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No, They Don’t Want To Hire You

May 12, 2016

Rodney, you’ve interviewed before, right?

Ah. . .you mean for a job, or interviewed someone else for a job?

Steve is a programmer. He’s a good systems developer. He’s built our RightNow system. It’s a database system that lets our clients manage their social interactions. I’m not going to explain it more than that, because honestly, I don’t understand it very well. But, Steve understands it. He’s been so successful at building the system that he now needs some help. Like me, Steve is the only one who does what he does for our company. It makes it a little difficult for Steve to have a life.

We’ve joked about taking our phones with us on camping trips. (Steve is also a scout leader, but for a different troop.) We’ve laughed about having to take support calls during church. Steve is getting some backup. I hate Steve. Okay, I don’t hate Steve. He’s a great guy and I enjoy sitting next to him. But, I envy him a little, that he will now be able to plan hiking trips without first checking cell phone coverage in Utah’s canyons. 

But, Steve has a problem. He’s never had to interview someone before. To his credit, he understands that interviewing is a skill. It’s not just a conversation you have with a prospective employee for an hour. Interviews are structured. When done well, they are designed to follow a particular pattern and answer some very specific questions. 

I’ve interviewed a lot of people in my career. I’m not sure if I’m good at it or not, but I have experience, and that counts for something. The biggest surprise to me as a hiring manager was that the interview process is not designed to help you find who you want to hire. It’s designed to help you figure out who you don’t want to hire. 

Several years ago, I was in a position where we were hiring interns. Or specifically, I needed to hire one intern. My company was hiring several, so we took a trip to BYU-Idaho in Rexburg, ID. The university had already done the pre-screening. They had our job descriptions and had collected a group of resumes from prospective interns. Our job was to do in-person interviews and then later make offers to the candidates we wanted to bring on as interns. 

This is easy, right? As the person sitting on the other side of the desk, haven’t you at times envied your interviewer? They hold your fate in their hands. People say that interviewing is a two way street. The company decides if you are a good fit for them and you decide if they are a good fit for you. I think those people are delusional. I don’t know anyone who sat through an interview, got the offer and said, “I’m going to have to pass. You guys just aren’t what I’m looking for.” 

By the time you’ve made it to the interview, you’ve got a good idea if you want to work for the company and the answer is,

 “YES, I WANT THIS JOB! PLEASE HIRE ME!!”

But, there sits your interviewer holding all the cards. No, the interview process is pretty much a one way street. The interviewer is deciding who he (or she) wants to hire. Except they aren’t. As I sat down with a stack of resumes, I realized that my task was not to find whom to hire. It was to figure out whom not to hire. 

The candidates that the school had screened for us, were some of the best and the brightest. These were students who were pursuing technical degrees and any one of them would be a great addition to our staff. And that was the problem. ANY ONE of them. I could have taken the resume off the top of the stack and said, “This is all I need, ” and made a great hire. 

But, I had to go through the process. I had to give everyone an equal chance. I had to figure out how to get from 20 resumes down to a single resume. I didn’t need to figure out which person to hire. I needed to figure out which 19 people not to hire. Some were easy. 

  • If you didn’t appear to really want the job during the interview? You’re out. 
  • If you were rude in the interview? You’re out.

But, I still had a list of people. Now what?

  • If you were not dressed “professionally”? You’re out.
  • If you didn’t appear to have a clue what the position you were applied get for was? You’re out.
  • If you mispeled ANYTHING on your resume? You’re out.

It was a very difficult exercise. Now, don’t shed any tears for me. I completely understand that I had the easy task in this exchange. I was going to give someone a job they really wanted. All I had to do was read through some resumes. It’s not like my job was on the line. But, still, I was surprised at what petty things I was willing to use to exclude someone. As the person being interviewed, I’d often heard that misspelling something on your resume was a cardinal sin. It had always seemed petty and irrelevant. After all, if I’m applying for a programmer position, what difference does it make if I type, 

I recieved straight A’s in my programming classes,

as opposed to,

I received straight A’s in my programming classes.

Either way, I’m telling you that I am a top notch programmer. Isn’t that the point? 

No. The point is that you are up against other applicants who also received high marks in their programming classes. And I need some way to tell you apart. Either one of you would be a great addition, but I can only take one and I need a way to decide. I’m not trying to figure out why I should hire you. I’m trying to figure out some reason that you are one of the 19 that I can dismiss. I’m looking for a reason not to hire you. If you really want the job, don’t give me a reason. 

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday at 7:00 AM Mountain Time. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

Follow him on
Twitter (@rodneymbliss
Facebook (www.facebook.com/rbliss
LinkedIn (www.LinkedIn.com/in/rbliss)
or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2016 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

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