I believe most hiring managers are really bad at interviewing. This has been my personal experience and my experience as an HR executive.
Don’t believe me? Take an informal poll. Ask the next manager you meet (not in an interview of course!) whether they like interviewing people and whether they think they are good at it. I bet my next paycheck they say they hate interviewing and think they are probably pretty bad at it.
Are you surprised? Most people are. It is the dirty little secret of the hiring process.
Interviewing is a power situation. Usually the interviewer has the power and the candidate is subordinate. In any power situation it is natural to assume the powerful person is also good at his or her job. Not always the case.
If you (the candidate) are good at interviewing, can you have an advantage over the supposedly powerful interviewer? You bet.
First you have to recognize the potential crack in the power structure.
How can you recognize this opportunity when you are in the midst of palm-sweating nerves about your upcoming interview? By being calm, confident, and aware of what is going on around you!
I have some experience with this. I think there are 3 basic ways to spot a hiring manager who is bad at interviewing:
- They tell you. In one interview the manager said to me at the very beginning, “I really hate interviews and I am not good at it so what do I need to know about you?” I shared my “tell me about yourself” then he said, “Great. Now let me tell you about this company.” And he proceeded to spend the next hour telling me everything I wanted to know and more about the company. I took the job!
- They talk too much. In another interview early in my career I interviewed with four people who would be the boss and three colleagues. None of them asked me questions about my background. Instead they talked non-stop for hours. I nodded, uh-huh-ed, smiled, and agreed through every interview. They loved me. I took that job too!
- They ask questions from the standard list of Frequently Asked Questions. In an interview for a low level HR position early in my career the Director of Human Resources asked only questions from the FAQs. I was totally prepared. I practiced ahead of time. I knew exactly what I wanted to say. The words rolled off my tongue exactly like I wanted. He accused me of sounding rehearsed. In my head I said, “uh-oh”, but my mouth said, “Of course I am rehearsed. I know exactly what to say because I thought this through ahead of time. Don’t you expect a good HR person to be prepared in every situation?” I took that job too!
I remember these interviews as if they were yesterday. I was able to read the situation and sense my opportunity because I was prepared. I never considered an interview to be a discrete event but as a way to get what I want. Sometimes I want information, sometimes I want to understand more about the people I would be working with, and sometimes I want to give the interviewer what he or she wants.
By being prepared you too can take advantage of opportunities presented by hiring managers who are really bad at interviewing.