I realize it’s been a minute since my last post, however in my best defense I’d like to say I have been working hard creating great content and preparing for exciting new things coming soon! 😉
In the meantime, let’s talk today about reaaaaalllyyyy bad hiring interviews! If you’ve been involved in recruiting and hiring interviews, you’ve probably got your own ‘war stories’ to tell.
It’s the classic interview question: “Lee, what is the worst interview you’ve done in your 30- something years of experience?”
Usually that’s followed up by some cliche mumbling…um…welllllll….”There aren’t really bad interviews, right? Just learning experiences yadda yadda yadda oh look a squirrel!”
For me though, it is an easssssssssyyyyyyyyyyyy answer: Rogue Candidate Behaviour!
Yup, that’s right. Simple. Simple and creepy!
Back when I started in the mid 80’s… (which is about 10,000 years ago in Internet years) because I didn’t have any clue what I was doing…I didn’t know the VALUE of having an interview ’emergency exit plan’. That’s right! AN EXIT plan. A plan to extricate myself from an interview where the candidate literally goes off the rails and loses it, creating the immediate need to stop the interview and remove the candidate from the situation. It’s real, folks! It’s a thing!
I actually remember one interview (I don’t even remember what position we were hiring for) where myself and a hiring manager were interviewing a candidate and for whatever reason, the person began to shout at us, calling us liars and cheats!
How crazy is that!?
But I remember they kept yelling over and over again….
“You can’t lie to me! I see right through you!”
What!? Wow! Hellllppppp!
Now, you may be saying, ‘Lee, really?? This can’t be true?!’ But as I live and breathe, this was a real situation! I’m not saying this is normal, but I’m using this story to make a point: If you do hiring interviews, be prepared to see all kinds and types of people. And most of all, BE PREPARED FOR ANYTHING!
So how do you deal with an interview situation where you might need to stop the meeting due to the behaviour of the candidate? Maybe it won’t be as dramatic as my experience, but you may still need strategies to end interviews if you see the candidate just isn’t going to be a fit.
If I were to give a few pieces of advice, I’d say there’s 4 types of candidates that I’ve witnessed over the years where I did (or should have) immediately ended the interview and 1 key tactic that I’ve used to remain in control of these interviews ‘gone bad.’ Remember, these are not normal interviews! These are what I call, ‘Rogue Candidates’ –
Rogue candidates will exhibit any number of the following behaviours that you will need to avoid getting caught up in:
a- The Cryer: The person, for whatever reason, becomes emotional and starts to cry during the interview. Offer them a time-out to collect themselves or at the very least, a tissue. But don’t get caught up in their emotions. This is the only way to ensure you keep control of the interview. Certainly you can sympathize with their feelings, but be careful not to play into them.
b- The Hater: This individual will tell you they have a grudge and/or point their fingers at their former employer, their college professors, co-workers or anyone else they think has done them wrong. Again, it’s important to stay calm and not get caught up yourself in their emotional outburst. Remind them, they are in an interview and you would like them to just stick to answering the questions you want to ask. If this fails to get them back on track, then don’t be afraid to end the interview. More on that later…:-)
c- Mr/Ms Anger Management: Much like the individual in my previous story, this person, for whatever reason will want to lash out at you personally. This is perhaps the least likely form of ‘Interview gone rogue’ but is still a possibility. As with the previous situations, the most important thing for you to do is stay calm! If you feel physically threatened, then certainly call for the interview to end and get yourself out of the room!
d- Mr/Ms Inappropriate: This candidate is just wrong on so many levels. From the person who starts to come on to you or try to flirt with you in the interview, through to the individual who proudly talks about the last time they ‘got reeeeeally high’ on cocaine. Believe me, the situations of inappropriate behaviour and conversation are endless. As always, it’s important that you as the interviewer, stay in professional form. It’s quite alright to simply and politely end the interview at this point. You may ask when is the right time to end such an awkward conversation? The answer is unequivocally: As soon as you start to feel uncomfortable!
So what is the number 1 way of extricating yourself from these potentially horrifying situations?
Number 1 Tactic:
Stay calm and avoid getting caught up in their emotions. The most important response you can give to someone who is losing it during an interview, is NOT to contribute to the emotion they are displaying. If you do, this will almost inevitably lead to an escalation of their behaviour and of the situation. The last thing you need to do is become part of the problem when you have a candidate behaving badly.
Finally, here are some tips to preparing yourself with an Emergency Interview Bailout Plan, to use when the interview needs to be terminated:
Have an emergency singal system: This is almost like having an emergency plan for a blind date! Whenever you get behind closed doors with strangers, whether it’s during an interview or otherwise, you should always have a backup signal to alert someone that you may need an interruption to the interview. This can be as simple as having a cellphone handy to send a text or have a pre-planning interruption phone-call from someone, to ensure all is well. Every good workplace should have an employee safety plan and this would make a great addition to such a plan.
Know what to say & do: “What you’re saying right now is making me uncomfortable and I think it’s best to end the interview at this point.” is one of the most important and powerful phrases you can use to end an awkward or threatening interview encounter. The next step, is to immediately get up, walk to the door and usher the candidate out of the room. Whew!
There are SO many times I put off ending an interview over the past 30 years because I thought it was rude or uncomfortable! Next time you have these types of thoughts, think about whether it is safe or acceptable for you to continue to spend your time, sitting through another minute of watching a rogue candidate behaving badly.
No hesitation is critical. You will make big-time mistakes during your interview experiences. Things will happen that suck and are out of your control. These will happen 100 times over. However, the thing I’ve learned that has helped me so much over the years, is NOT to hesitate in those moments when the interview is going south. Those moments where you realize things just aren’t going to end well with the candidate, are the times when your ability to jump into action is vital. Don’t be afraid to end the meeting at anytime. YOU are in control.
At the end of the day, it is about how you feel and taking care of yourself. It’s not about “being polite” or how silly you might feel having to take charge and actually escort someone out of the interview. It is about maintaining professionalism, decorum and personal safety. With a few crazy candidates…well you can guess where this is going…it’s hard to have a boring interview process!
That’s it folks! Another chapter of ‘Lee’s Chronicles’ in the bag!
Cheers and I promise my next blog will not take as long to come out as this one!
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Then leave a comment below on your experience, thoughts or advise on the above ideas.
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Lee Hodgins, CPHR works with entrepreneurs, business owners & hiring managers to leverage the power of hiring interviews to dramatically boost their effectiveness and accuracy in finding the most qualified job candidates. More information is awaiting you online at www.guerrillainterviewing.com