I Was Expecting An Interview -- Not An Interrogation

March 17, 2017

Dear Liz,

I've been working for twenty years so I'm used to most of the corporate nonsense that a job-seeker runs into, but I was surprised by the job interview I attended last week.

The HR person who met me in the lobby was brusque. She had an air about her that signaled "I hate dealing with job applicants, so please don't waste my time."

She took me to a tiny, windowless conference room and left me there. I sat for twenty minutes. I was about to get up and leave when she came back and sat down with her clipboard.

She asked me somewhere between 15 and 20 rapid-fire questions, never looked up from her clipboard and never smiled.

I tried as hard as I could to humanize the interview, but it wasn't going to happen with Miss Frozen leading the conversation!

I thought "Well, she is not the hiring manager -- she's just a screener."

I figured I wouldn't write off the organization without meeting the hiring manager, if I made it that far.

I guess I passed Miss Frozen's gating process because she brought me to the hiring manager's office.

The manager "Karl" is a guy about thirty-five years old, very high-energy and scattered. Karl let me sit in silence in his visitor's chair for ten minutes while he caught up on email. Then he turned to me and asked me "Why should I hire you?"

I said "I would be irresponsible to say you should hire me -- we haven't talked about the job yet. Is this still a good time for us to chat?"

That backed him up. He went into a monologue about his own career and his department and then he asked "So now -- why should I hire you?"

I know fear when I see it. I asked him a few pain-type questions, hoping I could convert the opportunity into a consulting gig and make a little money during my job search.

I knew I didn't want to work for Karl. He wasn't ready to talk about his Business Pain with me, a lowly job applicant.

Karl asked me "If I hire you, what's the biggest deficiency I'm going to have to correct in you?" I almost started laughing at that point.

I said "I speak my mind at inopportune moments," but poor Karl didn't understand what I meant.

He plunged ahead. "Look," he said, "I talk to a lot of job-seekers. You have good experience, but it takes more than good experience to impress me. What makes you better than the other people I'm going to interview for this job?"

I knew I wasn't going to get a better exit cue than that.

"I understand completely, and I wish you and your team all the best!" I said as I stood up and extended my hand for a shake. Karl looked stunned.

"I want you to come back and meet my VP," he said. I just smiled and walked out.

When I got home and listened to my voice mail there was a message from Karl, inviting me to come back and meet his VP. I sent him an email and told him to take me off the list.

I guess it's true that people, like dogs, smell fear and confidence.

Karl must have noticed my confidence because I didn't talk about my background at all or tell him even one Dragon-Slaying Story. I didn't have a chance to. I was expecting a job interview, not an ambush!

If someone is a jerk I'd rather know about it sooner rather than later, so I'm grateful to Karl for making it clear he's not the right boss for me.

I'm unemployed and I don't have a lot of cash reserves, but I know from past experience that the wrong job is worse for me than another month or two of unemployment.

When will these fearful Neanderthal managers disappear from the scene? Karl is an embarrassment to his company, and his HR person is no better.

Thanks for all you do, Liz!


Dear Beatrice,

Great story! You dodged a bullet that day. When you have a minute, I hope you'll stop by Glassdoor and drop a dime on Karl and his HR crony.

Your word to the wise may help someone else avoid an unpleasant few hours by cancelling their job interview before it happens!

The world is changing fast. Poor Karl is limiting his talent pool to self-esteem-challenged people who will put up with his bullying. His HR colleague serves as an early warning system to anyone who comes to an interview hoping for a human conversation.

The more obnoxious, ambush-style interviews a job-seeker attends the more they realize that not every company deserves their talents.

Only the people who get you, deserve you!

All the best,


By: Liz Ryan

Assisting Law Firms & Corporations in Their Search for Exceptional Legal Staff

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