interviewers who haven’t even read your resume

A reader writes:

What’s the deal with interviews that consist of a manager asking you to repeat your resume? I’ve been on two interviews for jobs that are sort of middle of the road, not entry-level or management. I get that people are busy and maybe don’t even really read your resume (I guess?) but the two separate companies had the same idea. So….you worked for, at, ? What did you do there? (my resume has a few bullets) Oh and I see you went to X for school, what did you study? WHAT?

I found it hard to maintain my excitement in the interviews and tried my best. No other questions where the answer couldn’t be found in front of them on paper. There are no second interviews either. What is going on here?

What’s going on here is that you had two bad interviewers who don’t take interviewing seriously enough to prepare for it by even reading your resume ahead of time or to think of questions that will actually give them insight into how well you’d do on the job.

Not only is this rude to you, but it’s a really negligent way to approach their own job. If I found out that someone I managed was conducting interviews this way, I’d haul them in for a major talking-to about respect for candidates and why hiring well matters, as well as some serious remedial training. (Of course, I wouldn’t set someone loose as an interviewer in the first place without making sure they knew what they were doing, but far too many companies don’t put much thought into their hiring practices.)

Hiring well is one of the most crucial things a company can do. If they’re messing this up, they’re probably messing up plenty of other things too. I’d consider it a huge red flag.

{ 86 comments… read them below }

  1. Raj*

    I’ve had couple of similar interviews where no thought was put into the process. There was one where the hiring manager said he is looking for someone with a decent technical background, but with strong PM skills. I then met with one of his peers for a telephonic interview, who first asks me to email him my resume while on the call and then goes on to say how the position requires strong technical skills on a daily basis. WTH?

    1. anonymous*

      Every job will have a number of stakeholders (very often represented largely by the interviewers), who all picture the function in the way that best fits their particular needs. It’s pretty normal.

      1. Vicki*

        > Every job will have a number of stakeholders

        I was offered, and accepted, a job that had a 3-page job description and 7 stakeholders (the dept director and 6 managers). The job description was the union of what everyone wanted.

        Unfortunately, after accepting, I discovered that the managers were having turf wars and the job they let me do was the (very small) intersection of what everyone wanted. :-(

  2. Andy Phillips*

    It may not be that they are bad interviewers. Sometimes it is to give the interviewee time to settle. I often ask candidates to talk through the most significant parts of their cv. Actually what I’m evaluating is communication and people skills. If you can’t convey excitement about your own life, then that is a real negative. Of course, not sure if this is the reason in these cases but they may have been looking at something other than the contact of the answer.

  3. Deirdre*

    First, someone in the companies READ your resume and you got interviews. That’s great … if you think about those who aren’t even getting interviews.

    I don’t know if this will the OP but as an interviewer, I can read what you have written. When I ask about jobs/work/education, etc, I want to hear how you describe your job, why you picked your major, what excites you, what doesn’t – all the stuff that a few words can’t truly convey.

    I hope it improves for you.

    1. OP*

      The questions didn’t leave the paper. I understand and hope for questions like, “tell me about your position at this company. I see that you did this and this, what was that like day to day?” or anything that will allow me the chance to elaborate on anything and really let my personality show through. I ended up elaborating and trying to slip a few things in that would let them know of my achievements and promotions. Like, I wasn’t always in this position at this company, I started in the mail room and within this amount of time I was in this position with more responsibility and enjoying it. This is tricky because if they ask a 5 word question and you ramble on to give them new information you feel will help, you might look talkative or nervous. It is frustrating because I get a call, get ready, get there, then it’s almost as if I didn’t need to be there, they knew (or should have) known the answers to all their questions, nothing specific about work or experienence. Hmpf. I see I’ve been victim to lazy interviewer! :)

      1. K*

        Sometimes I think these questions are often about clarification, even if not asked very clearly. Just because I list my concentration for my degree on my resume doesn’t mean that my interviewer has any idea what was involved in that. Same thing with work experience. It is an opportunity to make your accomplishments and experience mean something to them. Lately the people I interview with don’t have any real understanding of what you would study in a Risk Management degree or what specialty casualty underwriting is. It is on the resume, but if they ask as though they haven’t read it it is time to explain it in a way that is potentially more relevant to them (and certainly there was no room on my resume for a briefing on the finer points of what would have been involved day to day). Maybe as someone with a degree in biochem they have no concept of what you studied for your Archeology degree or don’t know how a joint venture accountant is different from the guy who does payroll.
        Consider it an easy question to warm up and make that experience shine.

  4. Ellen M.*

    I had an interview like that once – the interviewer asked about my degree in Education. I said, “I don’t have a degree in Education.” He got very angry and said, “Well why did you say on your resume that you have a degree in Education?” (the resume was face up on his desk but he wasn’t looking at it and apparently, hadn’t even glanced at it, or I don’t know, maybe he thought I was someone else?!)

    I pointed to my resume and said, “Please show me where it says I have a degree in Education.”

    He glanced at it for a second (not enough to actually read any of it), still didn’t pick it up(!) and changed the subject, as if it isn’t off the charts eff’d up not to read the resume and to make a false accusation in the job interview!!

