My former assistant just moved to North Carolina (you know why). So I’m interviewing for a replacement and you’d think that with 8.9% of the country out of work, I’d have my pick from the best of the best. Nope. Wrong. Not at all.
Could it be that the best all left Long Island a long time ago?
Could it be that if they’re going to work for peanuts, it might as well be in their own circus?
Could it be that I’m a tough S.O.B.?
All of the above?
I never let first interviews run more than 25 minutes and I say very little—my whole goal is to get them to talk. About anything, just to see what comes out. Of the six interviews I had scheduled for today, two no-showed and the other four? “Wa wah wah,” it only took minutes before they were dumping their sob stories on me.
What people do with silence is very insightful—it’s actually one of the great character tells. If a person is discreet and self-assured, they speak concisely and directly, never dribbling over the sides. But a self-conscious person (and liars) gets nervous and gush.
So I just let them go. And somewhere around seven minutes into it, “Waaah,” the sob stories inevitably gush in and I’m drowning in woeful economy confusion and stories of cancelled ballet classes. Had this been 1989, they would have been gushing about the Berlin Wall coming down. In 1999, they would have gushed about Y2K and computer chaos. It doesn’t matter, a gush is a gush—it’s just there to fill space. And the clumsy attempts to “show the tough professional,” who is a “people person” and a “quick learner” and every other text book interview phrase peppered in between does nothing.
What people do with silence is very insightful—
Forgive my acrid decry of reality for a moment. But the point is clear: In business your poker face should be the only one you show. I don’t care if you just lost your finger in the elevator on the way up, the only thing anyone wants to know about you is what level of “great” you weigh in on. Anything else conveys immaturity and a lack of focus (aka: professionalism). Remember: You came to the meeting, now make it count. If you can’t, you’re better off postponing or canceling all together.
Lempa is still interviewing, but can answer emails at firstname.lastname@example.org