I am not ashamed to admit that pivot tables terrify me. I love that pivot tables exist and I am just enough of a data geek that I can pivot data until it throws up faster than a toddler with a corn dog. But only if someone builds the initial table for me. Since I only really need to create a pivot table for myself once a year or so, I have to re-learn how to do it every single time. It’s rarely pretty, there is a lot of cursing and more often than not, I call my friend Jane to do it for me because she is an Excel Whisperer.
The same is true of mail merges in Word. Once a year I spend a frustrating morning printing the same address 40 times on a sheet of labels or managing to get different addresses that don’t line up properly, or the damn template goes missing. Usually the whole thing just doesn’t work and I address them by hand.
Malcolm Gladwell says you need to put in 10,000 hours to be an expert at something. So I’m thinking that half of that makes you pretty good, a quarter of it means you can fake it and a tenth is probably the lower limit for doing whatever it is without adult supervision. That explains a lot about why I can’t do pivot tables, mail merges, embroidery or origami.
Let’s see how I rate for interviewing job applicants. Assuming I interview a dozen people a year for an hour each and I do that for 20 years, let’s see…that makes me …uh oh.
I am willing to bet that just as most managers have no idea how to write a job description, the majority of us have received exactly no training in how to recruit, interview or evaluate candidates. I blame HR.
For some reason, it is far easier to yell at managers about screwing up onboarding, training, managing and retaining new hires than it is to help them make the right decision in the first place. These are all important things, to be sure, but they are really only matter if the right bottom is in the right seat to begin with. They are mere formalities if the wrong bottom got through the gate while HR was being strategic.
That would be the last of our four gates. The one we guard, the one where somebody knew somebody who had coffee with somebody and ended up calling you at precisely the moment you were so bored in your Ethics at Work course that you were considering eating a paperclip just so they’d call an ambulance to get you out, but instead you agreed to have a meeting with this random person you would never meet anyway because by the time the appointment came around you would surely be dead of boredom.
But that didn’t happen. You met the person. The one ART rejected on account of keywords and your lousy job description, and who Bethany rejected because when she connected the dots between your lousy job description and their resume it didn’t make the pleasing igloo picture she was hoping for. And you liked that person. And it was time to bring them in for a real interview.
Or maybe Bethany finally found someone who could get past her dim understanding of the role and out of the sand bunkers of her behavioural questions so she sent them around to your gate. It’s also possible that ART managed to flag a decent resume and send them your way.
It matters not. The problem is, they’re in front of you and all you have for a map through this is your lousy job description and their resume. No training. No corporate guidelines and a vague sense that it’s wrong to ask about anything involving lady parts, but you can’t recall what.
What to do?
Do what thousands of untrained hiring managers have done before you:*
- Show up late. Not a cotton-candy-assed ten minutes; make them sit in the lobby for at least 20 and then in the airless meeting room for another ten.
- Forget to offer coffee or water
- Read their resume for the first time in the elevator on the way down
- Read the job description during the interview, for the first time since you wrote it
- Ask ridiculous questions like “where do you see yourself in ten years?” “What can you bring to ABC Company?” ”Why should we hire you?“
- Bring in the HR director who can pull out a computer and type through the entire conversation, periodically interrupting to update you on an unrelated project
- Give them an “assignment” like this one: based on the lousy job description, and your limited knowledge of the company, come in and present a comprehensive marketing plan for our new product.
- Don’t take a single note
- Don’t provide additional info like an organizational chart, to help the candidate sort out the role despite your lousy job description
- Inform them at the end of the interview that even though the lousy job description says senior manager, they thought it over and it’s really more of an analyst role
- After half an hour of making them read their resume aloud to you, pass them off to your equally unprepared colleague for a second look
- Wonder why they turned down your offer
- Blame HR
* Every single one of these things happened to me during my last job search.