    He ended up offering me the job(!) but I have worked for crazy, abusive bosses before so I said, “Thankyoubutno.”

    When an interview is that bad, you can be sure that working at that place will be a nightmare.

      1. Production Manager*

        I once had an interviewer tell me she wasnt looking for a Graphic Designer. (that was my degree in 1983)
        As it happens I never did practice graphic design.
        I became a production manager right out of school.
        If she had actually glanced at my resume, she would have known this. Plus, if she didnt like my qualifications, why did she call me?

      2. Anonymous*

        Once a recruiter got me to go for an interview at a company; I was a PERFECT FIT, according to him, and the way he described the job.

        I showed up and the hiring manager looked at my resume and yelled at me, because I wasn’t even remotely what she was looking for.

        Lesson: Always ask for a written summary of the job.

        1. Anonymouse*

          Had pretty much the same thing happen a few years ago, when I was a developer. A recruiter thought I looked like a great fit (I was skeptical). So… I agreed to talk to the hiring manager to explore what they were looking for (e.g. “Information Design experience” could lean towards graphics, or architecture – which one did he mean?).

          I phone screened with the hiring manager, Charlie, who we’ll call “Charlie” to protect his identity. When we both agreed the job was not a match for me, he snapped “Well why did you even apply for this job when you knew you weren’t qualified?!”

          I put on my big girl pants and calmly explained that I had not applied, that their recruiter had cold-called me, and that I was willing to take some time out of my schedule to accommodate them.

          I then offered a few tips on adding some keywords to the announcement to find the person they *were* looking for, after which I COULD NOT GET CHARLIE OFF THE PHONE. I kept saying “Yep, not a match, good luck.” I think I finally resorted to the “old brownie trick” where you hold the phone away from your face, yell “BING!,” and tell them you have to go because your brownies are done.

          Shortly thereafter, it turned-out a former colleague worked in his same office. She was like oh yeah, Charlie’s a real d**k.

  5. Anon in the UK*

    I once did a maternity leave cover (I am in the UK, women often do take six to 9 months off) and unfortunately didn’t manage to find a full time role before it ended, so was temping three days a week and applying for jobs in my field.

    My CV clearly showed start and end date of the job and ‘seven month contract to cover a maternity leave’ , however I still got asked by several interviewers i) why I wanted to leave company X or ii) why I left without another job lined up, was it that bad?

    It’s often useful to be able to make a mental note that your interviewer apparently cannot read.

    1. Anonymous*

      That might also be to flush out any inconsistencies. I know a lot of the CV ‘experts’ over here suggest if you leave a temp/short contract job for any reason other than it ending naturally then just say it ended naturally and hope the interviewer doesn’t check. If they do ask you there is more chance you will say something to trip yourself up.

      It could also be that they didn’t read the information properly. I suppose I should never expect malice when lazyness can explain it.

  6. Melissa*

    There is no excuse for not looking over a candidates resume. Period. I had one interview like this: the manager asked me about my experience in finance at British Airways…I am not in finance and have never worked at British Airways. Needless to say this isn’t the best way to sell a candidate on your company.

    1. JT*

      Some of these situations don’t suggest that the interviewer doesn’t read resumes, but rather that he/she read the wrong one before heading in. That’s a screw-up, and not good, but perhaps not as bad as not bothering to read a resume at all.

  7. nyxalinth*

    I have had this before.

    Also, always being asked to bring ‘an updated version of my resume’. Well, seeing as I just re-worked it and sent it just for you, it doesn’t get much more updated than that :P

    1. JfC*

      I always do this anyway, just in case the printer is down at the company or something like that. Having an extra copy of your most up-to-date résumé never hurts.

      1. anonymous*

        This. After reading a few dozen resumes, it all starts to look the same. Bring some nice, printed, unfolded copies for us to lookover and make the connection with you (like hearing about someone’s cousin, and then meeting them for thre first time and putting it all together). It’s really a great help, especially on a recruiting marathon interview week.

      2. Jamie*

        Agree. I have always brought extra copies of my resume to interviews, and needed them far more often than not.

    2. ChristineH*

      In addition to what Jfc said, sometimes the time between initially applying for a job and the actual interview might be a couple of months (happened to me about 12 years ago), so it’s always possible that you’ve picked up new skills or a volunteer gig in the meantime.

      1. khilde*

        Good point about getting some additional skills or volunteer experience in the downtime between applying and the interview. I had not thought of it that way.

    3. Vicki*

      At least in the US, there have been cases where a candidate was introduced by a recruiter and the recruiter _rewrote_ the resume. So, yes, bringing your own copy is a good idea, in case you need to show that the copy the interviewer got isn’t… quite… right.

      1. Richard*

        One of the reasons I dislike recruiters. If someone wants to offer advice for your resume, that’s fine. If they rewrite it without your approval before sending it to the potential employer, then that’s disgraceful.

  8. katinphilly*

    I have had this happen to me more than several times, unfortunately. It was right up there with the interviewer who started texting while I was talking. When I told him I would wait while he finished, he said obviously I wasn’t somebody who could multi-task if it bothered me.

