A Little Shut Eye Reply

“The woman interviewing me fell asleep.”

I usually spend the last twenty minutes of a candidate’s interview day with them in sort of a mini debriefing and expectation setting exercise.    One of my standard questions is to ask how each interviewer interacted with the candidate and how did the candidate feel about them.  This helps me to help the interviewer if there are any recurring issues.   One particular candidate told me, as the quote above says, that the interviewer nodded off near the end of the interview.  I wasn’t sure whether that was a reflection on the interviewer or a reaction to the candidate’s monotone vocal style.  Regardless, it wasn’t exactly the best candidate experience one would want to have.

Having interviewed hundreds and hundreds of candidates, I’ve heard and seen some interesting and annoying things in an interview room.  There was the candidate who cleaned out her purse while being questioned; the guy who ate sunflower seeds and spit husks into a coffee cup; the loud talker who insisted on showing me all of his awards going back to junior high – he’d brought them with him (in fairness, he did have two patents in there as well).  This list could go on and on about candidates, but what of interviewers and naps?

Every person interviewing a candidate IS the company for those fleeting moments.  The candidate is listening to everything, watching, assessing, judging and building an impression.  It really is a two-way experience.   An interviewer who displays a lack of attention is telling the candidate they don’t matter.  An interviewer who reviews emails, cleans their nails, checks their iPhone or takes a call while a candidate answers questions is marginalizing the candidate and compromising what should be a healthy and valuable experience.

To get the best out of an interview, write out key questions ahead of time (behavioral based is best), keep them to one sheet.  Bring a pad and pen to capture relevant points AFTER the candidate has answered the question.  Scribbling during an answer can often dictate the direction of the answer in real-time if the candidate perceives they are saying something powerful – right or wrong.  Leave the laptop, iPhone and any other possible intrusive device in your office.  It’s not the end of the world to disconnect for thirty or forty minutes.   Bring coffee or ice water with you if you are groggy.  Let the candidate know you are interested in them by how you act.  Focus; summarize answers out loud so the candidate knows they were understood; let the candidate do most of the talking.  The impression set and the experience had will then be positive and relevant for both participants of the interview.

Turns out the napping interviewer really did fall asleep, but had startled themselves awake when the candidate quit talking.  Going forward I had that interviewer pair up with another from their team and interview candidates together.  Worked like a dream.

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