Making allowances for jobseekers

it comes to interview techniques, it’s not just the jobseekers who get it
wrong. As Ross Wigham reports, many interviewers lack the basic common sense to
attract the best candidates

are losing out on vital new recruits by conducting unprofessional, rude and
even discriminatory interviews that leave candidates angry and upset.

a time when unemployment is at a record low, making it difficult to recruit
staff at all levels, two out of three candidates are turning down jobs because
an organisation has failed to impress during the interview.

a poll of more than 4,000 jobseekers, complaints ranged from inappropriate
behaviour and bad language, to rudeness and harassment.

respondent complained that her potential employer tried to chat her up during
the interview and made continual sexual references – even commenting on the
size of her breasts.

prospective employee was seen by an HR manager who carried out the interview
using the wrong CV and referring to the candidate by the wrong name.

seems nothing is out of bounds when it comes to job interviews, with people
being questioned about their appearance or weight. One woman was asked ‘if she
still had an active womb’.

survey, by recruitment consultancy Reed, shows that it is now just as important
for an employer to impress the candidate at the interview as it is for the
candidate to impress the prospective employer.

results found that 68 per cent of people accepted jobs based on the good
impression gleaned at the interview, while 85 per cent said it was vital that
organisations made a good first impression.

faux pas – the worst offences

Hanging around – candidates are frequently kept waiting for up to three hours
without explanation

Bad presentation – scruffy interviewers were a major turn off

Unread CVs – a lack of basic preparation infuriated jobseekers

Inappropriate flirting – innuendoes not appreciated

Bad language – bosses swore at staff

Taking calls – people left the interview for phone calls

asked for your worst experiences in job interviews – here’s a selection of the
most entertaining.

candidate for a clerical job which required some general ICT skills telling the
panel at length about which computer games her son liked to play.

Inness, Recruitment Officer

reading your article in Personnel Today, I felt compelled to cleanse myself and
own up to one of my biggest interview faux pas experiences ( and there have
been a few). As a relative novice to the interviewing game at the time, I
embarked on a gruelling two-hour interview with a candidate into the early
evening, after which I gave him a very sweaty handshake and said "well it
was nice meeting you anyhow".

S Murphy

worst experience was when the manager, in the middle of the interview, picked
up the phone and rang the canteen to ‘hold’ a lunch for him. I was the HR
person on the interview and wanted to the ground to open up and swallow me. The
candidate looked on in astonishment.  On
another occasion, I was interviewing with two other people when out of the
pocket of one of the interviewers crawled a cockroach. It subsequently crawled
on to the table much to the horror of the candidate and everyone else.


candidate once turned up to interview in jeans and a motorcycle helmet. After
he sat down I suggested that he might be more comfortable during the interview
if he removed his helmet, which he did. He then proceeded to sniff and snort
revoltingly for the next half an hour. Eventually I could stand it no longer
and offered the nasally challenged chap a tissue. He declined the offer,
remarking that he "wouldn’t want to disgust me". Too late!  Although this was the most stomach churning
I have dozens of examples including people who didn’t know what job they were
applying for, who cried in the interview, or had romance-related reasons for
leaving their last job.


 I once had an interview conducted in a
council house, which was to be the base for a voluntary organisation.  They drew the curtain against strong spring
sunshine. Unfortunately, there was a slight gap which meant that a stream of
bright light [not unlike the lamp in film noir interrogations] shone right in
my eyes. They didn’t notice or comment so I presumed that they meant it.

Business Adviser

one interview the candidate asked about my salary.


started asking the candidate some questions, and he was totally disinterested.
Very politely, I mentioned to him that he did not seem very interested in the
job, to which he replied, very bluntly, that he had only attended the interview
to continue obtaining his benefits. At that point, I suggested we were wasting
one another’s time, and escorted him from the premises.


was actually an interview with a recruitment agency.  I called them to register and gave a brief outline of my
experience over the phone then sent them an e-mail with my CV. They said they
had a job in mind for me and would call back. They did so within about an hour,
saying I had an interview and would I go along to them to register.  When I got there they had got the wrong CV in
front of them. When they had the right one. They then said they had to put the
details into their computer to print off for me to sign. When they put the
document in front of me it had somebody else’s details on there.  The so called Manager was laughing saying
"Oh God we are not normally this professional". I couldn’t believe it
that somebody so incompetent was doing this job and I was looking for work. She
apologised and said she would call me back once she had set up this other so
called interview. I never heard a thing and to be honest I wouldn’t have gone


I was still fairly inexperienced I was interviewing with an area manager. About
half way through the interview she turned round and said to the candidate
"So, your a lesbian then?" I wanted the floor to open up and had to
apologise and move the subject on.


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