    1. Long Time Admin*

      I would have been tempted to reply “well, no, not in the way that you mis-interpret multi-tasking”.

      Saying it would have depended on how desperate I was to get a job.

    2. Richard*

      Wow, I never thought I’d see a case where I’d want to contact the manager of someone conducting an interview. How utterly disrespectful.

  9. Gayle*

    So… there could be another side to some of these stories (some – not all):

    1. The interviewer was pulled into the interview last minute. Or, HR didn’t give the interviewer the resume in advance.

    2. The interviewer wants to give the candidate a chance to settle in / talk more open-ended. A question like, “what did you study?” can lead into a conversation about their interests or focuses in school. Could you directly ask the candidate if they had a particular focus? Sure, but then a candidate might feel pressure to make up a focus / feel bad if they didn’t have one. And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with asking “What did you do at _______?” even though *some* details are on their resume. The bullets under a job do not give you a full picture of what the person did. Regardless, asking a simple, straightforward question can help a candidate relax; it gives them an easy, opening question that they can “nail.”

    3. The resume is terrible. I’ve gotten multiple resumes that are 11 pages long — and I’ve gotten many 3 or 4 page resumes. Sometimes it’s hard to find basic information on those resumes. Even a short resume can be disorganized enough that it’s hard find basic information.

    1. Anonymous*

      In regards to your #3, those long resumes are usually CVs, which means they list everything they have done, especially if they have a lot of published works.

      1. Gayle*

        No, these are not CVs. These are US candidates (many are software engineers), generally without published works, submitting *resumes* for US positions. Some are even undergraduate students. They are not intending to submit a CV.

        They’re submitting multipage *resumes* because they simply don’t know any better.

          1. Gayle*

            Yes. The US tends to use resumes (except for in academia, which uses CVs). Europe tends to use CVs.

            “In Europe, the Middle East, Africa, or Asia, employers may expect to receive a curriculum vitae. In the United States, a curriculum vitae is used primarily when applying for academic, education, scientific or research positions.”

          2. Anonymous*

            In the US CV’s are more achedemical and listing all studies, every role, every research paper, every publication in detail. Like an artists portfolio but of words.

            Resumes are more like UK CV’s where you get what the candidate wants to tell you and its a short and sweet and relevant document. Very little fluff and (like the UK) should be no more than 2 sides even for a extensive work history.

    2. Ellen M.*

      Also re: #3 why in the world are you interviewing someone who’s resume is “terrible”? or 11 pages!

      The answer to “What did you study?” would be in the Education section of the resume. Why would you even be interviewing someone if you had no information about his/her education? A much better question would be, “What made you choose this [major, field, type of work]?”

      Even if someone is asked to do an interview on a moment’s notice, he/she can take a minute (literally, sixty seconds!) to look over the resume and get some idea of what to ask, based on the info that is there. Before the applicant is brought into the room.

      It is one thing to say “Tell me about your work at [employer]?” but another to ask questions which reveal that you have not read one word of the applicant’s resume. *That* is inexcusable.

      1. OP*

        My resume is one page and is very stream line, no fancy fonts, a few bullets for duties at the company and position held- very standard. I mean, if a resume is terrible they shouldn’t be getting interviews in the first place, am I right?

        1. Gayle*

          “if a resume is terrible they shouldn’t be getting interviews in the first place, am I right?”

          Not necessarily. Bad resumes hurt you for potentially two reasons: (1) they don’t highlight your relevant skills / experience; (2) they suggest that you have poor written communication skills.

          If the job does not demand strong written communication skills, (2) won’t hurt you really. This is the case with many jobs, such as software engineering.

          And as for (1), the resume might be terrible, but still good enough to get you an interview. For example, if you say you worked at Google is probably enough to land you an interview with Microsoft — even if you have a terrible resume.

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I think the problem with that is that the interviewer isn’t thinking about how her questions are coming across to the candidate. If the interviewer asks things in a way that makes her look unprepared, she’s giving the candidate a bad impression, just like if the candidate asked things that indicated a lack of preparation.

  10. Just Me*

    If the resume is terrible why would a company even interview the candidate? We are told all the time that a bad resume will get tossed anyway.

    The interviewer should be asking more specific questions about what was stated on the resume. That is how the candidate gets the interview to start with, I would hope, because the company liked the resume and background stated. And then questions in the interview should more like… “I see you said you increased your sales profit with this technique…. can you please explain further. The resume is the enticement to interview the interview is the follow and confirmation that would they will like the person and want to hire them.
    As far as being pulled into an interview at the last minute? Then say to the candidate, there has been a change in interviewers, apologize and say I have not had enough time to read your resume can you give me a minute. To me no big deal if that happened. At least they were being honest.

    1. Gayle*

      “If the resume is terrible why would a company even interview the candidate? We are told all the time that a bad resume will get tossed anyway.”

      *May*, not will.

      For many roles, written communication skills is an important skill. And in such roles, a poorly done resume may get tossed because it shows, at least to some extent, that you lack strong written communication skills.

