It wasn’t that long ago. 2007. I was desperate for a job. I had my previous work experience memorized, and could throw out my greatest weakness as fast as the interviewer could ask for it. Yes, I said I was a perfectionist, too. There are few things quite like the job interview. The preparation alone is a killer. Are you wearing the right clothes? Do you know enough about the company? What questions will they ask?
4 years later, and I am the one doing the interviews. I schedule at least two every week. The economy is struggling, but every person running a business will make room if they find the right person. There are many, many articles, blogs and “how to” guides for interviews. This isn’t one of them. But, if by me opening up about what an interviewer is thinking helps you nail an interview, that works, too.
When I got my first retail store, back in 2009, I was immediately challenged by my boss to start recruiting and hiring talent. The problem was that the last interview that I had seen was when the company had interviewed me two years before. I wasn’t sure what to look for, but I figured that I would just start interviewing and it would click.
My first interview as an interviewer was just as stressful for me as when I was looking for a job. Was my desk clean enough? Did I look professional enough? Could I get these questions out correctly? Will I say something that will get me sued? Fortunately, my first interview was quick, and the applicant cared less than most about acquiring the job. After several interviews, I finally found somebody that I thought would be good. I ran it by my boss, and he simply said that he trusted me, and I could bring the applicant on if I wanted to. Then it struck. The employee was a complete bust. They were regularly late. I had to send them home almost daily for dress code violations. They were even late on “Black Friday,” which in the retail world, is the equivalent to putting a cigarette out in your boss’s eye.
I let that employee go, for obvious reasons. But the impact was immeasurable. I had such confidence in my ability to manage. I prided myself on winning people over, and being a leader that people followed. My thought process at that point was that even if somebody wasn’t a good hire, I could make them good. Everybody had the potential to be a winner. I was reading an interview recently where John C. Maxwell, a world-reknown expert on leadership, was asked what his greatest weakness in leadership was. His answer…
Hiring. I’ve made some messes there. That’s because I believe so much in people that I tend to see only the best in them. I believe anyone CAN grow, so I can make a mistake in thinking that everyone WILL grow.
Over the next few months, I went the other direction. My standards skyrocketed, and I wasn’t hiring anybody. I was so fearful of hiring another bust. And let me tell you, from a manager’s perspective, it is much easier to hire somebody than it is to fire somebody.
I finally opened up to my boss about the issue, and he allowed me to sit in on several interviews that he did, and spent about a month coaching me in this area. That time was indispensable, and has greatly helped me. Like I said, I do several interviews per month now. It’s an advantage of working with a company that is growing in these times. I still make sure my desk is clean, and that I look professional, and practice asking questions. And every now and then, I still hire somebody that gives me more headaches than profits.
Most interviewees have no idea the preparation and work that goes into a single interview. The point is that interviews are stressful for the interviewer, too. So, the next time that you’re in an interview, and you feel your palms getting sweaty, just take a deep breath. The interviewer’s hands are sweating, too.