What is your Company Saying About Itself?


So what happens when your company treats the people you call in to interviews like this:

When I got to the company’s building I was immediately shown into a tiny, windowless interview room. I sat there for 20 minutes and then an interviewer came in.

She introduced herself as Jane. I asked for her business card and she said she didn’t have cards with her, so I asked her (just so I could orient myself) which department she worked in.

Jane got huffy right away and said “I interview across all departments,” which was not what I’d asked her. I never did find out what Jane’s job title is or which department she works for.

Jane sat down and dove into an interview script the likes of which I’ve never seen and I’ve been working for 20 years. She asked me the standard questions like “What’s your greatest weakness?” and “Why should we hire you?” but she went much further than that.

Jane asked me to walk through every job on my resume and explain why I left. Isn’t that a negative approach? She didn’t ask me one question about what I accomplished at each job. You would think that her biggest fear is that the company might hire someone who ever left a job for the wrong reason.

Jane interrogated me for 45 minutes without pausing. She was so suspicious of me that I felt like leaving the building. After my 45 minute grilling, Jane told me “We have several other candidates to meet this week. We’ll try to let you know something soon.”

Jane never gave me the chance to ask even one question. The minute I got home I called Matt the recruiter and told him to forget it. I wasn’t interested anymore.


I don’t blame “Jane” for treating people the way she does.  At least not “Jane” alone.  She’s just doing what is demanded of her by her boss.  Of course her boss may be just like her, in which case the company’s in trouble.

This is  a toxic situation.  It might be confined to HR and recruiting for now, but toxicity has a habit of spreading.  Recruiting is a selection process and people have to understand that how treat people affects the result.  I can think of no better way to get bad hires than to take a hostile attitude right from the start.


Yet from the  the comments, this approach is all too common.

“Basically, this is a HR-led company and their “thugs” think that they are the only wise ones to hire and fire. It’s the CEO’s fault that this occurs, and I wouldn’t blame anyone for walking out of such interview.”

“I had a similar interview with a company called Arthur Andersen. Turns out they treated people badly on purpose, to weed out strong people who would call them out on illegal behavior (remember ENRON)?”(Arthur Anderson was a large accounting firm that was disbanded in wake of Enron for bad accounting practices)

“This is a common way of interviewing and this same type of interview has happened to me in the past. When my interviewer finally asked me, “What are you going to do if you don’t get this job” was the final straw. I stood up and told him that this was not the job for me that I was leaving. He then said I had the job. He was trying to see what it would take for me to get angry. I repeated that I did not what the job because he had wasted my time and ask me questions and played mind games and I was not interested in having a boss that treated me in such a matter. Then I quickly left the company never to return. I think he was suffering for a Napoleon complex. Thank God!!! I did NOT take the job!!!”

“I had an interview like Felicia’s several years ago at a large biotech company, but worse. I had to wait 45 minutes in a small room for the first of 3 interviewer to show up. They each had a written list of questions and when they asked one, they cut me off after a few words and ask the next one. They all seemed annoyed at having to interview me at all. I believe they already had 1 candidate selected and were irked at having to talk to anyone else. I later learned that the guy they did hire left after only 6 months.”

“I had a similar issue with a recruiter lady working in the HR section of a large bank. She started going through all the companies I had worked for more than 10 years ago. She didnt give me a copy of my resume to refer to. When I got confused and wanted to see the copy in her hand and took it form her, she complained to the upper management that I had taken the copy from her, and as a result I didnt get the job. I was amazed at the power of HR in that bank. No one wanted to go against her recommendation.”

“This sounds like my last interview where every answer I gave was met with a reason to disqualify me. I was almost traumatized from the experience!”


If you are company, do you really want a bunch of people leaving your place after things like this?  For every job that you fill there might be a dozen, or these days, a hundred people who went in to your shop with good feelings, anticipation and hope and left, exhausted, feeling abused and probably more than a little pissed, at your company.  Then they go home to their families, their phones and their computers. They talk to their friends, both online and social. They post to glass door.  They post on Indeed, Monster, Linked in or career builder. A companies reputation can take years to build up and be lost just because of one bad experience.  Why do you then insist on creating bad experiences?

On Linked In and other sites there are endless complaints about the infamous “bad hire” and employee turnover.  Almost without exception the “bad hire” is always the hire’s fault. The solution always seems to be to double down in interview and recruiting processes that are already bordering on hellish for the job seeker.



The best job interviews aren’t interrogations, they’re conversations. But it’s really hard to strike up a great conversation when all you do is ask a series of scripted questions.

No matter how hard you try, the process will feel more like an interrogation… and where interrogations are concerned, there are no winners.

