Question

What do you think of managers who interview by talking a blue streak? I interviewed with the VP of Technology in a good company. I followed your advice about how to gently take control of an interview. Even before I sat down I said, “You are in a tough business. What challenges does the company face in the months ahead?”

He answered in about five minutes then he talked non-stop about the position, himself and his company. When he finally finished I asked a few questions, but he kept looking at his watch. I didn’t get to say much.

At the end he said he wanted to make a decision within a week, and that the finalist would have to take two hours of psychological tests. I tried to “do the job in the interview,” as you recommend, but it didn’t seem to work. Now, what do you think?

Nick’s Reply

manager talked blue streakIf the manager talked a blue streak during your interview, I think the manager should let someone else do the interviewing.

He knows next to nothing about you after such an interview. He likely will make a hiring decision based on (a) the little you revealed about how you could help him, and (b) the phase of the moon, because he probably doesn’t have any other information other than your resume. In not having a real discussion with you and in not evaluating your ability to do the work when he had the chance, he revealed poor management habits.

If you’re hired, it will likely be for the wrong reasons. Once you’re on board, you’ll probably get as much of his attention as you did in the interview process. Is this someone you want to work for? He’s an example of what’s wrong with too many American businesses.

I’d sit for two hours of psychological testing only if they paid me my going hourly rate, whether I got the job or not. Before you do such testing, check last week’s edition and here.

Stories like this burn me up when I consider how much time is wasted. I think the best way to profit from an experience like this it to use it as a basis to judge the manager and the company. The manager didn’t just say a lot; he revealed a lot — probably all you need to know!

My advice: Look for managers who can articulate in detail the problems and challenges they face, and who then let you show how you will do the job. In a good interview, both parties roll up their sleeves and work together. It’s a back-and-forth, not a speech.

Other matters may be important, but the work comes first in a job interview. If it doesn’t, I think you’re probably talking to the wrong company.

This is a good example of “meta data” about a company. That is, data that provides context for everything else you learn about it. For example, this manager’s method of “interviewing” affects his department’s success every day. It tells you a lot about the company’s prospects. What kind of meta data have you gleaned in a job interview that helped you judge a job opportunity?

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11 Comments
  1. I have found interviewers that have talked a lot in the interview to be just checking the interview off their list and not really be interested in hiring me, otherwise they would have asked more questions or had a dialogue. No next steps later. I realized later that I should have stopped them in their tracks and ask them if they are really interested in knowing what I have to offer; otherwise I can say I am not sure this is the best use of my time. It would take assertiveness but how else will they possibly change.

  2. You can’t get mad at these situations. This was your warning of what it’s like to work there. I think too often people are focused on pleasing the interviewer and entirely ignore what it would be like to put up with this 40 hours a week of this unprofessional treatment for years. I would never sit for test of any kind in a job interview, because I find it insulting, pointless, and it shows they are not a dynamic environment.

    • You are so right. Having been a hiring manager long ago…the organization needs YOU to accomplish its mission, or they wouldn’t be hiring. People should think of the interview more like a first date–not like a desperate beggar approaching the throne for a handout.

      I know that can be difficult when the mortgage needs to be paid. Avoiding unnecessary debt and/or saving a little “go to hell” money will help immensely.

      • @Catherine: It’s hard for job seekers to accept that – the Employment System really does brainwash us into behaving like beggars hoping for a random handout.

  3. I had one of those recently. To be fair and honest, Two minutes in I didn’t want the job, nor would I have taken it as a “one and done” copywriting contract.

    Back several years off resume I lived in a city where a major online sales start-up had imploded spectacularly and publicly. We’ll call them “Failed Order Dot Com” to protect the guilty. For years afterward you could always tell when former managers from Failed Order were interviewing. They would start in about what a great job they had done at Failed Order, how it was a great place to work, and if only the minions would have tolerated the bounced paychecks a while longer they would have had success …

    At the end of an hour, the interviewee would know they were from Failed Order, and they would know less about the interviewee than when they started.

  4. In my past experience interviewers who took over like that were often not prepared for the interview, lacked a deep understanding of how to interview, and were just winging it. Like those who already commented, not a place where individuals are treated carefully with mutual respect. Learn more to see if this is unusual there or leave it alone if offered a position with this person or department.

  5. This makes me wonder why they don’t skip the interview and just see who sticks around for two hours of psychological tests. Run. Away. Give feedback if you have the opportunity, but do it while running.

  6. The psychological tests some employers use from such services as Predictive Index can be quite stressful by design. They are styled to evaluate your performance under strict time pressure along with deliberately incorrect answers and facts. In short, it can be a very unsatisfactory experience and worst of all you may never know how you did. If you do one, insist on getting post test feedback and access to the results for other prospective employers’ use.

  7. As a hiring manager, you have 2 objectives in an interview: 1 find out about the person you are interviewing and 2 sell the guy on wanting to work for you. The person who asked the question did not mention whether he had been interviewed by others. If he had, maybe the talker was not going to make the final decision. His job was to be the salesman.

  8. Every time an future employer test a new potential job prospect the employer is in fear. The employer need to control the narrative. The employer maybe not understanding the market conditions.

  9. I’ve been in interviews where the interviewer talked a lot, including saying things they probably shouldn’t have said. One example of that was when an HR person told me that all she asked was for a person to stay in the job for a year.(!) I wish I could remember the job and the company.

    Another time, I asked if the position was new, and I was told they were planning to fire the incumbent and were looking for a replacement. At least they told me the truth, but, should that type of information have been disclosed to an applicant? What if I’d known the incumbent? Anyway, I wasn’t hired.

    One thing I try to ask, when talking to the hiring manager, is what his/her/their top 3 priorities are for the position. If they can’t answer that, or haven’t already answered it when questioning me, red flag!

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