A few years back I was in the process of changing jobs and was successful in terms of gaining an interview with one of the companies I had applied to.
The role was a step up for me, working for a growing company with career opportunities and while the head office was still about a seventy/eighty minutes commute I would only need to be there once or twice a month and my daily commute would only be five to ten minutes a day which would be an added bonus.
I had an 8.00 a.m. interview at the head office so got up at 5.30 a.m. to ensure I would be ready to leave by 6.00 a.m. giving myself plenty of time to arrive considering rush hour traffic or problems on the motorway and arrived in plenty of time for my appointment. Having parked up around the corner, for about ten minutes, so I didn’t arrive too early, I pulled onto the site’s carpark at just after 7.45 a.m. I was directed to reception by security and told to take a seat there and someone would come and get me.
As I walked into reception, I was impressed with the layout and the overall décor, which was nice and bright, with a couple of comfortable settees a coffee table with literature about the company spread on it, including a file with press cuttings and articles in. There was also, a TV screen showing a company video of the company’s achievements and journey so far.
On one of the settees, there was a woman who was obviously also a visitor sitting scrolling through her phone and as I sat myself down, I acknowledged her and said good morning.
She responded in kind but went straight back to her phone making it clear she didn’t want to talk, so I flicked through some of the literature on the coffee table and left her to it.
After about ten minutes when no one had appeared either for me or for her, I started to wonder what was happening but thought well maybe the office day starts at 8.00 so that could be why we hadn’t seen anyone and no-one had come to collect either of us, I had spotted a separate door as a staff entrance so it made some sense that no-one else had come through the reception area.
As the clock headed towards 8.00 a.m. my interview time, I noticed the other lady looking at her watch and appearing to get quite agitated, so at this point, I attempted to make small talk and asked what time her appointment was, I was surprised when she said it was at 7.30 a.m. She then said she had been waiting in reception since 7.25.am and until me arriving she hadn’t seen anyone? I asked if she had a number for the person she was meeting and she said no she just had a name as that’s all the information she had been given about her interview, it was during this conversation that I realised:
1. that she too was there for the same role that I was being interviewed for.
2. they were already running at least 30 minutes late.
3. that they had only scheduled 30 minutes for the interview which was extremely short compared to the norm for the level the role was at.
I also felt it was strange that no one had been to update on why they were running late or what was happening, the reception area was secured so that once you had accessed it you couldn’t get into any other part of the building without an access card the only way out was to go back outside.
As the time got to 8.05 a.m. I went back out to the security team and asked could they chase up what was happening both for myself and for the other candidate, they said they would follow it up and come and let us know, So I went back to reception, and we continued to wait.
Ten minutes later the security guard appeared and said that he was sorry he hadn’t been able to get hold of the person who was interviewing us and it looked like they hadn’t arrived on site yet, but the HR team was now trying to get hold of him and if we wouldn’t mind continuing to wait, they would be with us shortly.
At 8.29 a.m. a man came bursting through the reception doors, didn’t acknowledge either of us, and rushed up the stairs and past us.
A few minutes later a lady appeared and asked our names and then requested the other candidate follow her and told me she would be back in a minute. On her return, she explained that the director who would be conducting the interviews had been stuck in traffic and hadn’t thought to phone ahead but had now arrived and had just started the first interview. She then offered me a coffee which I accepted and was grateful for.
I settled myself in for another thirty minutes wait whilst wondering if the man who had rushed into reception could possibly be the person interviewing us but felt if that was the case that he hadn’t bothered to acknowledge us or comment on his lateness so decided I was just jumping to conclusions.
As the clock ticked on I could feel myself getting frustrated and annoyed at the fact that they appeared to have no regard for how poorly this was portraying the business and no appreciation of others' time and value.
At 9.20 a.m. the first interview finished, and the candidate came back downstairs to leave, and I was taken to the meeting room for my interview. When we got to the room it was empty and the lady who was escorting me looked a bit flustered and asked me to take a seat and she would find out where he (the interviewer had gone). I sat down but could feel my anger getting stronger in me as my indignation rose at being kept waiting yet again for my interview to start.
