Monday, November 26, 2007

Job Interviews from Hell: Second in a Series

After several weeks involving three rounds of telephone interviews covering all manner of behavioral interview questions ("Tell me how you helped someone outside of work, recently." "Under what circumstances do you lie?"), I was finally invited in to meet with several executives for an in-person interview.

Well, mostly in-person. The assistant scheduling the interview informed me that I'd be meeting with the hiring manager in-person, but that two other people from another office would be participating via videoconference.

That's fine, I thought. I'd participated in videoconferences before. How different could this be?

The actual interview commences with the hiring manager leading me to a conference room, and introducing me to an executive who appears on the video monitor. When they ask the obligatory, "Tell us about yourself," I start with my 30-second elevator speech.

After about 20 minutes of standard interview questions from each of them, we get into more specifics.

Then, the hiring manager seems intent on talking about my experience in broadcast news. But I have none. Absolutely none.

My resume doesn't include the words broadcasting or video, or anything that could remotely be misconstrued as such in terms of my experience or skills. I don't play those games: what you see is what you get with me.

So I do what I do: I explain that while I have the essential skills that the advertisement I responded to required of applicants, and I learn new skills quickly, I do not have any prior experience in the field of broadcasting. Whatsoever.

And I realize a fundamental problem with this meeting: Each has a copy of my resume right in front of them. But neither appears to have read it.

Soon after, the second videoconference participant appears on screen, having slipped into the room with his colleague. Introductions are made. When prompted, I rattle off a shorter version of my elevator speech by way of background, and we continue.

A few minutes later, I notice his colleague has muted the video feed.

They're clearly talking and staring intently into their video screen - at me. OK, that's fine. I figure the first guy is informing the second guy of the conversation thus far.

So I turn my attention to the executive in the room with me and ask a question, and we start a conversation of our own.

The two videoconference participants eventually unmute their speaker and the executive in the room with me brings them into the conversation.

But at random points, they continue muting the feed so they can talk amongst themselves. Often covering their mouths so we can't even read their lips.

This occurs over and over again. To a point where it's clear they're talking more than they're listening.

Every once in a while, the executives on camera make gestures that I hope are some kind of hand signals for the executive in the room with me. To - I don't know - communicate to him that they want to wrap this up and get the hell out of here.

Eventually, the meeting draws to a close. And I think we're all relieved.

So, what tips do I have from this experience? Just a few:
  1. Don't be surprised if nobody has read your resume. This has happened to me so many times, I would call it epidemic (and it's not just me). It's annoying, it's inefficient, but it happens. Note: Most people ask you to tell them about yourself just to see how you present yourself, it doesn't necessarily mean they haven't read your CV. But in this case? A clear disconnect.
  2. Embrace the challenge of videoconferencing. This was not my first videoconference, but it was my first time interviewing this way. Quick jokes and clever comments don't always translate well with the delay that can occur with videoconferencing.
  3. Be polite and respectful, no matter how frustrated you may be. This was not an interview for which I should have been invited to participate, given the expertise stated on my resume. But I made the best of it because you never know what will happen in the future.
  4. Pay attention. If the people on the other end of a videoconference engage in muted side discussions like these guys did, you may have to repeat yourself or answer questions twice. (This is all in their hands, unfortunately.)
  5. Consider each interview its own reward. You can always learn something about yourself, your interview style, or your presentation that can help you in the future.

All this learning is great, but it didn't hurt that their offices were just a stone's throw away from one of the best gelato joints in the tri-state area.

So, two scoops of hazelnut gelato and a cappuccino later, it was all just a hazy memory.


kitty said...

oy. how annoying that sounds!?

Already you're not on your turf and have to think on your feet. That seems awfully unfair.

Well, I hope you get the job, tho if it were me, I'd not want to work with such people. They sound annoying! heh.

Spandrel Studios said...

Hi, Kitty. Absolutely -- that situation was a clear signal it wasn't the place for me (it was all flashing bells, lights blinking).

Spandrel Studios said...

Uh, make that ringing bells... it's too early in the morning for me to be typing.