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Candidates STILL Do The Darndest Things

Recruiter reacting to strange candidate behavior during a videoconference interview

In the search profession (a people business to its core), the cliché, “comedy = tragedy + time,” has special resonance. Part of our fiduciary responsibility is to see (and sometimes, unfortunately, experience) things our clients never will.

Where we once stood in shock, dismay, and disbelief, the passage of time has allowed us to see the lighter side of these moments, as candidates have continued to do the darndest things!

My dinner plans are more important than my career plans

Balancing professional responsibilities with personal ones requires a deft touch, and understanding when and how to appropriately make time for family is a laudable thing. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case when a recent CEO candidate interrupted a meeting with my colleague to take a call from her husband. Of course, some calls need to be taken, but my colleague didn’t expect a discussion of dinner plans—“Are you sure you don’t want me to just get take out?”—to trump the interview.

Videoconferences are not compatible with showers, swims, cars or baseball caps

Videoconferencing technology has improved tremendously over the last few years, and while meeting in-person is always best, sometimes timing or other circumstances necessitate meeting virtually. A few quick pointers from recent experiences:

  • It's understandable for you to do the videoconference from home, but it's not understandable when you show up on screen with your hair soaking wet. Did you just get out of the shower? The pool? It's a mystery to this day.
  • We’re all busy, but it would be better to pull over to the side of the road than to do the videoconference from a dashboard cam while driving.
  • You know you’re going to be in for a winning videoconference when a CIO candidate connects and is wearing a baseball hat. I get that you are taking time off on vacation, but could you take off the baseball hat for an interview?

The casual remark that creates a casualty

When a Vice President of Business Continuity candidate apologizes for taking four days to return your call by telling you: “Sorry, I lost my cell phone and didn’t have a backup means to access my voicemail,” that kind of says it all, doesn’t it?

We love it when people show enthusiasm and passion for what they do—in fact, it’s a fundamental quality for a top executive. So, when a CFO candidate glanced down to his mobile during our meeting, saw an email, and desperately sighed to himself, “they will never leave me alone,” I didn’t know whether to keep our discussion going, or recommend an outplacement services firm.

What were they thinking?

And while we like to get to know candidates, their experience and motivations, please spare us from having to sit through a 48-page PowerPoint that starts when the candidate was in high school. It reminds us of a family album our grandmother brings out with the awful clothes and 90s hairstyles, and makes us ask: If you are going to do a presentation with that level of informality, can you at least combine it with some good music?

Having a “healthy” sense of ego is not necessarily a bad thing. However, if you find your reflection irresistible—and for 90 minutes can’t take your eyes off a nearby mirror, while ostensibly speaking with my colleague—that might indicate an “unhealthy” sense of self.

Love ya, girlfriend

And on a final note, no matter how well you think your meeting might have gone, it’s never appropriate to give an emotional goodbye *hug* to the interviewer you just met an hour ago.

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