The Other Side of the Desk: From an Interviewer’s Perspective

by Sean O’Brien, Head Editor, INALJ Colorado

The Other Side of the Desk: From an Interviewer’s Perspective

seanobrienThe fall semester is here, which means I have just finished yet another round of student worker interviews. I’ve been doing this for a little while now, and I’ve interviewed quite a few candidates. Some interviews have gone well, and some have gone less well. However, they have all taught me something about both sides of the process. For this month’s post I thought I would talk a little bit about the things I’ve grown to think about as an interviewer, and explain my reasoning for doing so.

It’s Not What You Say, So Much as How You Say It

Most of my questions are open ended. Tell me about this job you had. What did you like about it? What didn’t you like about it? The truth is that I’m not looking for any specific answer. What I’m looking for is whether or not a candidate can think on their feet, especially when they’re a little nervous. Because, you know, I hire for a front desk position, where patrons may be asking questions no one has heard until now. What’s more? They may not be happy about it. I like to know that someone can roll with the punches.

A Little Politeness Goes a Long Way

I understand that interviewing is stressful. Honestly, it is for everyone involved. So please don’t snap at me if I ask a question you don’t like. As the previous paragraph says, I’m just trying to get a feel for your capabilities. If we’re locking horns before you even have the job, it’s hard to not visualizing you being a huge pain to instruct. God forbid I have to correct you at some point.  I don’t like having to fire people, so if I can reasonably see that in your future, I’ll save myself the trouble and won’t hire you.

Be Graceful about Your Exes

Ex-bosses, that is. Sometimes you don’t like your boss. Sometimes they’re just a poor fit for supervisor, sometimes you’re not the best employee. Sometimes you’re both in a situation you’re not really happy about. Sometimes your boss is legitimately just completely awful. I’ve been in all of these situations, so I really know what it’s like. But just like on a first date, you don’t rant about your exes. This early in the game, I have no idea knowing who was really at fault. What’s worse is that I’m visualizing again. When you use the phrase “micromanaging,” I’m thinking about all of the policies and minutia that I have to drill into your head over the next few months.  Because that’s my job. We’re all just doing what we have to do, man.

Punctuality Can Wander in Either Direction

Be a little early for the interview, right? Everyone knows that. Five to ten minutes lets me know you’re here and ready to go, and lets both of us start mentally preparing ourselves. Thirty minutes early is a problem. First thing I’m going to do is have you take a seat somewhere else.  Not because I’m being rude or punishing you somehow, but because I’ve scheduled out other tasks for that time period. I might even still be interviewing another person. Awkward, right?  Plus, for the next thirty minutes I’m going to be quietly worrying about how uncomfortable it is that I’m doing other stuff while you wait in the common area.

I know that sometimes you get to a place quicker than you mean to. Sometimes the traffic gods open their arms, and it’s green lights all the way. But if you’re super early, you may want to take a few minutes to wander around the facility. Not only will this give you some questions to ask later, but it will make it look like you planned it all out. Plus I won’t be all weird when we finally talk.

Double Check That Application

When you’re finished with your application, read through it a couple of times. Free of spelling and grammatical errors? Check. Remembered to list all of your contact information? Double check. Most importantly, does everything make sense? Does your work history add up? Are there any statements or phrasing that would make you scratch your head if someone else wrote them? Pretend the document was turned into your office, and read it as if you’ve never met the person. If anything strikes you as particularly bizarre, edit or remove it.

Tell Me a Story

It says here on your application that you have great organization and communication skills. Awesome. That’s just what I’m looking for in a candidate. Though, being the savvy and educated professional that I like to pretend that I am, I’m sort of a general skeptic. If I see some radical claim in the news, I like to see the sources. “Show Hulk citation list,” the Credible Hulk would bellow, before nonchalantly wiping a speck of dust from his glasses. So don’t just tell me that you have “excellent circus skills.” Tell me about the time you taught a bear to ride a unicycle. Show me a scar you got from falling off the tightrope. Come in juggling.