A while ago, I did a post on the trend in video interviews, including those in which the applicant basically responds to pre-set questions. This post is basically a somewhat alarming add-on to that.
Job Interviews That Aren’t Really Interviews
As my earlier post noted, these new-style interviews don’t involve the presence of an interviewer–just the job applicant. One of the problems with this is that it doesn’t fit the accepted definition of an interview, which is:
“a meeting of people face to face, especially for consultation” or “a formal meeting in which one or more persons question, consult, or evaluate another person: a job interview.”
Notice a common theme here? Meeting…consultation…one or more persons question…etc.
So where is the “interview” part of the one-sided arrangement? It ought to be called a pre-screening, which it really is.
HR Demand for One-Sided Job Interview
The item which initially prompted this post came from a blog post shared by Nick Corcodillos (Ask The Headhunter). The individual described how his wife had had an interview with a hiring manager, only to have an HR person step into the middle of the process and demand that she undergo a “one-way, online digital video taping, answer a series of pre-selected ‘screening questions,’ and upload it” somewhere.
When his wife declined to do that, she received an automated “Do Not Reply” notice that rejected her as a candidate–after she had already had a discussion with the hiring manager! That’s just plain stupid.
My bet is that his wife will end up with a job in a much better company, one that “gets” how to treat candidates it’s really interested in hiring. Still, this situation presents a scary prospect. That’s something Corcodillos brings out in his usual, take-no-prisoners style:
“A 2013 ADP survey found that, ‘Consistently across the globe, employers have a significantly more positive impression of how they manage their workforce versus what their employees experience in the workplace.’ ADP concludes that “as a whole, HR does not have a handle on the asset it is hired to manage.'”
He goes on to add: “In short, HR is doing a lousy job at interviewing, and HR seems to think it knows what it’s doing — while employees disagree. HR has cornered the market on stupid.”
And talk about stupid things to do: The email instructions sent to the guy’s wife included this statement: “This is a real interview! Be sure to treat this interview as you would an in-person interview.” Really? That’s what a real interview looks like? You could have fooled me!
You can go along thinking you’re doing well in your job and suddenly discover–maybe in your performance review!–that your boss doesn’t agree. This can happen for many reasons, and you need to be on top of it before things get so bad you can’t “fix” them.
Meeting Performance Expectations
You should have had a clear indication from your boss when you started as to his/her performance expectations. If you didn’t, it would be a good idea to correct that situation ASAP. How can you hit a target you can’t see?
On the other hand, if you did have well-defined performance expectations laid out for you, that doesn’t mean you can just coast along. Circumstances might have altered since you took the job. Priorities could have shifted, conditions within the company could have changed, and so on. Even if your boss neglected to keep you up to date on that, it doesn’t let you off the hook. As a presumably responsible adult, you need to pay attention to changes and how those might affect your job requirements.
Fixating Can Jeopardize Your Job
At some point you might spend a lot of time and energy on a project that you really enjoy and feel great about. However, if you haven’t double-checked how it fits with your boss’s current priorities for your job performance, you might be in for a shock. Misinterpreting or overlooking signs as to what your boss currently considers critical could mean that you’re putting a lot of effort into something he/she doesn’t consider as significant as something else that you’re not doing.
Basically, fixating on work that you think is valuable without comparing it with how your boss views the situation can–in a worst-case scenario–actually jeopardize your job. You might, for instance, have overlooked a project that either would have saved the company money or helped it bring in more money. That could have serious repercussions for your job security!
Don’t Aggravate Your Boss
There are other ways to make your boss unhappy, of course. Some might not be job-threatening, but it wouldn’t hurt to acquaint yourself with them and make sure you’re not guilty of any of them. You could begin by reading an article titled “10 Ways to Tick Off Your Boss Without Even Knowing It” by Jay Steinfeld, CEO of Blinds.com.
Here are some of the things Steinfeld advises you not to do:
- Say that you know something when you really don’t.
- Do exactly as you are told, even when you know it’s wrong.
- Arrive 5 minutes late to meetings.
- Be the same person you were six months ago. My ideal employee is miles from where he or she was personally and professionally in each successive year.
- Tell me you’ll be late on delivering a project on the day that it’s due.
- Whine (about other employees, the weather, traffic, your workload).
I have to say that the one about being late to meetings was one of my pet peeves back in the days when I was the administrative assistant to a vice president. One of his senior staff members was habitually late to meetings and had to be almost dragged away from his phone or computer to get him to the meeting. His attitude appeared to be that no one else’s time was as valuable as his or as important as whatever he decided he should be doing. As a result, he ended up wasting the time of a lot of other people, who definitely didn’t appreciate it!
Probably the big point to remember about “doing what your boss wants” is that you need to make sure you know what that is and check periodically to find out whether something else has superseded it; then put your energy and focus into achieving it as early and as well as you possibly can.
At some time or other, many of you have probably found yourselves in a work situation that was a disaster–or close to it. When that disaster involves a boss who exhibits out-of-control or other toxic behavior, your situation becomes a waking nightmare. The question is: Could you have done something–anything–to avoid that?
