INTERVIEWER VS. INTERVIEWEE: Who is interviewing who?

This very question has become a debated topic amongst recruiters, HR professionals and managers – basically anyone involved in the interviewing process. As we well know, traditionally the old standard was you apply for a job and become an applicant, if lucky enough to get chosen from the applicant pile you became a viable candidate, one worth interviewing at least. 


The interview stage, this is where candidates stress and prepare themselves for the opportunity to present their best and prove to the interviewer that they are the best hire from all other candidates being interviewed.


Here is my question: What about the other interview that should happen simultaneously?


No, I am not talking about the “couple” of questions interviewee’s regularly ask: timeline for hiring decision, what’s the company culture like etc. I mean, real questions that uncover the true answers as to how a company functions, thus enabling a candidate to make their very own informed decision too.


I remember back when I was called for an interview on a position I had applied for almost 3 months prior to the call (wow slow process!) …I think the HR person on the other end of phone didn’t know what to make of me – how so? Well, I had a few questions for her right off the bat around their job posting and asked her if I could get some clarification on it. Why the heck would I do that you ask? Because the answers to those questions would determine whether or not I was going to accept the offer of a face 2 face interview.


This too seemed to surprise the person on the phone as they responded with a mumbled “sure” I could ask a few questions. Her answers were ok and I was still interested in seeing what their interview process would be like, so I said “Ok, thank you – yes I would like to move ahead with our face to face interview and uncover if we have a fit.” Hmmm….there was dead silence on the other end. I said, “Hello, are you still there?” To which I received the response, “Um, who do you mean by ‘we’ – who else are you bringing to this interview?” The tone in her voice was clearly unimpressed and very flatly asking – “who the heck are you?”


Now I had to stifle a laugh at this moment and replied, “No one, the ‘we’ I am speaking of is you and I. We are both determining if I am a fit for your role and organization, as well as if the role and organization is a fit for me.” This too was followed with silence from the other end of the receiver and then a, “oh, I see. Fine, we will see you on…..” and she confirmed the date and time.


That night I played our conversation over and over again in my head. It was clear that my forwardness about both of us (myself and the organization) were in a screening stage didn’t sit too well with her. Which made me review her responses to my questions about the role and the organization and led me to believe this was not the “forwarding thinking” environment they promoted themselves as – not to mention the role would report to her.


Next morning I called her and kindly declined the interview.


If things really are progressing into a workforce shortage market, I strongly recommend we as interviewers prepare to be interviewed in return. And not with basic introductory questions – but with the same situational assessment based questioning we use.


Have you had a similar experience as a candidate or an interviewer? What did you do and what was the result?



Views: 4332

Comment by Valentino Martinez on August 2, 2011 at 1:24pm

That's a funny conversation to have with an employer rep.  Not funny, HA HA, but funny because it actually happens--and it does, because the employer rep or hiring manager doesn't get it.  Why?  Well, because some employer reps/hiring managers are so used to aggressive job applicants being grateful for the opportunity to interview that they’re taken aback when one actually asks unexpected, insightful questions (that some may opt to take the 5th in response). 

The difference, as you so aptly describe, Lisa, is that some job applicants are actually selective in choosing their future employer.  I often remind hiring managers & HR types who will soon be speaking to one of my referrals—that “this candidate is highly qualified, and would be a good fit—BUT is not totally sold on leaving their current employer.  So a bit of selling may be required on your end…otherwise you may scare her/him away.”

It always amuses me the ARROGANCE some employers operate on—as if they’re God’s gift (don’t get me started).  I’m particularly sensitive to “C” operating employers who demand “A” proven/capable candidates.

Comment by Paul S. Gumbinner on August 2, 2011 at 2:25pm

I almost always tell my candidates that an interview is a two way process.  They have every right to ask tough questions.  They should be asking these questions of both HR and the hiring managers they meet.  If the answers diverge, they should know that there is an issue and them must get to understand the problem.  I have very little fall off as a result.  Companies try to hide bad news.  I have never understood why they are not honest with a recruiter.  There are plenty of candidates who like dealing with tough situations and tough bosses.  If I know going in that this is the case, I can recruit against it.


If a company wants to have a good hire, they should encourage candidates to ask tough questions and give them direct and honest answers.  I always tell my candidates that it is their interview too.  Lisa, you obviously have good instincts.

Comment by StaffingStarr on August 2, 2011 at 2:27pm

This is a "Five Star" article, Lisa!  Great job!  During my interview prep with my candidates, they're always shocked when I tell them to make sure they "interview the company/interviewer".  I feel that I have to "rewire" their thinking, and empower them to value their skills, experience, etc. that they're bringing to the table.  I compare my job and the hiring process to matchmaking and dating.  Both parties have to figure out if they want to be in a long-term relationship with one another.

Valentino, I agree with everything in your comments.  I've always asked for selling points from the hiring manager to share with my candidates, but I've never asked them to sell it to the candidates.  This is brilliant! It shifts some of the burden of selling the opportunity/company to the hiring manager/employer.  I'm going to start using this right away!

Comment by Sandra McCartt on August 2, 2011 at 4:21pm

My friend Thomas Chuna (recruiter, job coach and frequest poster here) has the best i have ever heard.  I have plagarized it with his permission and use it with every candidate i work with.


"An interview is a business discussion between two  or more business people". 


Keeping this mind set has helped my candidates approach an interview without a lot of the nervous stuff and the feeling that they are like a bug being examined under a microscope.  One even used it at the beginning of his interview.  Said it set a tone that went very well.  Both he and the interviewer relaxed and had a great "business discussion".  Forget who is interviewing whom and make it a business meeting between two professional people.   Thanks Tom!

Comment by Lisa Switzer on August 2, 2011 at 4:51pm

@ all - you got it...the more an organization tries to "hide" things the more I get confused when they don't understand their disappointing turnover rates. 


@ Sandra - LOVE that quote!! 

Comment by Valentino Martinez on August 2, 2011 at 5:18pm


While it’s understood the employer will do their evaluation of a candidate to their satisfaction, I make the point that this is a gainfully employed “passive” candidate who I was able to convince to consider your job opportunity.  So don’t confuse this candidate with say the one who desperately wants to work for you.  They are not going to come across the table at you.  They will have pointed questions about this job only you, the hiring manager, can answer.  Remember, it’s our dime—I called them representing you.  They will respond to your questions regarding their qualifications, but don’t take it personal if is seems they’re interviewing you—because they are.  They still need to be sold on the opportunity.  Look at it this way—if they fit the bill relative to what you’re looking for, then let’s try to steal them away from their current employer. 

Outstanding candidates are “outstanding” for a reason and many know they're in demand.  As the front-end recruiting professional--I've done the sourcing, pre-screening and have already started the WOOING process.  My worry is that if I pass the candidate forward to WIMPY or GRUMPY...all can be lost.

So, I’m happy to remind a hiring manager and/or HR rep—confirm the fit and then begin the wooing process. I've seen outstanding candidates pull-out of the evaluation process simply because someone wanted to conduct a STRESS INTERVIEW so that the candidate involved actually told it me, "It felt like the Spanish Inquisition...I have a great job...who needs this crap?"


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