If your job search has turned into a living nightmare, you’re not alone. Untold numbers of tech pros can tell stories about how hard they planned and prepared for a job hunt, only to run into a truly terrifying hiring manager or downright weird set of hiring requirements.
As scary as these tales are, there are lessons to be learned about how to manage the things that go bump in the night… err, the hiring process. In the spirit of Halloween, we’ve also included some examples of bloodcurdling situations that happened to ordinary tech pros during a job search:
The Cat Got His Tongue
This tech professional, who prefers (for obvious reasons) to remain nameless, was so nervous when he settled into the interview chair that he literally forgot how to speak. Unable to communicate with the hiring manager, his only option was to retreat, according to Jason Haug, principal, technology recruiter at Bradsby Group.
Lesson: Freezing up under pressure isn’t unusual (even if the above example is a bit extreme). It’s okay to admit that you’re a little nervous, especially if you lose your train of thought or can’t remember a simple answer. “After all, the interviewer is human, too,” Haug noted. Make a point of circling back later when the answer comes to you, which demonstrates follow-through and attention to detail.
A software engineer ventured back into the job market after spending several years at a tech startup acquired by a larger company. To his surprise, the interviewer seemed more interested in extracting details about his financial gain from the acquisition and the names of his former bosses or colleagues than discussing the possibility of a position. Being treated as nothing more than a source for new leads and competitive information really sucks.
Lesson: If the interviewer fishes for referrals or insider information, flip the script, advised Bill Gates, VP of Recruiting at Hirewell. Say something like: “It’s great to recall my successes at XYZ Company, but let’s talk about your needs and what I can do for you.” If the interviewer persists (and this one did), you can also explain that you can’t answer those types of questions because you signed a confidentiality agreement.
An Untimely Demise
Lesson: “Be honest about your skills and experience, or it may come back to haunt you,” Haug said.
Trick or Treat
Interviewing over lunch can be stressful enough, but it can be totally unnerving when the entire executive team invites you into the conference room and polishes off their lunch right in front of you. To make matters worse, they don’t offer a reason for their actions or ask the candidate to join them in actually eating.
Lesson: Frankly, other than making a joke or going with the flow, there’s not much you can do under those kinds of circumstances. However, when the ordeal ends, you may want to consider whether this is the right company and environment for you.
Oh, Doggone It!
After surviving a pair-programming exercise and three rounds of interviews, a financial software developer was presented with an offer and consent to a criminal background check. However, the employer pumped the brakes when they discovered the candidate had a misdemeanor on his record… for violating a local dog-leash law. A less-than-stellar credit report put the kybosh on the deal.
Lesson: Many people have made mistakes, but if you proactively explain the situation and what you’ve done to resolve it before an employer runs a background check, you have a better chance of surviving the hiring process than someone who simply ignores the problem.