      However, not all roles require strong written communication skills. This is not a critical skill for software engineers, for example. So if you write a terrible resume but an interviewer is still able to understand that you have the right skills / background, then you’ll get an interview. I mean, if you apply to Google with a 20 page resume describing in paragraph form (with many grammatical mistakes) how you built one of the key technologies for Facebook – yeah, you get an interview. Absolutely.

  11. Gayle*

    ” re: #3 why in the world are you interviewing someone who’s resume is “terrible”? or 11 pages!”

    Just because someone did a terrible job of writing their resume doesn’t mean that they’re not right for the job. For example, software engineers frequently write terrible resumes, but if they have the right background / experience (which is obviously harder to identify with a bad resume), that’s all that matters. I use their resume solely as a way to figure out if they have the right background / experience; I do not care, directly, about their resume quality.

    “Why would you even be interviewing someone if you had no information about his/her education?”

    Because the major might not be directly relevant OR the interviewer isn’t the one who actually made the decision to interview OR the interviewer just forgot.

    “… but another to ask questions which reveal that you have not read one word of the applicant’s resume. *That* is inexcusable.””

    My point though is not that interviewers should not read resumes. They should. But it’s also very possible in this situation that the interviewer *did* read the resume but decided to ask these questions anyway.

    Let’s look at the actual, specific questions that the candidate submitted:
    1. So….you worked for, at, ? What did you do there?
    2. I see you went to X for school, what did you study?

    #1 does not suggest that they didn’t read the resume. It’s the same question as “Tell me about your role at ____.” But the candidate assumed it meant that they hadn’t read the resume. That makes me think that the candidate might be misinterpreting other questions.

    #2 revealed that the interviewer *had*, in fact, read the resume. The interviewer knew the school, he/she just didn’t remember the major. Is that necessarily so terrible?

    Consider, for example, the following scenario: Julia graduated from Harvard 30 years ago with a degree in electrical engineering. She’s never used her major directly and is now a speech writer. Her resume is 3 pages long and the education info is on the third page, so it’s not easily visible without flipping back and forth across pages. Also, the interviewer actually asked something more like, “So, I see you went to Harvard. What’d you study there again? [‘Electrical engineering.’] Ah, that’s right. So what made you switch from that to speech writing? That seems like quite a jump.” See? Not so terrible.

    It’s hard to keep track of every detail on a candidate’s resume and their major – the only thing that the interviewer specifically didn’t know – may not be that relevant (but may be asked as a lead into a different question).

    Maybe this was a terrible interviewer, but maybe not. It sounds like the candidate is also overreacting a bit (given their reaction to question #1).

    1. anon.*

      Actually Gayle, it sounds like you’re not a very good interviewer, like to make excuses and are quite the PIA in general. Let it go.

  12. SG*

    With my last round of interviews for a new hire, I asked people to repeat information that was on their resume. The reason was not that I wasn’t prepped, or thought the hires were so smart that they could BS their way to a job via false info on the resume. I did it because most resumes did not provide what I (underline “I”) needed to know, so I wanted to get, and got, a repeat of the resume al-a-what I wanted to know.

    1. Anonymous*

      I’ve had several interviews where the interviewer went top to bottom on my resume and basically asked me to elaborate on the data points. I don’t recently remember anybody just sitting with me and asking me open ended questions without my resume in plain sight.

      With that being said, I could see an interviewer blundering an interview due to the sheer amount of candidates being interviewed for a position – probably due to information fatigue. I don’t have a whole lot of sympathy though, because there are ways of narrowing down the candidate pool so that only a handful of qualified applicants go to the interview phase. Screwing up on which candidate has what is no excuse.

      I’ve never had to interview anyone before, but I imagine my interview style would be to do all of my eliminations even before the candidates get to meet me. The interview would basically be a personality fit / integrity test. Then again, if I were to submit a job posting, I would expect project samples, a testing sample, and other proof to be submitted along with the resume to give me some kind of measurement of work competency, desire, and attention to detail. I don’t see merely submitting a resume as satisfactory.

      1. K*

        To be honest, I know of HR professionals who due to the separation between receiving resumes and the number of interviews they are involved in actually refrain from reviewing resumes a second time immediately before the interview. It is a way for them to stay engaged in the conversation in a genuine way that allows them to reflect on things such as communication and conversation skills and avoids it feeling like a recitation of information they already know. You don’t get an interview without someone reviewing that resume in detail in advance.

      2. JT*

        I’ve been pulled into an interview at the last minute (just to get my opinion – not with me being a key decision-maker) and in those cases I grab the resume, read it really fast, and pick one or two things to as ask about.

        I might not have the whole thing in my mind, but to show up at a business meeting completely unprepared is not right.

        1. Jamie*

          I’ve been pulled in like that, also, and had to read the resume while the interview was in progress.

          I hate that – I’m not naturally good at interviewing so if you don’t give me the chance to prepare myself it’s not going to go well.

  13. OP*

    this position was for someone with a specific degree for Advertising. It was a requirement . That’s why this was such a lame interview and I was shocked. I did not over react, if you were there you would have been snoring too, haha! Also, update, I received an email that requested some info for a background check, which I was told was the next step in the hiring process. I don’t know but this could be a good job, although slightly messy in the hiring process.

