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Oops, They Did It Again

Candidates Are Still Doing the Darndest Things--2022 Edition

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Should old acquaintance be forgot, something tells me we will still remember these experiences, seared into our memories. Even the most talented, exquisitely qualified, and industry-leading executives – who appear perfect on paper or over the phone – can still surprise, when we move forward and meet with them for our in-depth interviews…2022 was truly one for the books, as candidates continued to do the darndest things.

With the shift to hybrid/remote-work, and the increasing overlap of personal and professional space (juggling videoconferences at home with attention-craving pets, rambunctious kids, and other distractions), we’ve all certainly and necessarily honed our multitasking skills. But while I was, to some degree, impressed by the heroic multitasking one candidate displayed while videoconferencing with me from his corporate office – answering a dozen emails, waving away a series of people off-screen, and delivering a stream-of-consciousness narrative, all while he was a muted participant on a second, work-related, conference call – I wasn’t surprised that he was unable to remember the name of our client’s firm, and kept calling me Dave.

Speaking of attention-craving pets, we’ve all experienced Zoom calls where the beloved cat can’t resist climbing on someone’s shoulder, or the family dog keeps jumping on someone’s lap. While many of my colleagues are passionate pet people, they learned long ago to store the work attire in a spot inaccessible to their canine and feline friends. Unlike the Chief Financial Officer candidate I met with, who spent a good five minutes of our video call attacking the pet hair on his shirt with a lint roller.

Getting back to the (multi)task at hand, not everyone responded to the stresses of the recent years by doubling-down on their productivity and efficiency 24x7. And countless articles were written to the effect of “Happier Hour Has Gotten Earlier During Lockdown” and “Why Cocktail Hour is Back.” Clearly my colleague’s Chief Operating Officer candidate had that in mind, when he interviewed with her at the café of a downtown hotel, and immediately after arriving, ordered a beer. At 11:00am on a Tuesday morning.

Of course, there’s more than one way to start off an interview on the wrong foot. I disagree that “You won’t believe what a train wreck this place is” or “I don’t know what I was thinking when I agreed to join this firm.” Something tells me, you gave it about as much thought as to how it comes across trashing your current firm within the first minute of us meeting!

That said, we absolutely value and ask for complete candor and directness. Being honest about personal commitments is totally to be expected, appreciated, and can save everyone significant time. For example, when one candidate responded via email to my colleague’s initial outreach: “I’ve just purchased a classic car that requires a considerable amount of restoration, and together with my work and family responsibilities, my bandwidth is virtually non-existent. I don’t have time to put myself through an extended selection process. One or two interviews are OK, but I won’t do more than that. If that’s a problem, I will respectfully forgo this opportunity.” Unsurprisingly, we agreed!

And one last note with regards to email. For those who use them, remember to disable out-of-office replies promptly after getting back in the saddle. Nothing shouts “eye on the ball” more than receiving “I am currently out of the office and will be returning on Monday, October 17th.” When it’s already Wednesday, November 2nd.

All the best for 2023, and we’ll see what memories this year has in store.--William Lepiesza

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