After more than two decades in the Executive Search
business, I have learned a lot about what goes into a
successful hire. I try to impart my knowledge to both hiring
managers and candidates. Nevertheless, at many job
interviews I find myself listening to questions that make me
cringe and answers that make me want to cry.
Now it's my turn to talk.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Rules of Engagement

A few months ago, I flew across the country, was picked up at the airport by a young professional woman in a 750 BMW, and drove off with her to a hotel for an “extended conversation.” Sounds like a headhunter behaving badly?  It wasn’t.

 The extended conversation was actually a job interview to determine the woman’s qualifications for an engineering position I was attempting to fill.   The interview took place in the hotel’s lobby with cleaning staff and visitors roaming freely through the area. The hotel was chosen as the interview setting because its proximity to the airport enabled me to meet my strict time constraints.  Immediately after leaving this young woman, I flew another 500 miles to another airport, another interview, another candidate.

As a recruiter, my livelihood depends on meeting unfamiliar individuals, both men and women, in what usually are considered social, non-office settings.  When arranging and conducting such meetings, I am constantly aware that my actions must not only be above reproach, they must appear to be above reproach. Whether you are a hiring manager or a job candidate, in this day when sexual misunderstandings are commonplace, I advise you to share my attentiveness to interview propriety. 

With this in mind, here are some common-sense guidelines:

·          Neither propose nor accept an interview on any floor above the first floor of a hotel. 

·          If an interview must occur when an office is unoccupied, try to make sure there are at least three people participating in the interview.

·          Dress professionally.  Do not comment on any other interview participant’s attire or appearance.

·          Refrain from any discussion of present or past romantic relationships or experiences.

·          Avoid discussion of sexual preferences.

·          Avoid using offensive or suggestive language or humor. 

·          Conclude after-hours interviews by 10 pm.

·          In general, avoid drinking alcoholic beverages during an interview.  During dinner interviews, a glass of wine or beer may be acceptable.  Any candidate who is pressed to have a drink or more than one drink should assume that what is happening is not a job interview.

·          Do not initiate any subsequent social arrangement (date, bar crawl, vacation) of any kind during the course of a job interview.

·          A good rule of thumb is to treat the person seated across from you as you would want your daughter/son/spouse/sibling treated.

The boundaries of acceptable behavior between men and women in the workplace have never been more ambiguous.  When women and men work side-by-side as peers, things happen.  Colleagues lunch together, travel together, share personal conversations and attempts at humor.  Occasionally a flirtation occurs.  Occasionally something more occurs.  Camaraderie? Courtship?  Harassment?  Whatever.  Just make sure “whatever” does not occur on an interview in which you are a participant.

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