A reader writes:
Approximately a month ago, I applied for a position and was scheduled for an interview with an organization’s HR manager. I had apparently done well on the pre-employement aptitude tests and interviewed well with her. She was great and two hours passed quickly.
Following this interview, I was asked to come in and meet with two other people on the team a week later. One interview was an hour and a half long and the second around 30 minutes. I was also extremely impressed with these two people and apparently they liked me too, since I was asked in for a fourth and final interview with the owner the following week.
I received a very polite email from the owner with a list of over 60 questions in an attached document. The email said to pick 10 and he would only ask those questions from the list. Given how laid back the other interviewers were, I pushed away the thought that this was a test. I spent the evening choosing and preparing answers for the upcoming morning interview.
I really wanted this job, so it is no surprise that I couldn’t sleep for more than two hours. I have only had part-time hours recently, so I normally get a good 8-9 hours of sleep every night.
My brain could not function! I even passed the exit on the drive in, even though I knew the area.
When I sat down, I was informed that he didn’t really plan on asking the questions he emailed, but was more interested in which questions I would choose. We talked for a while and things seemed to be going great, but occasionally I wouldn’t communicate clearly or fumble my answers to his questions, etc. I don’t remember what prompted some of these statements due to lack of sleep, but at one point he said “it sounds like you want me to micromanage you,” and later he said “I’m concerned you will crack under pressure.”
I explained how I had not been able to sleep the night before and apologized that I wasn’t myself. He said he would be choosing between me and one other candidate but again said I seemed to “crack under pressure” and that if I wanted to I could come in the following day once I’ve had some sleep and show him I’m a “tiger.”
I followed up with a thank-you letter afterwards and asked if he could explain further his concerns, but he never responded. I suppose I’ll wait this one out and just hope that if it’s meant to happen, it will! If you have any advice on anything further, I would definitely appreciate it!
Well, the owner sounds like a bit of an ass, you know. You’re focusing on blaming yourself because of the lack of sleep, but please don’t overlook the fact that his behavior was weird and a little rude.
It’s pretty inconsiderate to tell a job candidate “pick 10 questions and I’ll only ask those,” let the person spend possibly hours preparing for those 10 questions (if you’re conscientious, which it sounds like you are), and then say “ha ha, only joking — that was all wasted time, and the whole thing was a trick question.” It doesn’t say anything good about him. It says that (a) he’s inconsiderate, (b) he’s poor enough at hiring that he doesn’t realize that “I’ll limit myself to 10 questions that you pick” says “I’m a bad interviewer,” and (c) he’s not terribly concerned about what you will think of him, which is often a hallmark of people who are unpleasant to work for.
Now, if you’ve otherwise liked what you’ve seen from this company — and if you’ve been rigorous about doing due diligence and exploring whether you really want to work there — it’s possible that this guy just isn’t a great interviewer, who knows. But I’d take this as a sign to dig around a bit more about what it’s like to work for him (if in fact you’d be spending much time working with/for him).
That said … I’m not sure this job is still in play. It sounds like he told you that he had concerns but that you could come back the following day when you were better rested to try again. (Or, to be more precise, to show that you’re a “tiger” — I”m trying hard not to make fun of that because I know some perfectly lovely people talk that way, but oh it is against all I stand for.) But it doesn’t sound like you took him up on that, so he may be figuring that he gave you another opportunity, you didn’t use it, and that’s that.
I know you did email him and ask him more about his concerns, but I’d bet that someone who says “come back tomorrow and show me that you’re a tiger” wants to see you actually come back, not send an email later on.
It might be a case where you need to write it off to an unlucky combination of lack of sleep, a weird interviewer, and a misunderstanding about next steps. But if that doesn’t resonate with you and your sense of the whole thing is that you’re still in the running, you could email your contact there (not him), explain that you’re kicking yourself for not realizing that his offer to come back in was sincere, and ask if it would be helpful to set up another conversation now.