    1. Anonymous*

      In Advertising, don’t you need to be able to sell things, like (for instance) yourself? What thought-provoking questions did you ask? What interesting topics did you offer? When the interview seemed stalled, what did *you* do to keep it going?

      Interviewing is exhausting work from both sides. It’s sometimes really difficult to think of the next interview question. If all the enthusiasm you had was to respond like a robot, than yeah, no second interview. It indicates that you’ll be high maintenance.

  14. Kelly O*

    I have to sympathize with the OP.

    I’ve noticed this tendency more with recruiters rather than HR at companies or hiring managers, although once a recruiter “tweaked” my resume and I went in looking fairly clueless about my own resume (needless to say I did not work with that agency again, and the whole thing left a sour taste in my mouth for agencies in general.)

    Job seekers are told all the time to not ask the “so tell me what you do” of a hiring person – so why is it acceptable for the same question to be flipped around the other way? I don’t buy the whole “making an interviewee comfortable” thing. I mean, you may mean it with the best of intentions, but having been on the other end, it feels like you’ve not read my resume, or you’ve not looked at it since you called me. I have spent time preparing for you – looking at company information, trying to learn about you, poring over the job description so I can talk about my specific qualifications – but because you’re on that side of the desk, it’s okay for you to ask a lazy or lazy-ish question purely to give me time to “settle down”. I don’t get that.

    Now, if you have a question about a specific job, or something like “I see you worked at Harvey’s Widget Emporium; what was a typical day like there?” or “Can you tell me more about your experience with PowerPoint at 123 Accounting?” – but at least act like you’ve read my resume and are at least familiar with what I’ve done.

    Please do not be like the recruiter who said (and god I wish I was making this up) – start with your most recent employer and walk me back through your work history. And then proceeded to ask me about every aspect of the job, wanting EVERYTHING – how many phone lines, how often did you check the mail – then stopping me halfway through because our time was up, and then wanting me to schedule another half-hour slot to “keep going” – needless to say I did not return that call.

    1. Just Me*

      ” Job seekers are told all the time to not ask the “so tell me what you do” of a hiring person – so why is it acceptable for the same question to be flipped around the other way?”

      Yep.. my thoughts exactly. Some comments made that seem to excuse the interviewer/company for conducting a poor interview and or not having proper preperation or that they just don’t have the time, there are so many to look at etc.

      I flat out don’t buy it. It is THE job. Interviewing. HR, managers of departments jobs are to interview. And just as I need to be prepared for the interview so do they.

  15. Anonymous*

    I had a different sort of interviewer. He did read my resume, but he assumed that he knew EVERYTHING about my career path (I was just a year out of school at this point but did work several jobs on campus and also had some volunteering gigs). When we had the interview, he made condescending remarks as to how I was a job hopper, regardless that all of these were college jobs which do have short time frames and have a beginning and end points (and I would have to reapply the following year to come back).

    So basically I had someone who read my resume and read things that weren’t there, and instead of asking politely his concerns or misunderstandings, he just assumed he was 100% correct. I was naive at the time, not knowing how to answer him because I never viewed my resume in that light, even though I know I was not “job hopping.” I just wish I answered him better albeit I remember saying things to him and he would still put it down, thinking he was 100% correct.

    The only good thing out of that interview – it was something to reflect on in case I came across someone like him again. Now I know my answers. And one other thing – since then, in a short time span after the interview, the person who was hired got laid-off. I feel sorry for the person who got the job because they accepted the position and probably postponed any other job searching only to be out of a job soon thereafter. The company was hurting so it’s not a reflection on that new hire. But I’m glad it wasn’t me.

  16. Lore*

    I once had an interviewer spend the majority of the interview probing about a gap on my resume covering eight of the ten years I’d been at my current job (after which I had a different position at the same company, so the dates were broken out). After about twenty minutes of trying to explain that other things on my resume overlapped with those dates (I had a couple of part-time or freelance positions with nonprofits that highlight different skills from my full-time job, so they’re all on my resume), if that’s what he was asking, I finally thought perhaps there was a hideous typo on my resume that I’d managed not to notice, so I asked to look at it. Turned out his printer was on the fritz and he was reading 2000 as 2008.

    Of course, that was the same job where they were hiring for this position for the third time in fourteen months and in all seriousness, the interview described the department as “Iraq, circa 2006–I’d like to say 2010, but 2006 is probably more accurate.” Then they sent me a list of questions to prepare for the second interview that began with “How do you handle stress” and “Which of the following stresses you out most”…and I decided to politely withdraw my application.

  17. anon*

    I had a supervisor who would choose the candidates we’d interview and not even tell me when he scheduled interviews. Then he’d hand me their resume as I was walking into the room, and would NOT let me take a moment to read (it was “rude to keep them waiting”).
    I asked time and again for more of a heads up, but never got one. So, to all those candidates, sorry!
    (I no longer work for this person. YAY!)

