A friend of mine went for “the interview” last week and in recounting it to me he commented that the room was so small he felt like he was sitting under an interrogation room light. I laughed and told him my last interview was in a room the size of a coat closet with a Barbie sized table separating me from the interviewers. Our knees could touch awkwardly if we didn’t choose our seating wisely.
My interviewing experience has been on each side of the table, but mostly as an interviewer, and I’ve done everything from situational scenario based interviews to testing interviews to panel interviews. There are as many types of interviews as there are candidates and roles to fill.
But it’s the behind-the-scenes of interviewing that make it memorable. A few years ago I was involved in conducting a number of interviews with a colleague. It became somewhat routine as we went from city to city filling the vacancies of a new operational model. As we sat in a glass-walled office in the warm afternoon sun waiting for the next candidate, my colleague said ” what’s that smell?”. Words that involuntarily cause a silent sniff of awareness. As the room heated up, the magic cellulite-reducing cream I’d massaged into my thighs was heating up and becoming fragrant. I could only hope the cream was working as we all sat smouldering in the fumes.
Over the years I worked with another senior law enforcement colleague as we interviewed to fill some high level positions. During one heavily scheduled day of interviews, we had a quick lunch break at the Greek restaurant. We scarfed our souvlaki and tzatziki, greek salad and headed back to the interview room. The receptionist escorted the next candidate in and as she backed out the door she mouthed the words “bad garlic” behind the candidate. The candidate sat there for probably what seemed like forever for him, with eyes watering, nostrils flaring as my colleague and I wafted garlic over him.
The same colleague would gobble gum in an attempt to stop his stomach from growling during interviews. I think it may have been some nerves or whatever, but by 10:30 in the morning he would be producing whale noises from his innards. I had to consciously ignore the boings and squeals coming from him that always had me on the verge of giggles as I grilled the candidates with serious questions.
Phone interviews are challenging, too. I conducted an interview by phone where I felt the candidate was not totally engaged. Then I heard a toilet flush…. Another time I set up an interview over the phone and the candidate was very excited about the possibility of joining the law enforcement community. I reiterated the requirements; the arduous physical ability testing and so forth and he said yes, he was ready. This guy had the most beautiful phone voice that was so professional I was sure he was going to be great. The scheduled time I see a guy the size and fitness of a manatee lumbering down the hallway to my office. With his voice, I hope he ended up in radio.
And of course, there are candidates who won’t take no for an answer. Not many, but I had a good one. He presented as professional but somewhat creepy. He was not successful in getting the position. Then the phone calls started, and the stopping in to my office. He was relentless. I started running into him in the grocery store. It was disconcerting and getting a bit weird and then he kind of faded away. A couple of months later I had emergency surgery for a blown appendix and as I groggily rolled over and opened my eyes looking out my third floor hospital room window, I see a guy hanging on ropes and carabiners with a squeegee washing the window. It was him. You can’t make that stuff up…… there he was gawking in my hospital room window. I still didn’t hire him.
Being the candidate is one of the most gut wrenching experiences there is. Selling yourself; your talents, your experience. My friend was successful in getting the position he applied for which didn’t surprise me. I hope he cut the interviewers some slack. It’s not as easy as it looks from the other side of the table