Benny and his friend Griffin at Ocean Beach in San Francisco.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Science of Interviewing

You'd think this tough economy would knock the stuffing out of the more obviously psychotic job seekers. I'm reading about job candidates rejected for minor typos and taking 10 minutes to return a call. But apparently some nutcases are still landing job interviews, and a few are using the opportunity to conduct elegant psychology experiments on their prospective bosses.

One of my favorite blogs, Ask a Manager, has this job search tip from a reader. This person likes to call a half hour before a scheduled interview, say he's running late and asks to reschedule. (After reading the post, don't forget to check out the comments.)

Once the rescheduled interview begins, this veteran job candidate will narrowly observe the interviewer's response. The best managers, in his worldview, will immediately gush about his thoughtfulness in calling to reschedule when he realized he was running late. Subpar managers will simply ignore his thoughtfulness, or worse, actually have the nerve to be annoyed that he was late.

Ask a Manager treats this suggestion with the disdain it deserves, and at first glance, I also wondered if this guy also expects a standing ovation for breathing in and out. But perhaps I'm being churlish. This is a whole new job-hunting paradigm, my friends, and the old habits of punctuality may be hopelessly passe.

So I've developed my own set of experiments for the discerning job seeker:

- Interview for a job that is strictly on-site and in-office located 3,000 miles from your home.
- Bring a laptop.
- Whenever the interview mentions a duty you must perform, flip open the laptop and cry "Why, I can do that at home! See, I have headline-writing software right here! Look, I'm instant-messaging you right now!"
- A good manager will be instantly impressed and offer a telecommuting job and extra benefits. Subpar managers will insist you actually edit articles in the newsroom.

- Arrive 40 minutes early to interview.
- Demand to receptionist that you be seen immediately.
- Deduct points for every minute you must wait for the interviewer to appear.
- Deduct points if there are no interesting magazines in the reception area.
- Deduct points if the receptionist does not offer you a lemon diet Snapple.
- Good managers will arrive instantly and apologize profusely for keeping you waiting. Bad managers will make you wait or worse, be absent from the building entirely 40 minutes before a scheduled interview.

- Submit resume and land an interview.
- Arrive on time and professionally dressed.
- As soon as the office door is closed, announce that the resume you submitted is a "decoy." You are only comfortable releasing professional information in person. Hand out a copy of your actual resume.
- Allow interviewer 15 minutes to read resume.
- Eat resume.
- A good manager will value your discretion and prudence in these dangerous times. A bad manager will show you the door and thereafter refer to you as "Secret Squirrel" among his or her colleagues.

This mindset reminds me of a hilarious sales columnist who used to run in the Business Times. His mantra was "Don't sell, make them want to buy!" One of his cold-calling tips was to hang up halfway through leaving a voicemail message to whet their appetite. (Presumably he did this after saying his name and number.)

It's a brave new world. Feel free to suggest your own experiments.

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