re not good enough for the job.
- Get your timing right. Allow enough time between interviews for the panel’s discussions, allow extra time for candidates’ questions at the end, allow for technology glitches. If a candidate arrives more than a few minutes late, shorten their interview to avoid significant impact on the others.
- Communicate effectively with reception staff so that candidates have somewhere quiet to wait and are offered a drink. Be welcoming and smile when you greet a candidate. It sounds basic but often this doesn’t happen.
- Respect the candidates as individuals. Don’t ask them to embarrass themselves in front of others unless this is a requirement of the job. Be aware that some people suffer from anxiety which may stop them performing their best at an interview and yet they may be the best fit for the job. Consider the impact that your expressions will have on someone’s self-confidence. Don’t suggest that a candidate is over-qualified, as there could be many reasons they are applying for this job, some of which may be of a sensitive nature or mental health related.