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My worst interviewee

June 16, 2008

He showed up in an expensive suit, immaculately groomed right up to his matching jade-studded cufflinks, and walked with a well-practiced gait. He spoke in deep firm voice, medium-paced, like a visionary in deep thought. In one hand he carried a branded burgundy briefcase. In the other he had a rolled up copy of Forbes magazine which I’ll get to later. He looked like a million dollars.

We held the interview at a 5-star hotel. It was for a middle management position.

After the pleasantries, the first thing he said was, “Sorry I’m a little late. I bumped into Mr. Hsu (not his real name) downstairs, you know, the cfo of XXXX Group. Do you know him? He’s an old friend. We had breakfast together. I told him I’m here for this interview.”

I said no I don’t know Mr. Hsu so he kicked off a long story about Mr. Hsu and how he climbed up the ranks to cfo position. Along the way he dropped the names of some well-known taikors in the industry. Hmm, a politician I thought. We listened politely and as soon as he paused to catch his breath, I changed topics to the business at hand. I rattled off the background of the post while he listened, briefly glancing at his watch a couple of times.

Then came the show-and-tell part of the interview. His documents were perfect but as we spoke a pattern emerged. A simple question would trigger off a 10-minute life story. 3 questions chewed up 30 minutes. Oops I thought, this one’s a talker. How the hell did he get past our screen?

Trying to get back on track, I cut in and tossed him a few hypothetical scenarios. What would he do to solve them? His answers were variations of the same meme: well, I assume I will have staff under me so I will assign that part of the problem to staff A and the other part to staff B. Ok I thought, but further prodding revealed he didn’t differentiate between delegating activity and responsibility. So we have a talker and a dispatcher.

And what if the staff’s work needs to be presented to the higher levels, what will he do I asked? Oh I’ll present it, he said, because the staff never gets it right. In fact I dislike my staff speaking to people above me. If they have issues they should go through me.

Right, so we have a talker, a dispatcher, and a gatekeeper. By that time, my colleague had stopped scribbling his notes and was listening quietly with arms folded. We knew where this was going.

Still it wasn’t all that unusual given the job specs, except for the last part that just went all bizzarro. We asked him what he thought of the company. As it turned out, he was a customer of the company’s product. He related his experience and it somehow degenerated into a diatribe about how lousy the product was, how pissed off he was at customer service, and the idiots that were running the company. The only solution, he opined, was to fire the whole lot and if still no improvement, revoke their license. Sitting there, I didn’t quite know what to think.

So we have a talker, a dispatcher, a gatekeeper and a loose canon who’d sooner burn the house down than fix it. Excellent. As a closing question, I asked him, so how did you find the article on corporate strategy in that edition of Forbes you’re carrying? A brilliant piece he said, one of the best he’d ever read. With that we all got up and shook hands.

I had a copy of the same magazine at home and I knew it didn’t have any article on corporate strategy.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. June 16, 2008 11:11 am

    hahhaah some people just have the ‘outside’ but not the ‘inside’..

  2. LC Teh permalink
    June 16, 2008 12:06 pm

    Hahaha…I like that last bit.
    If he’s in politics I wouldn’t be a bit surprised, but I wouldn’t vote for him either. He may earn a few bucks conning some simple folks in the villages.

  3. Damien permalink*
    June 16, 2008 8:24 pm

    @cbenc12, so how many managers in our companies have the ‘inside’ would be an interesting question.

    @LC, you mean like how some managers get super duper bonuses on the sweat of their saplings… πŸ™‚

  4. June 17, 2008 10:08 am

    Based on your case above, this dude is probably just too overly overconfident. An extrovert that is eager to show that he has “leadership” attributes and his willingness to take “responsibilities” but where it all turn really wrong is his lack of understanding of what makes a leader.

    A leader is not only about being able to hold the fortress and shout orders! Being a good leader, is like your the brains! and without the organs, bones, structure and such you will probably get no where. Many younger generations now days definitely posses the brain portion but their ability to be a team player is definitely on the lower side.

  5. June 17, 2008 12:45 pm

    Sounds like someone i know but then again, world is full of braggers…
    one who uses appearance (outfit + accessories) and stories to get where they are now πŸ™‚

  6. LC Teh permalink
    June 17, 2008 3:59 pm

    …and still behave like Dilbert’s pointy-hair boss

  7. Damien permalink*
    June 18, 2008 8:44 am

    @mj, yeah he probably tried to use the aura of confidence to detract people from detail. To me he was the epitomy of old school management, a product of layers of heirarchy. He will find it hard to survive in modern and usually flat management structures.

    @safehaven, I deal with that sort of people all the time. After a while you see through them and sometimes I feel sorry for them.

    @LC, ah Dilbert, one of my favorites. Someone should come up with an Asian version because we can be a nuttier bunch.

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