10 Things I Hate About Interviewing With You


12 Sep 10 Things I Hate About Interviewing With You

The other day I wrote about the ten things I hate when interviewing someone. Today I will turn the tables and talk a bit about the things I don’t like to see as an interviewee.

I’ve been involved in evaluating talent and interviewing others for over twenty years. I’ve also been on the other side of the fence, having to interview for positions because society demands that I have a job to earn money for things like food and shelter.

When I am interviewing and I see one of these ten things they serve as a warning for me with regards to the company and the role.

1. Not Treating It Like A Conversation

I’ve said it before: an interview should be a conversation. I didn’t come here for a trivia contest. If knowing the fact that database mirroring wasn’t available until SQL 2005 SP1 is absolutely necessary for day-to-day operations around here then it is likely that this isn’t going to work out for either one of us. Sure, ask me some good questions to see if I’ve ever put my hands on a database, but once you’ve established that, let’s have a conversation.

Would you quiz your date? Then why would you quiz someone during an interview? What’s the point? If you want a trivia champion then recruit folks backstage in the Jeopardy studio.

2. Bad Questions, Like Really Bad Questions

Besides the obvious pointed questions regarding race, age, sex, gender, etc., there are many other useless questions that I hear asked. Where do I see myself in three years? In a mirror, of course, or on YouTube. Unless I’m undead, then probably only on YouTube. My biggest weakness? Kryptonite, and I can’t see through lead either, will that be a problem for me working here?

There are a host of questions that have been used for years. They are bad and you can’t expect an honest response to them at this point. Unless, of course, you think someone will say “no, I don’t work very well under pressure, will that be a problem?”

Would you ask your date the same sort of rote questions that you get asked at an airport? I thought not.

3. Not Knowing Anything About Me

Would it kill you to learn something about me before we meet? The first time you look at my resume should not be as I walk in the door. You should have an idea of my skills, my experience, and how to pronounce my name. If you can’t take the time to learn something about me before I show up in your office then chances are you won’t care to learn much about me to help guide my career, either.

Would you go on a date without knowing something about the person you are meeting?

4. Job Requirements That Are Really Four Jobs

I’ve written before about the many poorly written job requirements that exist. Since job requirements are really just the starting point for a conversation about a role, it makes sense to mention the many times that people show up for an interview only to find out that they are interviewing for a role that has a long laundry list of items. A description of the job duties is good, but a long list of several job duties doesn’t help the employer or the candidate.  If you really do want me to work four jobs, you had better have a budget for four people.

5. Bad Mouthing Others

I’m here to interview for a job, not to be your therapist. I’m sorry if you don’t get along with your boss, or your peers, but telling me about the “people to avoid” before I even work here is not going to win me over.

Can you imagine being on a date and listening to them talk about their ex all night? Dreadful, actually.

6. No Defined Measure Of Success For the Role

Whatever role I am here to interview for should have a defined measure of success. If you can’t tell me what it will take to be successful, then why should you think I want to take on the role at all? Tell me what it will take for you to be happy. Answering “as long as my phone doesn’t ring, I’m happy” is not an acceptable measure of success, either.

If you were on a date, chances are you would talk about things that make you happy, right?

7. No Understanding Of the Role You Are Hiring For

I have no idea why this happens but I often find examples of interviews that are conducted by someone that has no understanding of the role they are hiring for. A great example is database administrator. I would surmise that 99% of the human population have no idea what a DBA does. Most companies feel that they “just need” a DBA at some point and post an ad and hope they can hire someone but they have no idea what they are looking for, and wouldn’t know if a good DBA fell in their lap or not.

You have an idea of a perfect date before you head out the door, shouldn’t you have an idea of who you are looking to hire, too?

8. Argumentative

If you ask me my opinion on something, and I give you my opinion, don’t tell me I am wrong. I’m not here for an argument. Tell me you’d go with another answer or that my answer doesn’t fit the context, but don’t just tell me that I am wrong.

You don’t need to impress me with your knowledge. You have a job opening that I want, that’s enough to impress me.

Would you argue with your date all night?

9. Desperation

Being in a hurry to bring someone on board doesn’t necessarily mean that’s good news for me. If you pressure me to start right away I will have to question why. Sure, it could be that you are expanding. It could also be that you are burning through people in this role.

Would you tell your date that you are looking forward to a wedding, or having kids?

10. Handing Me An Exam

I’m here for an interview, to have a conversation about a role with your company. This isn’t the time to hand me an exam. Let’s face it: if you don’t know me, don’t know how to define success for my role, and have no idea what I do for work, how exactly is it this exam is going to help? Do you honestly feel it is appropriate to hand me a personality exam? Unless you are interviewing with the NSA I don’t believe that exams should be part of the interviewing process, and definitely not during the first round of interviewing.

If you aren’t able to ascertain my logic abilities during a 15 minute conversation do you really believe that an exam is worth the time? What’s the point of taking a test? Should I expect that my daily routine here will involve being handed random examinations? I’m guessing I will need to interact with people, so why can’t you devise a series of questions as part of the conversation in order to ascertain my skill level?

I doubt you would ask you date to take a test, would you?

I’ve written before on the subject of interviewing and hiring. It seems that this topic is one that comes up quite frequently. People are always saying they can’t find good help.

I think the real issue is that they don’t know how to look.

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  • bhupendra

    Like the way you have compared most of the points to being a date which really is the case…

    • sqlrockstar

      Thanks! I’ve always considered he interview to be like a blind date over lunch. Informal, good conversation, just trying to know more about each other.

    • Nex

      Which why the whole interview process is fundamentally flawed, because both sides know they are expected to game the whole thing, painting the words “lies”, “half-truths” and “deceptions” all over the place. For most jobs the entire process is also all too disconnected from the actual job requirements, and there exist entire subsets of people who naturally ace or flunk interviews regardless of their work capability. I’m sure as hell won’t let you what my true flaws really are just because you ask me nicely with a smile.

  • Stephanie B

    Brilliant ! Sounds like most of the interviews I have ever been to.

    Palin – “You just contradicted me”
    Cleese – “No I didn’t”

    • sqlrockstar

      I love that sketch. They have another version too, where the man is in the wrong room and is being yelled at…

      “Look, I came in here for an argument!”
      “Oh, I’m sorry, this is abuse. Arguments are two doors down the hall.”


  • Guest

    Sadly, both sides seem to fall under many of these issues.

  • Tom R

    Worst interview: I was interviewing for a job I’d actually been contracting for for the previous 2 years. The interviewer actually fell asleep during the interview, asked me a surprising number of irrelevant (as in TOTALLY not part of the job description, which I knew, since I’d essentially made the job what it was) – and finally I told him, “Unless you have something relevant to the position to ask me, I’m going to go back and actually do what the position requires of me.”
    Best interview was on a sidewalk in front of a coffee shop in (where else?) Seattle – and consisted of 2 questions:
    1. “Can you do the job or can you learn it?”
    2. “Can you do it without pissing people off?”
    and I realized that no matter what, that’s what all the other interview questions boil down to.

  • Hakim

    Nice article. Don’t agree with you on the test part though. We look for technical skills in our interview process, and we use a simple 4-question test to determine this. Very basic, nothing you’d have to even study for if you have used the technology. Amazing how many people talk the talk, but cannot pass this test. It has turned out to be a very useful tool for us to weed out the technically deficient candidates.

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