  18. W*

    I recently had an interview where the small business hired one of the manufacturers of their products to screen applicants. This required a phone interview and a skype interview. Then they had another company do reference checks, where they asked 7-21 of my professional and personal references to fill out an online questionairre. Going into the interview the interviewee was surprised to see me. I saw her screen when I sat down and she was on some social networking site. She never read my resume or the notes the company took on our previous 2 interviews. She was completely unprepared. The interviewee proceeded to tell me her medical issues and how much she liked my hair! REALLY.
    When the hired company called to tell me I didn’t get the job I said “Oh that is wonderful” before I could stop myself.
    As someone re-entering the workforce after staying home with my kids I am very disappointed in employers professionalism.

    1. Limon*

      7-21 personal and professional references? they were grilled in advance of an offer? Not a good sign!!!

      In my experience, companies that want 5,000 references are not good companies. A better example is this: three professional references and four personal. Seven people to vouch for you means they are not able to tell who is a good person and who is not and they want your friends to help them out.

      The best jobs I have had I was vetted behind the scenes though word of mouth. People knew my good reputation and it was easy for that to be passed on. No references from me because – they had already gathered the information. It seems to be an inverse proportion ratio.

      1. Jamie*

        I don’t think I even know 21 people. 7-21 references? I wouldn’t call 21 references unless I was vetting someone for the presidency.

  19. Long Time Admin*

    I’ve had many interviews with HR that went just like that. They would come into the interview room, sit down, open a manila folder, take out my resume, and start reading it. Then they would ask me questions that were answered on the paper they just read.

    At least most hiring managers knew something about the job that needed to be done and could give candidates a little bit of information.

    All in all, I would say 75% of the people who have interviewed me over the years didn’t know what the heck they were supposed to be doing.

  20. AccidentalRecruiter*

    I often ask candidates to give me a brief overview of their last position because I want to see how it compares to what they’ve written in their resume. Often their resume sounds a lot more impressive than the answer they give me and that is a great opportunity for me to find out if what they’ve written is true or whether they’ve embellished a lot of their accomplishments.

    Number one way to get on my bad side is if I ask a candidate to describe their last position to me and they respond “that information is on my resume”.

    Uhm no, that’s not the right response.

    1. Richard*

      There are right and wrong ways to approach this as a question though:
      ‘Tell me about your time at Company X’ is lazy, and far too open ended. You’re going to get a very general overview of their job description, that’s going to be very similar to their CV, and not really offer much more information. It’s not even a good test to see if they’ve ’embellished’ on their position, since there’s a chance that they’ll miss specific details in their description.

      A better way to ask is to get them to talk about a specific point from a position, for example: ‘I notice that you mention experience project management at Company X. Tell me, what were some of the challenges that this presented, and how did you approach them?’

      It gets you a lot more useful information about the candidate, and if they’ve in any way exaggerated their role as a project manager, it will become apparent very quickly as they start trying to talk about their experience.

  21. Joey*

    I think the interviewers are doing the best they can because they’re winging it. They don’t know what to ask so they’re asking the only logical questions they can come up with absent some research. And because its been condoned they probably think they’re doing a good job. I think this practice reflects more on their manager or a company that sees hiring as a chore. I cant imagine a manager ever letting this happen even once. I mean as the interviewers manager wouldnt you at least discuss what you’re looking for beyond experience? Either they are oblivious or don’t care about things like turnover, maximizing their investment in people, or their reputation. Ten bucks they don’t do any digging like talking to references, verifying employment, googling you, etc. These types of companies tend to hire based on superficialities.

  22. Mike*

    Makes you wonder how did they select you to be interviewed in the first place if they didn’t read your resumes (and presumably didn’t read any other resumes they might’ve gotten.)
    Did they just interview everyone that applied? Did they pull a resume at random from a pile and called those people?

  23. Interviewer*

    I get a resume, and I review it for the experience I need. If it looks like you have it from my initial review, I schedule an interview. You might be stunned to learn first-hand (like I have) how many people had absolutely no role in preparing their own resumes. Generally it’s typed or heavily edited by an adoring parent, a well-intentioned spouse, or a good friend who is better at formatting bullet points. So when I ask, “what all did you handle at ABC?” I’m looking for how well you tell a story, and also how well it matches up to what’s right in front of me. I question specifics – how many people did you support, how many people in your department, what software did you use, etc. – but I use the candidate’s own story for the questions. So if you start off telling me about handling travel details, or managing calendars, or revising budget reports, or this crazy huge project they just finished – those tasks will drive my next set of questions. Once I’ve seen the lay of the land, I dive into what I would think that role might also handle, based on what you said and what’s on the resume, and suss out more details to see how work flowed around the team. I also ask some behavioral interview questions.

    If things don’t match up from the resume, I will ask about it.

    It’s not necessarily what the OP described happening to him, but it definitely might start out that way. And again – whether you typed it or your best friend put it all together, I still want to hear what you say, too – for my own reasons. For me, your story drives the rest of the interview. And I want to make sure we’re both ultra-clear about what you do, because not everyone puts all the details on the resume – especially about the team.