So try this instead. Once you’ve gotten past the small talk, ask one good, compelling question that should spark a lively conversation:

“What is the one skill you possess that will most impact our bottom line?”

Instantly you learn whether the candidate knows anything about your company. (It’s hard to say how you will impact the bottom line when you don’t understand what truly drives value for a company.)

More importantly, you begin to get to the heart of the value the employee will provide — and whether his or her strengths truly meet your needs.

So ask that question and then do what comes naturally: Have a conversation. Listen to the candidate’s answer. Think about what he or she said, not the next question on your list. (There is no next question on your list.) Simply think about what you just heard.

Then ask a question you would ask if you had run into the candidate in an airport lounge.

I know. You’re probably thinking, “That might be okay if the opening is sales or operations or some other  functional area with direct bottom-line responsibility. But what about support functions?”

No problem. Say you’re interviewing a candidate for an HR job. Here’s how it could go:

“What one skill do you possess that will most impact our bottom line?” you ask.


Avoid Hiring a Bad Candidate Because They Are a Good Interviewer

Beyond the interview, have  the companies considered what they are getting as a result of those interviews. The people that do well in these interviews are likely the ones best at reading the interviewer and becoming what the interviewer wants rather than the best for the actual work.  If I had a dollar for every time I heard a “he/she interviewed great, but was a disaster” story I would never have to work a day again. The “bad hire” is one of the posts that you see all too frequently on Linked in, usually with somebody trying to push some sort of magic solution. Typically the real problem gets ignored.


Spying on people on their social media sites isn’t going to tell you what you really need to know, i/e how well they do the job. Yes you might find that the job seeker does things that you might not approve of.  Frankly everybody has rocks that they may not want every body turning over.  If the people in HR are going into job seeker’s social media pages, would they reciprocate? For everybody that the job seeker could potentially be working with. Violation of their privacy? Well what about the jobseeker?

How to Ethically Screen Candidates on Facebook

What I see happening across the entire hiring process is that it is becoming increasingly adversarial.  All too frequently, the various people involved are treating prospective and new hires as some sort of potential threat, or even an enemy. All too frequently management is now acting as if  potential new hires need to be treated as badly as possible so that they go away as quickly as possible and don’t bother them anymore.  This seems to be reinforced by the people providing services to HR and other hiring authorities.

The way I keep hearing managers and recruiters talk lately, it’s as it they are going to battle with their prospective employees.  Don’t any of them see the downsides to this?  Especially when all the complaints are about “bad hires” and people who just up and leave after six months or so.  Here’s a clue, they probably aren’t leaving because of the money.

Even if you get a thousand resumes for every job you post, you still want to sell your company to the prospective employees. Your goal as a hiring manager or recruiter should be to make everyone who applies to your company feel as wanted as possible.  The fact is that the way things are now aren’t going to  last forever, but the your bad practices and the bad feelings that those practices may indeed last far longer than you think.


The company brand is something that many companies will go to great lengths to protect from damage.  Yet many of those same companies have recruiting processes that effectively torture a prospective job seeker or even simply just brush them off. In doing so, you risk the ill feeling and tarnishing of your brand that your treatment of job seekers likely engenders.  Look at it this way?  Each of those job seekers probably has about 100 friends and associates that they may talk to, so that 1000 applicants is 100,000 people that are just a little less likely to look upon your brand with favor.  Even worse, all those 100,000 have 100 more friends that they talk to.  Along with social media.  This is how stuff goes viral and all it takes is one abused job seeker dragging your company through the mud.

One would think that the consequences of what they were doing to the people that want to work for them would be obvious.  There even endless articles from the likes of Liz Ryan where people go on at lengths about their bad interview experiences and how it left them feeling about the company they just applied to. Yet the companies by and large continue to behave as if it’s all about them. The problem is that collective narcissism is no more attractive than individual narcissism and the hiring system as it is now is selecting for the narcissists and sociopaths among us rather than the people who just want to work hard and get the job done.

One comment

  1. Joe Wooten · November 21, 2016

    I had an interview similar to the first one you described about 14 years ago. I was led into a conference room where I was left alone for over 30 minutes, and then a young HR (about 25 to 27 yrs old) woman then started asking a series of inane, out-of-left-field questions that had nothing to do with mechanical engineering design (the job I was interviewing for). After an hour of this BS, I finally stood up and told her I was not interested in working for her company, as they were not serious about hiring an engineer. She said nothing about my qualifications, experience and past employment.

    I found out several years later that company went bankrupt. I interviewed there only because a friend worked there and recommended me to get a possible recruiting bonus. He told me later the HR department was called the “Kiddie Corps” by all the employees and roundly detested for their incompetence.


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