The Bad Interview

As the HR guy in my family and friend group, I am the person most often called upon for resume reviews, job interview prep and overall career counseling. (HR folks know what I mean). Last week, one of my friends called me with great news; she just scored an interview for a company on her wish list. While talking to the recruiter, she got an awesome overview of the company culture and the position, and from the sound of it, this could be the job of her dreams! Before the interview, we discussed everything from appropriate attire to potential questions that could be asked, and even questions she should have ready to ask her interviewer. She was ready!

After work that day, she called me to discuss the interview.

Me: It went great, right!

Her: Nope, the interviewer was terrible.

Me: Only one interviewer?

Her: Yes, only one.

Me: (Thinking HR): Wow, I’m surprised only one person interviewed you!

Her: Yes. Also, the interviewer came in more than 30 minutes late, didn’t take any notes and had to send out a quick e-mail during the interview… not to mention, respond when she got a response to that e-mail. The interviewer had a grand total of three questions for me!

She defined her experience in one word: Nightmare!


The Illegal Interview

Recently I saw an intriguing LinkedIn status update by Jane Ashen Turkewitz of .comRecruiting.

The post stated:  “Lately, I’ve been writing about the inappropriate and illegal questions often asked to candidates. From, “are you planning on having children any time soon,” to “what’s your current salary,” (now illegal to ask in NYC). But, here’s the thing…If a candidate IS asked an illegal question on an interview and pushes back by saying, “Did you know that it’s actually illegal for you to ask me that question and therefore I’m not going to answer it?” – what will happen? I’m guessing many candidates will be fearful to push back because they NEED a job and they won’t want to jeopardize their chances of getting one. Sure, some might say, “screw that – walk out the door.” BUT, there’s a harsh reality for some people – they can’t afford to just walk out the door because they’ve been out of work for 6 months and they need to feed their kids. Illegal – shmilegal for so many who feel powerless to just say “no, I’m not going to answer that.” This has been swirling in my mind and I don’t know the solution.”

The comments, of course, had the solutions most of us would think of: report it to the EEOC, make the employer aware, let the interviewer know it’s illegal etc. However, similar to Ms. Turkewitz, I wondered if those are viable options for someone who really needs a job.

What struck me in both of the above examples is how fluid a job candidates experience can be; it can go from bad to straight up illegal.

So What Can We Do?

Get Feedback

helloquence-61189After I heard my friend’s story, I told her to make the recruiter at the organization aware of her interview experience. If the organization is not aware, then they cannot act. Organizations must find ways to contact both candidates that have been hired and candidates that have not been hired to get feedback on their experience. Many interview processes are decentralized and HR is not involved in the process. Similar to a bad customer service experience, a bad candidate experience may or may not be indicative of the organizational culture.

If necessary, someone from the organization may need to extend an apology to the candidate if a hiring manager was truly late or unprofessional during an interview. Again, similar to a bad customer service experience, a simple apology can go a long way. For the interviewer, the situation could turn into a teachable moment.

How to Handle Illegal Questions (The Readers Digest Version)

Candidate: For illegal questions, make sure that the employer is aware if you believe an illegal question was asked. The employer might be able to provide additional insight and/or conduct an immediate investigation.


Partner with HR! Partner with HR! Partner with HR!

The best model I’ve seen in a phenomenal (and legal) candidate experience is when departments partner with HR throughout the interview process. Here are a few ways HR can help:

rawpixel-com-250087Pre-InterviewDiscuss interview techniques with hiring team, review legal/illegal interview questions, and implement sourcing strategy.

During InterviewA member of HR or an HR liaison serves on interview panel.

Post-InterviewCandidate follow-up, tour of organization, invite for second interview or provide feedback to finalists.

Note: New legislation has made it illegal to ask questions regarding pay history. This makes it even more critical to partner with HR to train hiring managers.

The only way the horror stories will end is if we call them out. Also, partnering with HR is key in alleviating many of these stories! Having a strong candidate experience is advantageous to the employer in many ways. The reputation of your brand is on the line. You might have a great candidate that, due to a poor interview experience, might change their mind on your offer. Also, illegal questions can place the company in legal jeopardy. Even employers that ‘get it right’ when it comes to the candidate experience should have a continuous pulse on who is interviewing candidates and what questions are being asked.

Looking for some great ideas on candidate experience? Check out the SHRM Next Chat Twitter Summary from an awesome twitter chat!


Posted by Daniel Nicolas

Daniel is an HR knowledge seeker with a passion for community. I've had a pretty cool journey. Proud Seminole, Member of Alpha Phi Alpha, Tennis Player, Haitian-American and soon-to-be husband.

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