Volume 114: Interview Horror Stories

By: Teresa Hundt

Interview Horror Stories… We all have either had one or know of someone who has. Teresa ROY award2

Since this month is the spookiest month of the year, I know many articles and newsletters are swirling around that this very topic.

I’m going to do things a little bit differently. Instead of just discussing the “horror”, I will provide three different scenarios where candidates have made mistakes in the interview process that led to a no-hire decision. In turn, I’ll also share my recommendations on what to do differently to increase the likelihood of a positive interview outcome.

Scenario 1:

I once had a candidate show up to an interview wearing jeans, an untucked t-shirt, and a ballcap. They were more than qualified for the job and it should have been a shoo-in. However, the hiring manager could not get past the very casual attire and a no-hire decision was made pretty quickly. Had they shown up in more appropriate clothing, the job would have been theirs. I think we both learned a hard lesson that day.

Now I always counsel our candidates on the rule of 12’s:

  1. Your appearance from 12 feet away
    1. Clothing choice: slacks or clean jeans, collared shirt tucked in, belt and steel-toed shoes, and a sport coat for leadership roles.
  2. Your appearance from 12 inches away
    1. Haircut, freshly shaved face, brushed teeth, and fresh breath.
  3. The first 12 words out of your mouth
    1. Make sure your first words are complimentary and positive to set the tone.

First impressions are everything. According to Psychology Today, it takes only 7 seconds for people to make a first impression. I have reviewed a recent Harvard study and found that it takes 8 subsequent positive encounters to overcome a negative first impression.

This information means the rule of 12’s is very helpful in setting you up for success.

Scenario 2:

A hiring manager told me about an interview he had with a candidate that went sideways relatively quickly. Every other word was a swear word and it was just too much for this particular plant manager.

And listen, I get it. This is a manufacturing industry that’s full of tough, gritty folks and cursing is par for the course. However, there needs to be a level of professionalism during an interview.

My advice is to keep the swear words to a minimum, preferably zero and while you’re at it, steer clear of politics, religion, and other hot topics.

Scenario 3:

The last example I’ll share revolves around staying positive and providing positive feedback.

A candidate was doing a face-to-face interview and during the plant tour, they pointed out everything that they saw that needed improvement. According to this candidate, there was a very long list of troubled areas. So much so that the hiring manager became frustrated and almost angry. A no-hire decision was handed down fast.

This experience has led me to counsel candidates on what I consider to be one of the most important focal points. When on a plant tour, point out one or two areas that they believe can be improved. But in doing so, they must also explain how they can help fix, minimize or eliminate that problem based on what they have achieved in the past. For example, “I noticed your crew is having a hard time with setups on the flexo. I’ve experienced this same issue and I found that by implementing __________ processes, we were able to reduce setup time by ____ number of minutes.”

While it’s important to show hiring managers that you’re paying attention to pain points and can be part of the solution, it’s just as important to praise the positive. When you see good, point it out and praise it.

Hopefully these not so horror stories and advice resonate with you or those in your sphere. There are very simple things you can do to increase the probability of a successful outcome and prevent you from falling flat. I’d love to know your thoughts and experiences.

If you’d like to learn more about interview preparation, please reach out to me at teresa@obergassociates.com and I’d be more than happy to share more insights with you.

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