Friday, 10 November 2017

Bad interview technique

Perhaps unsurprisingly I didn't get through to the next round of the job I went for two days ago. It was to work as a guide for the ABBA exhibit at the Royal Festival Hall. It wasn't a full-time post and it was only for a few months, so with my expertise and love for the group, I did think I might have been a shoe-in. I await feedback to see what the official issue was. I suspect the woman who interviewed me, who'd told the group beforehand that she had nothing to do with the exhibition itself, took one look at me, thought "why does this old man want to do a job which is meant for pretty young people?" and instantly decided to give me short shrift. This may explain why she blanket circled the number 2 as a score on my form, called me Mr Benjamin and couldn't wait to get rid of me. I think the interview might have got off to a less humiliating start if she'd thought to apologise for calling me by the wrong name, or laughed with me when I bumblingly tried to make light of her blunder. Actually what she did was make me feel ashamed for pointing out her error. "So your surname's not Benjamin?" Her eyes rolled, her voice bristled with boredom. She made me feel utterly insignificant.

When I'm auditioning people, I take great care to write in code or make sure that people can't see what I'm writing about them. Of course, we're all capable of getting it wrong. We all have powerful instincts, and I'm definitely a man who places great emphasis on mine. I have, in the past, almost certainly written-off people because of the way they look and when I was young, I think I would have been a bit confused at the notion of an old git like me wanting to do a part-time, zero hours contract. I'd probably I have thought I was a bit tragic. But there was something about the way she marked me so blatantly and pointedly that implied her actions were company policy. Almost as though someone had said "we've got to rush these bastards through. There's way too many of them, so if they're not right, get them out of the door as quickly as you can. Don't get embarrassed about marking them. We need the scores, and they need the job, so just do it in front of them. It's their own fault if they look down at what you're writing..."

So, if you're reading this and you are about to do a set of interviews, here are some suggestions based on my experience. Feel free to add your own pearls of wisdom. 

1. People's names are really important to them. If someone tells you you've pronounced their name wrong, or used their first name as a surname, be apologetic. If they don't look offended, use the mistake as a way of putting the candidate at his or her ease. Offer candidates a box in their application form which says "how do you like to be known?" This means that those of us who use our middle names, or a nickname, or have a first name which is hard to pronounce, can aid an interviewer considerably. 
2. Never de-humanise a person. If you're instinct tells you you need to find young people, re-programme it to say "I need to find energetic, engaging people, regardless of age." 

3. If someone is only giving average answers, give him or her a little steer, so he has a chance to go from a 2 to a 3. 
4. Don't ask questions which are only easy to answer after someone has been hired and trained. Asking, for example, what a potential tour guide would do if someone was taken sick in a space/ exhibition he has never seen before is a fairly pointless question. There will be a company protocol which is based on a detailed health and safety assessment of the venue. 
5. If asked to score an individual, think about taking a few minutes at the end of the interview to do so, or using a code which he won't understand. 
6. Never make an assumption that someone who comes for an interview doesn't "need" the job as much as another person. There are many reasons why, for example, an older person might want or need a post you think they're either over-qualified for or you think would suit a younger person.
7. Smile. If an interview is going badly, it's as much the responsibility of the interviewer to turn things around.

So that's about it from me. I'm rushing up to Northampton...

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