At 9.30 a.m. he entered the room, no apologies just a quick introduction, and straight into the interview, he asked a couple of questions which I answered and then said something that I instinctively knew meant he was bringing the interview to a close. We had been in the room together for less than twenty minutes in total.
1. I was angry at being kept waiting for an hour and twenty minutes in reception.
2. I was angry that he then kept me waiting for another ten minutes in the meeting room.
3. I was furious that he couldn’t even give me the courtesy of at least the half-hour they had scheduled for each interview.
4. I was annoyed he had given the lady before me 45 minutes of his time and didn’t appear to think I deserved the same courtesy.
5. I assumed that he had decided she was the right candidate for them so wasn’t interested in me.
My assessment was right as his next comment was “well thanks for coming in today.”
Before he had finished the rest of the sentence I had already confirmed to myself all my thoughts were right and that I hadn’t got the role (despite the fact at this point I was no longer sure I wanted it) and as I stood up to shake his hand I very nearly told him exactly what I thought of him and how rude and offensive I had found him, along with how he had managed to change my impression of a professional organisation into one that I believed now was very much wide of the mark. I managed to contain myself and shook his hand ready to leave knowing that I at least had maintained my professionalism and could hold my head up that I hadn’t dropped my own standards.
His next comment blew me away
“So, we will be in touch to arrange for you to meet the regional Manager on the site that you will be managing and get your input into the site and from there make the decision as to whether you feel we are the right fit for you and whether the regional manager agrees that you’re the right fit for us.”
In other words, if the regional manager, agreed the job was mine.
I did go on to have the second meeting and having visited the client site and met the customers, knowing that I could collaborate with them and do a good job I agreed although with some reservations to take the job, but at the back of my mind were several questions/thoughts:
a. How had I got it?
b. My interview wasn’t long enough to impress.
c. It didn’t make sense.
d. Was this the norm for this company in how they treated staff – It didn’t match the public image or the reviews on their service I had seen.
e. The staff I had interacted with had all seemed positive and happy working there.
Several months later in a meeting with the CEO, I raised the issue I had had around my interview and heard the feedback he had received about that day.
1. The interviewer had woken up unwell that day with a stomach issue
2. They had left home later than they intended to but with enough time to arrive on time but had then been caught up in a road traffic accident on the motorway that meant they were late.
3. Due to being ill and rushing they had left their phone at home so had no way of being able to make contact to inform the business they were late.
4. When they arrived, on-site, they had urgent need of the bathroom due to the stomach issue, which is why they raced through reception without stopping.
5. The first interview overran because her answers to the questions asked were flowery and not specific enough for them and had no depth, so they had had to probe more deeply.
6. When I got to the room, and it was empty it was because the interviewer had needed to rush to the bathroom again.
7. My CV had stood out based on the way it was formatted and written.
8. Based on the previous roles they had used their business network connections to reach out and ask about me and had been given glowing references.
9. My answers to the questions were specific and detailed enough for them to recognise I knew what I was talking about and dealt with challenges easily.
10. My interview was as short as it was based on the above and based on the fact the interviewer wasn’t feeling well again and needed to leave, but he had already made up his mind about my abilities which is why he ended the interview instead of pausing it.
11. I had impressed the security team in how polite and calm I had been in my dealings with them chasing up where the interviewer was.
Yes, it could have been managed better on the day and yes, I did get a full apology at a later date from the interviewer not just for the delays on the day but also for his lack of apology on the day, caused by him being distracted by not being well and running so late.
I’m glad I didn’t react on the day as the job/company was definitely the right move for me at the time and went on to support me in progressing my career as well as supporting me through some difficult personal circumstances.
What did I learn?
That sometimes your brain runs away with you, and you start to mind read what other people are thinking when there is no factual evidence.
People’s actions and words don’t always match your way of operating, it doesn’t make them wrong?
There are always at least two sides to every story you tell yourself.
Stepping back and putting a pause in can prevent you from regretting your words, actions, and behaviors.
What in your life have you made up and based your actions on?
How did that situation work out for you?
What could have been an alternative story you could have told yourself to gain a better outcome?