Job Search Guidelines Worth Remembering
You might already know some of these, but if you haven’t been keeping them in mind while planning and conducting your job search, it’s time to rethink your approach. At any rate, here are a few points to consider if you hope to avoid disaster in your next job:
- Block desperation with observation: Even if you urgently need a new job, make a conscious effort to keep your powers of observation sharp. You don’t want to overlook signs (including subtle ones) that would suggest proceeding with caution in deciding whether to accept an offer if it comes.
- Investigate as thoroughly and as objectively as you can: Job postings can sometimes sound like dream opportunities you’d be crazy to pass up. After all, companies want to hire someone, not scare candidates away, so they’re usually trying to put their best foot forward. If you want the best available information to make a decision, you need to conduct your due diligence almost as thoroughly as a company does when considering an acquisition.
- Evaluate the elements that are most important to you and rank them in order of priority: For example, if you prize integrity and ethical behavior, you probably won’t be happy working for a company or a boss who acts as if the end justifies any means necessary. On the other hand, if you would rather not travel all the time but don’t mind traveling a fair amount if necessary, a position that’s described as needing 75% travel might not be a problem.
- Pay careful attention to not only what is said but how it’s said–and by whom: Listen and watch before, during and after job interviews to note how your would-be boss interacts with you and those around him/her that already work there. What does he/she say, what tone of voice and/or facial expressions are used, etc.? You want to be sensitive to nuances that might not be really obvious. Someone who speaks disparagingly of people he/she works with or manages might be someone who goes off the rails without provocation.
How Bad Can It Get?
The answer is, pretty bad. A classic case in point is a recent blog post by Nick Corcodillos (Ask The Headhunter). A reader sent in a description of his just-left situation that was horrific. It was so bad that he quit without another job lined up. Part of Corcodillos’ response was: “Please remember a piece of advice my mentor gave me many years ago…: Never work with jerks. As you learned while facing the sick wrath of your boss, It’s the people, Stupid. (No offense intended. We all need to think about that.)” He went on to add, “I compliment you for not resigning on the spot in anger. It’s critical to take time to think, and to act with forethought and grace.”
A much better alternative than struggling with a horrendous work environment, if you can manage it, is to prevent your job search from dumping you into a situation that could be hazardous to your health in more ways than one. Before you decide to accept an offer, ask yourself honestly if you’ve done everything you reasonably could to minimize your risk and maximize your opportunity.
A while ago I mentioned the idea of “canned” video interviews that some companies were instituting in their hiring process (make that screening process). Now I have a first-hand client story that points out some of the perils these interviews pose for job seekers.
One of my clients was required to undergo a video-webcam interview that he expected would contain five questions. After just one question, he found he was unable to continue. He assumed that was due to a technical glitch, but when he contacted their tech support, he was informed that he had completed the interview and it was being processed. Subsequently, he received a rejection notice.
What’s wrong with this picture? He was applying for a position similar to what he does now but at a more well-established company, and his background seemed like a good fit. Obviously,there’s no way to tell whether his answer to the question was good, but what does seem apparent is that, for whatever reason, technology had been used to rule him out as a job candidate.
Challenges of Video Interviews
My client’s experience indicates just one of the challenges of video interviews used for pre-screening candidates: The technology can be inflexible, and you have little chance to influence that. Here are a few more challenges:
- The information available to you before the interview might be inaccurate, incomplete or otherwise not as helpful as it needs to be in order for you to prepare properly.
- Such interviews are completely one-sided. You have no interaction with an interviewer to give you hints on his/her responses, reactions, etc., because there is no interviewer involved at that stage. You also don’t get to ask questions about things it might be important for you to know.
- If you don’t do well when being recorded (visually or audibly), you start the interview with a pre-set handicap that can put you at a distinct disadvantage.
Opportunities of Video Interviews
According to an article by Hannah Morgan titled “Are You Ready For Your Video Interview?” (an interview with Jobvite’s CEO), video interviewing offers some advantages to the job seeker as well as saving a lot of time for recruiters.
“Dan Finnigan says this advancement will help eliminate the ‘black hole’ applicants find themselves in because companies will be able to interview more candidates. The candidate will have the opportunity to review and re-record each answer before submitting them according to Finnigan. This is the equivalent to an open-book test in my mind. There will be no excuse NOT to submit the best interview responses possible. That is, unless the candidate doesn’t review their answers first.”
But what if the system you’re forced to use doesn’t allow you to review and revise your answers or exhibits a glitch that truncates the process? Does that mean you’re pretty much out of luck? At this point, who knows?
These points do suggest, however, that preparation will be as critical as for a more traditional interview–and maybe even more so. Your best bet is to begin by gathering as much information about the company and the position as possible–always a good idea in any case. A key element, of course, is the need to make sure that you are well prepared to present yourself effectively in a visual format (including obvious factors such as hair, clothing, facial expressions, etc.). In addition to that, you need to practice speaking about yourself and make sure you don’t stumble over your words or come off looking/sounding like an idiot.
Will every company move to video interviews? Maybe not, but the more that do, the more challenging you’re likely to find the interview process. Be prepared!