    And OP, it doesn’t sound like this was what you got – you might have caught Your Interviewer on a bad day and he was just being lazy. Sorry that happened to you, I know it must be frustrating to constantly repeat yourself at each stage of the recruiting process.

  24. Bonnie*

    Several people mentioned being pulled in at the last minute and not really given a chance to review the resume. But if that is the case why not just be honest with a candidate? That has happened to me before and I said something like this: “I don’t know if anyone told you but I am a last minute addition to your interview experience today. It was deemed by others that it would be advantageous for us to meet and talk. However, due to the last minute nature of the interview I have just been handed you resume and have only been able to skim it. I apologize in advance for any questions I ask that are answered by your resume.”

    1. Anonymous*

      Because that would make your boss look bad, right there, in front of a stranger (and presumably your boss). It’s groovy to be nice to an interviewee, but I’m not creating a political crapstorm to do it.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        There’s different wording you could use — I’d say something like, “I’m so sorry about this, normally I’m prepared but I was just pulled into this meeting and haven’t had time to go over your resume yet.”

      2. Bonnie*

        Interesting that you took that as making my boss look bad. The wording I used, “added to your interview” and “advantagous for us to meet and talk” were designed to give the interviewee the idea that this was “advantagous” and not a poor subsititue making my boss look proactive and not lost in the weeds. I will keep what you are saying in if it ever happens again.

        1. Anonymous from Above*

          The wording “It was deemed by others …” was the iffiest part. I agree to say something, but just keep it short, sweet, and on to business.

  25. Frustrated&Apathetic*

    While I realize we job seekers are supposed to feel grateful and possibly even grovel at the chance to interview, I’ve found that employers’ behavior is getting worse and worse, and they all use “the economy” as an excuse to treat us poorly, not follow up, and act abusive before, during, and after interviews.

    I’ve been looking for almost a year and a half (well before I was put out of work), and in that entire time, I’ve had 4 1/2 interviews. I say 4 1/2 because one was a group-interview setting and one was a phone screen that got canceled repeatedly before I was rushed through it with canned questions (e.g. “What class did you like best in school and why?”) and then ultimately rejected.

    Two of the 4 1/2 interviews were for entry level jobs I otherwise wouldn’t have considered, except the employer didn’t make clear in the ad that “entry level” was what they were looking for. I’ve been in management for almost 5 years, and if I apply to a job because it’s been posted as a senior-level position, I don’t appreciate being treated like a leper or pariah because YOU, the employer, decided to bring me in. During one of the entry level interviews, after being grilled over and over again in the form of a “stress interview,” with questions like “Are you SURE you want to work here?” and “Why are all of your examples from your management career?”, it took everything in my power not to say, “Well, you see, I DON’T want to work here after all, but I didn’t realize this place was run by jerks and it was an entry level data-drone job until after I got here.”

    Through all this, I did get an offer, kinda. Well, a half offer. Well, zero, actually, if you consider the end result. The first offer, I accepted, and it was revoked during my first week working there, which threw me onto the unemployment line (I did get to collect). The second was a “We like you and we’re probably going to hire you but we have to talk to some people,” which means that for now, I’ll have to assume it’s a no, and act like the interview never happened. I’ve already followed up, so it’s time to move on. Trouble is, for me, there’s nowhere to move to. I’ve literally reached out to everyone in my city who may wish to hire me, and what I’m getting is, no one wishes to.

    Job-searching is incredibly demoralizing and frustrating, and when you’re doing it in a small city in a recession, a happy ending is often elusive. My once bouncy and happy personality has transformed into grief, sadness, and anger, and more and more, I find myself wanting to withdraw from life generally and not be a part of the human race with all of its mindless stupidity and greed. Millions of people are in the same situation I’m in, and our unemployment will eventually run out. I have no idea what will happen to us, and lately, I’m finding that sleeping is the best thing I do all day. It’s a nice block of time to shut out the world and forget about work – and my lack of it.

    1. Charles*

      Frustrated&Apathetic – learn this mantra:

      “I am better than those jerks.”

      Repeat it and believe it. The start to act it.

      That’s really the only way to become UNFrustrated&UNApathetic.

  26. FerarriAdmin*

    Oh!! Had a recruiter do something like this once. I called ahead, e-mailed my resume, arrived early with extra hard copies, took a skill test or two. When I sat down in his office, the first thing out of his mouth was ‘ Tell me about your last job’ — or words to that effect. I lost my mind and replied ” did you read my resume?” I don’t recall the answer, but I proceeded to rip him a new one, for not being prepared. End was that he ” didn’t think he’d be able to place me.” I went to another agency the next day and was placed immediately! Geeze!! Do they think we do this just for fun?

    1. Gayle*

      I’d reject you too for that kind of reaction. Your reaction showed (1) overreaction to a minor event (2) a failure to keep emotions in-check, even in a professional setting (3) assuming the worst in people. It was totally inappropriate.

      He was asking you to explain, in your own words, what you did at your job. The right way to do that is an open-ended question like what he asked, not to drill on the specific bullets on your resume. It does not show that he wasn’t prepared.

