A Reflection on the Last Three Candidates I Interviewed

The last few people I interviewed left impressions on me, and none of them were positive. The team has been struggling to fill a senior analyst role, and the candidates so far have been less than stellar. Is it that difficult to find a solid candidate? The first candidate was a perfect example that a promising phone screening doesn’t necessarily translate into a successful in person interview. We brought him to the office for an interview soon after. The candidate was well-groomed, and the suit fit him like a glove. The handshake was a whole different story. I thought I was shaking hands with a cold, damp sponge. He was nervous. During the interview, he lacked confidence in his answers, backtracked often, and over apologized. What he should have done was stick to his initial answers with conviction. I later asked him a question that might as well have been a knockout punch.  I could see it immediately caught him by surprise. After watching him struggle with a response for a couple of minutes, he did not have an answer. Apparently rattled by the question, he was not able to recompose himself for the rest of the interview.  I eventually stepped in and provided an example. All I wanted to see was how he approached a difficult question, and I couldn’t care less about the answer.  I would have been more impressed if he had either asked for more clarity about the question, asked me to provide an example, or told me in honesty, that he did not have the answer. Instead, he was stalling by talking about something else, trying to get around the question. We passed on the candidate.

The second person I interviewed worked at the same place as I did years ago. It’s a small world out there, and you’ll never know who you’ll cross paths with later in life. He claimed that he remembered working with me in the past, but as hard as I tried to remember him, my mind drew blanks. I felt that he was over friendly, and was not sure if it was due to our so called “history” or that it was just his warm and jovial personality. I’ll forever remember him because of his 7-page resume in size eight font. After I increased the font size to 10, the resume expanded to 11 full pages! My attention span only got me through the first page. The interview was conversational and throughout I was deciding whether or not to place a mark in each one of my mental check boxes. Towards the end of the interview, I asked him a simple and straightforward question, “What about the position appeals to you?” He said it was a full-time position and he wanted to hang his hat somewhere. So, this guy just wanted a job. Immediately I knew he wasn’t the right person. When I asked other candidates the same question, we received good answers regarding how they could contribute to the role, leave a lasting impression, and that it would be a great learning opportunity for them. A decision was made right after the interview that he wouldn’t be a good fit. Yes, despite what you think, decisions on whether to bring the candidate back for a final interview or to pass, are made quickly.

The third candidate looked promising on paper. He had the skills the team was looking for. When I entered the room, he didn’t bother to shake my hand. In fact, he went right on the offensive by asking me a question. He didn’t take the time to provide a quick introduction of himself and expressed no interest in what my role was in the department. So there I was, interviewing a potential teammate, and this guy immediately rubbed me the wrong way. His technical skills alone were not enough to move him to the last round. He failed to demonstrate strong social skills.

The three candidates looked great on paper and passed the phone screenings, but that was only a foot in the door. If a candidate makes it to an in-person interview, it means the person has to work even harder to impress the interviewers, and by that time, it’s an assessment of personality and soft skills. As interviewers, we are trying to answer, “Will this person be a good fit in the company?” and “Can I see myself working well with this person?”

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