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Interviewing pro-tip: the Candidate is not the enemy

Or, how to get your Candidates to give you their very best voluntarily

Anyone who has ever interviewed anyone for an open req. has experienced a Candidate bombing the interview for one reason or another1, and we’ve certainly all bombed an interview. Now, I don’t know shit about hiring outside of technical fields, specifically for web administrators and UNIX admins. But in that realm, I’ve been on both sides of the process for a little while, and these are the things that I think tend to be the most common reasons for Candidates to do anything less than shine (… or at least these are the things I’m most guilty of):

  • Fixating on the negative aspects of past experiences:

    Where I am now? We have this fucking guy, you know? He eats rice from a plate with a spoon, and it’s disgusting, he’s disgusting, and I can’t stand things that are disgusting!

  • Fixating on the positive aspects of where you’re currently working; put another way, apologizing for having the gall to consider leaving where you are now:

    No, no, it’s really great at ConGloMo! The air rifles only sting a little! I’m really very lucky to have a job at all! The dogs aren’t usually hungry so they don’t maul us when they chase us or anything!

  • It’s also come to my attention that sometimes this manifests in the form of comparing your current employer to your prospective employer too much:

    This place is just like where I am now, except it’s different. I mean, I hate where I am now but I’d love it here, even though it’s the same. But also different.

If you talk down to Candidates, you're gonna have a bad time.

But I also think that these are often a side-effect of a small handful of conditions: being overly familiar or comfortable with the Interviewer (that’s not a bad thing), outright desperation (yellow flag) or excitement (which you should be selecting for), or just plain being damaged (dare I say shell shocked?) by whatever circumstances caused a Candidate to start working the market (and that can be bad, right now, for you; they might get better if the pressure is eased off them). Or if they’re a non-local Candidate, maybe the travel took more out of them then expected and they are still adjusting to being anywhere except home. I am guilty of every single one of those myself, and that’s led me to think that any one of those missteps could have probably been turned into a positive pivot if Interviewers just tried talking to Candidates as if they already had the job.

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