      The interviewer didn’t do anything wrong — you did.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I agree. I’ll often ask a candidate, “So, tell me about your work at __.” It’s not because I didn’t read their resume; it’s because I want to hear them talk about it, what they choose to emphasize, etc. That’s different than the interviewer in the OP’s story, who didn’t ask anything that wasn’t on the resume.

  27. Nathaniel*

    Not to side with the interviewer, but maybe they were stalling to try and figure out some questions to ask you or something. It totally sounds like they didn’t do their homework, which is rude, but when they’re interviewing multiple people per day, sometimes one just falls behind.

    Sometimes HR or managers just aren’t given the right tools to effectively conduct interviews. I think seeing an unprepared interviewer gives red flags on a larger scale that the company might not place a strong enough emphasis on how they hire and how they on-board. At the end of the day, it’s still incredibly frustrating to be prepared for your interview and not have that same level of work be done by the interviewer.

  28. Anonymous*

    I was set up for an interview at a customer service, basically a call center , position, that I felt was going fine. The person interviewing me apparently wasnt the same person who would have made the decision, apparently. My impression was she would have potentially have been my coworker were I hired. Rather than a supervisor, that is. While I was speaking to her, her cell phone buzzes, and she (in a friendly way, but quickly) asks me to hold my thought and apologizes that she has to take the call outside the room, before returning. So she does, and sits down, saying “now, where were…” before I let loose inadvertently the loudest (and most comical sounding, really) for lack of better word, fart. I mean it was LOUD. And it smelled ungodly. We both froze and then awkward silence. So I say, “damn baby you got gas. Wasnt me.”. Then I grab my resume from her and eat it and run out the door courtesies be damnded.

    1. Anonymous*

      Perhaps I should email an apology and explain that I had eaten a week old burger I had because I was anxious and I eat when Im anxious. She will understand that I would have bad gas and accuse someone else, because I wouldnt let such unkempt body functions be staining my public persona and clean shorts.

  29. Anonymous*

    My first interview in my quest for a better fit was one in which the person doing the interview clearly hadn’t read my resume. This became clear through conversation when I mentioned my major and her response was, “Oh. OH! *scrambles to read resume*” Shortly after this she then pulled out all of the resumes of the other candidates and began going through them to find some paper she had misplaced. (I was less than two feet away and could read all of their names & information clear as day.) She then proceeded to ask me about my religion, which really threw me off since that’s a no-no. The interview then turned into a lecture about being charitable. I tried to salvage it because it was pretty clear that she didn’t like my answer and was trying to push me out the door as quick as possible. She then started lying, acting like she knew things from my resume that I had briefly mentioned before by incorrectly expanding on them. She also incorrectly defined some important terminology relating to the position after I gave the correct definition. Her mood seemed to shift after I seemingly didn’t know these basic terms and there was nothing I could do to prove that I knew what I was talking about.

    I left knowing that the interview went very badly, but I was ok with it since I didn’t think it’d be a good fit anyways if they were really that concerned with my religious beliefs. I recently found out that almost three months after my interview and the position still hasn’t been filled. I find this slightly amusing since she indicated that they needed someone ASAP because it was their “busy time”.

    Quick question: I was tempted to send some constructive criticism on her methods but decided against it. When you know that an interviewer botched an interview, is it ok to speak up to that effect?

      1. Anonymous*

        Thanks for that! I’m glad I stuck with my “probably not my place to say anything” gut reaction.

  30. AB*

    Interviewers not bothering to review your CV before an interview and trying to absorb it quickly in front of you is bad. But not as bad as when some HR Bot asks you to fill in an application form. In my experience, this is always a sign of meaningless bureaucracy in an organisation. Such forms are usually guaranteed not to have been read by any interviewer you may meet.

    When asked to fill in an application form I generally just say, “I only apply for roles that accept CVs / Resumes, as I’ve found these roles tend to be more applicable for experienced candidates. Thank you for your time.” However, I did get through to a second round once before the request to fill in The Form was presented by an HR drone that hadn’t even attended the initial interview. When I gave my stock response above, the got in touch, clearly panicking at the perception The HR Application Form had lost one of their hiring managers the opportunity to have a second interview with someone they’d identified to be of interest. (During the first interview the interviewer had actually commented to me that they’d “had real difficulty finding candidates of the right calibre to apply for their roles”. You don’t say.)

    When the HR jockey above got in contact with me to object to my pulling out of the process, she made a point of saying that her Application Form “asks lots of questions that aren’t usually covered on CVs, such as whether the candidate has a driving licence and is eligible to work in the country”. I didn’t have the heart to tell her that: 1) driving a keyboard in the way my particular profession entails doesn’t require a licence, 2) Both of those details were cunningly hidden on Page 1 of my CV.

  31. thepinch*

    I just came through an interview like this and I was totally unprepared for the poss that someone could do this. He spent the first 10 minutes about himself and then it started with “tell me about yourself”. He reached incorrect conclusions far too quickly, accusing me of no recent experience (after 20 years) because I worked PT while running a successful startup (and caring for an autistic child as a single parent, but don’t tell him that).

    Wrote a great summary letter expressing the points he missed, and the top drawer MBA I’m working on.

    Thank you for the reinforcement.

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