Bob (names have been changed to protect the innocent) arrived to the interview with boots laced around his neck. John continually mopped his forehead while sweating profusely during his interview. Tom abruptly stood up moments into his interview and announced he was going home because he missed his cat. In the middle of her interview, Sally pulled out family photos….many many photos. During his second interview with us, Jack revealed the prank he played at his law firm while working in the mail room (took a check that came in the mail outside and ran over it several times with his car). Harry told me about a nickname his co-workers gave him – Chester Chester the child molester. Sue had a lovely phone voice but that was overshadowed by the rats nest in her hair.
These are just a few memorable interviews I’ve conducted over the years. Yes, I smile when I think of these, but not for the reason you might think. I smile because when you’ve interviewed as much as I have, you learn that some candidates reveal who they are early on and others you find out about after the hire. I smile because even if someone isn’t right for our organization, they may be a great fit for someone else. I smile because no matter what candidates bring to the table or how they present themselves, they all have one thing in common. They put themselves out there applying for jobs. They took the steps to better their employment situation and lives. And that takes courage. They all deserve courtesy and respect and for HR professionals and hiring managers to see and hear them fully before making a hiring decision.
HR professionals and hiring managers have an awesome responsibility to find top talent for their organizations. We have the power to move people through the process … or not. We have the power to give hope to someone. We have the power to change someone’s life. We have the power to bring more diversity to our organizations. We cannot and should not abuse that power.
We abuse that power by feeling and acting superior to candidates. We abuse that power by looking for anything and everything to disqualify candidates. For example, in discussions with others with recruiting and hiring responsibilities, some have indicated that even one typo immediately puts that candidate in the “no” pile. It didn’t matter that they had a great cover letter and resume with solid skills. Some people can’t get beyond employment gaps as if those candidates are marked for life and don’t deserve a job. Have we forgotten the recession that cost lots of good people their jobs? Of course there are employment gaps people! Some candidates have had the audacity to take time out for families. Why are they not snapped up is beyond me.
I’m not saying every candidate is a fit for our organizations. I’m not saying that attention to detail doesn’t matter. I’m not saying that I don’t try to “find where the bodies are buried” because I’m responsible to my firm to be thoughtful and careful with who we bring in the door. But a typo here and there is not the end of the world for me. A letter or resume riddled with typos is another matter, but sometimes we just don’t catch everything. If a resume isn’t formatted the best, that’s not an automatic rejection from me (although it should be presented in an easy way to read). An employment gap doesn’t bring immediate suspicion because we’re in a different world from 20 years ago. To let some of these things rule out good candidates is short-sighted and not always in the best interest of our organizations.
Recruiting is fun and I enjoy it. I love representing our firm to candidates because it’s a fantastic firm. I love meeting with people and hearing their stories and admiring their skills. I love putting them at ease and having a great conversation. Not all candidates are right for our organizations. But all candidates deserve respect and courtesy. I encourage HR professionals and hiring managers to view the recruiting process through the lens of the candidate. I challenge us to apply for jobs so we can experience first-hand what candidates experience today, and change our procedures if applicable. It’s not only the right thing to do, but we never know when we’ll be on the other side of the desk. And that can be more humbling than anything.