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It wasn’t quite as rude as I was hoping but nonetheless, it highlighted the fact that interviewers can be very impolite. Typical examples of such bad manners are: keeping the candidate waiting; not reading their CVs before the interview commences; checking their watch in a not-very-subtle attempt at concluding the interview; and not turning up but sending a (clearly) more junior replacement.
Having been on the receiving end of this kind of treatment in the past, it is rather offensive. I am reminded of the time I attended an interview and as an ice breaker one of my interviewers asked me how my maternity leave was going. As I wasn’t on maternity leave and hadn’t ever been on maternity leave, I had to work hard at not creating an arctic atmosphere whilst working my face into an ‘amused’ expression rather than displaying the scathing, disgusted scowl I really wanted to exhibit. We both pretended to laugh it off. However, things went from bad to worse as she struggled through the interview, nodding sagely and writing furiously as I took her through my career history in a pathetic attempt at pretending she hadn’t muddled me up with another candidate whose CV was in front of her. Meanwhile her co-pilot looked at a blank writing pad in front of him. I think he had forgotten to bring a pen.
And then there was the time I attended an interview for a recruitment job whilst I was tentatively considering taking a leap out of private practice and into legal recruitment. My interviewer (a legal recruitment consultant) left a message on my phone four days later asking me how my career was going and whether I would be interested in moving to a larger firm as he was working on a great role. I congratulated myself on what had clearly been a remarkable interview performance.
However, I have now been working in the recruitment industry long enough to know that the examples of bad manners given in my opening paragraph are very common indeed in the legal world. But what can we take from this? Are these interviewers really not interested in hiring you? If so, why bother making you go to the expense of taking time off work, making travel arrangements and taking time to prepare for the interview in the first place?
Actually, this type of thing often happens when the recruiting partner is actually desperate to hire someone and their apparent indifference towards you is actually a result of extreme work pressures. Quite frequently, the interviewers are so snowed under with work that he or she hasn’t had time to prepare properly for your interview and they could do without that hour of interview time away from their desk. Whilst you are politely answering their questions, they could be wondering if one of the firm’s key clients is about to ditch them because they aren’t turning the work around quick enough. You however, can be their beacon of hope. The solution to alleviating the pressure and lighten the load. Don’t just blithely answer questions like a robot – sell yourself and what you can do to help. Yes, you can trot out that you are proactive, a self starter, a team player, technically able, a good problem solver, not to mention solutions orientated and commercially focused. But stating that in a monotone pre- prepared fashion isn’t going to get you the job. Being enthusiastic about your work (particularly in the areas that are aligned to your potential employer’s scope of work) and demonstrating drive, ambition and energy just might!
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