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Kinda Lazy

“I’m kinda lazy.”

This is my most memorable response from a candidate interview to my very basic “What’s an area of work you need to improve” question. Even almost 20 years later, I’m still amazed and slightly impressed. I figure that regardless of their endgame, they won! If their response was a form of sabotage in order not to work, they got it. If their response was in pursuit of transparency, they sure did a good job letting me know their true self.

Recently, this response also got me thinking about ways we sabotage or lack transparency as interviewers. Is it possible that as interviewers, one of the areas we can improve for our interviews is to not be lazy in our approach?

  • Do we talk at candidates instead of conversing with them?

  • Do we sugarcoat what we know needs development in our workplace, the demands of the role, or difficulties working with the direct manager(s)?

  • Do we give vague responses about the value of benefits, frequency of pay increases, or mobility?

  • Do we describe interpersonal dynamics as a “family” when what we mean is paternalistic/maternalistic?

  • Do we fear that if we tell candidates the real reason the last person in the role left they won’t be interested?

It’s a disservice to everyone involved. The purpose of an interview is to share knowledge and determine if there’s mutual interest in a particular role and organization. If we withhold key details, whether as the employer or the candidate, neither can make an informed decision. We work hard at convincing but not at attracting.

Some of the ways we can flip the above includes:

  • Decide interviews are not a “check the box” rote exercise. Use the time to get to know the candidates’ career interests and strengths beyond what’s on paper.

  • Be honest with candidates about unappealing areas of the role and workplace. They are going to find out anyway!

  • Be specific and transparent about pay, work hours, time off, and overall benefits. Most of us work for money. The exchange is an employee’s expertise, skills, and time for the employer’s money. That is not a secret.

  • Describe the working relationships and interactions in facts and not feelings. For example, “Our team works mostly independently but are always happy to help if a coworker asks” or “Our team loves getting together on weekends and afterhours for social events”. The term “family” can mean different things to different people and not all good or desirable.

  • Share the reason the role is open without violating the dignity of the person formerly in the position.

Interviews are an essential part of building teams and a productive workplace. Even with limited time, and even a more limited candidate pool as of late, it’s necessary to approach with energy and genuine interest. When we get it wrong, the stakes are high.

What’s your most memorable interview experience either as a candidate or interviewer?

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