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In this post, rather than focusing on HR advice, I wanted to take a break to share some of my more memorable and humorous interview experiences.
Some of my best HR stories come from the many interviews I’ve done. Typically interviews involve nervous candidates searching for good answers to my standard litany of questions; however, there are occasional gems that stand out for all the wrong reasons.
At a recent job fair I attended, I had the opportunity to conduct quick, back-to-back interviews with job seekers. I met a few good applicants, but I also met a number of people that were not a good fit for my company. This included one applicant who I tried to talk to as his two young children ran around laughing and screaming and a few candidates who couldn’t even make eye contact—not a good trait for the retail jobs I was trying to fill.
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In the past I’ve met parents at job fairs who are looking for work for unemployed adult children. One parent even told me, “I just want my son to stop being lazy and find a job, so he can move out on his own.” If your son can’t even make the effort to show up at a job fair to meet me, why should I assume he’ll be able to show up to work each day?
CELL PHONES & INTERVIEWS DON’T MIX
I was interviewing a candidate for a manufacturing job at my last company. The interview wasn’t anything spectacular, but there had been no red flags, and the candidate answered all my questions without any hesitation. When I was reviewing his references, I noticed some missing phone numbers. The candidate pulled out his cell phone to look up the missing numbers. When we finished that, I began explaining the company’s benefits package. All this time he kept his phone in his hand. As I made my way through the 401(k) and employee discount, the candidate began to lick his phone suggestively as he stared at me! I thought I must be seeing things, but he did it a couple more times. I tried to remain professional, so I finished up my explanation of the benefits package without missing a beat. Needless to say, I did not pass the candidate on to the manufacturing department for a second interview.
With a lot of interviews, you can usually get a good hit on a candidate within the first few minutes. Not so in this example. It just goes to show that you should hold out on making a decision about a candidate until the end of the interview. You never know when a candidate’s interesting use of a cell phone could make the hiring decision for you.
“I’M NOT A RACIST, BUT…”
It’s never a good idea to start any sentence in an interview with, “I’m not a racist, but…” It’s especially not a good idea if the candidate uttering those words is interviewing for an HR job.
At my last company, we were looking to fill an HR administrator position. The job included hiring candidates for production and warehouse jobs, benefits administration, teaching English classes and employee relations. A large number of employees who worked in our production and warehouse departments were from different cultures. We had asked the candidate to tell us about a recent challenge she faced in HR. After introducing her story by letting us know she’s not racist, she proceeded to explain how there were many employees at her last company who were of a different ethnicity than her. She told us how she got frustrated because many of them had two last names, and this did not work well with their HR system. She got frustrated when employees would not choose one last name. She later told us, “And sometimes I have a hard time with the different hygiene practices of people from other cultures.”
We never did have to ask her our question about her ideas on encouraging diversity in the workplace.
BETTER LATE THAN NEVER? NOT ALWAYS
My current company recently opened a new store. We conducted interviews for management positions about three months prior to the store opening. We scheduled interviews back-to-back, so it was imperative that candidates were on time. We had one candidate who did not show up for his 10 a.m. interview. A little after 11 a.m., I got paged by one of the cashiers. I left the rest of the panel to continue the current interview while I went to find out what the cashier needed. The cashier said our 10 a.m. interview had just shown up. The candidate told me that his cell phone battery had died, so his alarm didn’t go off. Then he hit a bunch of traffic on the way to the interview and got lost trying to find the store. I told him we would be unable to interview him because we were already booked up for the rest of the day. He was clearly disappointed as he left the store.
Later that day, I received an email from the candidate. He apologized and made a case for having a second chance. I don’t usually give people second chances with interviews when it comes to punctuality. I spoke with the other members of the interview team, and we decided that given his qualifications, it was worth giving him a second chance. Well, the joke was on us, because he showed up over an hour late to the second interview and had another long list of excuses—not a good sign for a management candidate.
The story doesn’t end there. The candidate continued to call and email us to try to get another interview for any position at the store. He kept saying that it wasn’t his fault he was late. If he’s making excuses about being late for two interviews, what must he be like as an employee?
IN THE END…
The best part of the occasional oddball interview is that the candidate shows their true colors in the interview. They take the guesswork out of making the hiring decision. Plus, you end up with an entertaining story to tell next time you’re hanging out with your HR friends.
What are some of your most memorable interviews? Share your interview stories in the comments below. You can also Share Your Work Story anonymously.
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