Flexibility Is The Name of the Game in Job Interviews

Participating in an employment interview can certainly provide anxious moments but, like Broadway the show must go on and if anything, one can take this opportunity to show how flexible you can be and how one reacts under extreme pressure.  Preparation for a job interview, whether you are the employer or the potential employee is vital.  You have a limited time with each other and obviously it is important to get as much information and impressions from this interaction as possible.

Though experts lecture that a job seeker should plan for everything in an interview, sometimes you just can’t predict what can happen during some of the most anxiety-laden minutes of your life.  A good example of the need to be flexible happened to me during an interview in 2001 (weekend prior to 9/11).  Believe it or not a thunderstorm came through town and all the lights in the hotel where the interview was taking place went out.

As mentioned earlier it is difficult enough to maintain a certain equilibrium during an interview.  Interviews can certainly draw on your nerves even if you are prepared for them but of course the question must be raised: How can you be prepared for a massive thunderstorm happening directly on top of your job interview? 

Thankfully it was a thunderstorm and not a tornado but the end-result was the same – disruption and a lack of focus on the activity and on the candidate in the room.  After a few minutes of nervous chuckling, thankfully from the interviewers and not from me, we continued the process in the dark.  Obviously eye contact was limited at this point.  The interview went well but there was this inherent concern from all that either the lights were going to pop back on shortly or that eventually the roof was going to blow off!

Mercifully we all got through the interview and of course all participants were extremely apologetic.  The fairest approach would have been to postpone the interview and wait until the weather had passed but the day was full with candidate interviews and the selection committee was scheduled to depart by plane the next day – thus we moved on.

Needless to say I didn’t get the job – not because of the interview or because of the weather.  Matter of fact I would be willing to say that I got the benefit of the doubt because of the conditions during the interview.  You may recall from a previous posting that this was the position that an internal candidate got the job despite the feelings from so many of the staff.

Another example of being flexible in a job interview and “you really can’t make this stuff up” was an interview during my last transitionary phase in Reno.  I arrived the night before the interview after midnight and was told that the only room left was a smoking room.  Of course I knew if I stayed in that room I wouldn’t be able to talk the next morning.  Thankfully, after waking up the night manager I was given a non-smoking suite for the less than 6 hours of sleep prior to the interview.

Unbeknownst to me I was the first candidate to enter the lions den at 8:00 AM.  To say that the room was inadequate would be a laughable understatement.  Count them –  1 candidate, 5 selection committee members, all in a room no larger than a mid-sized bathroom and with fewer chairs.  Obviously no meeting planner ever participated in this endeavor and no one appeared 5 minutes early to ask some important questions about the environment that these committee members were going to use for the next 8 hours.

Needless to say, the 8:00 AM interview started much later because we needed to shift to a diffferent and larger room.  It is never easy being the first interviewee, out of the blocks but this episode was certainly the strangest.  Because we were all behind schedule it appeared that everyone around the table wanted to make up for lost time.  It was also unfortunate because since the first interview was tardy, the candidates who were planned not to see each other were now seeing each other in the hall as we passed by.

Thankfully I didn’t get that job either.  Matter of fact I heard that they have gone through two Execs during a 6 year span.  It is quite obvious that planning continues to be a problem with that group!

Individuals react differently to stressful conditions but I must admit that these two events happened four years apart and I still remember saying to myself in Reno “here we go again.”  It is easy for someone writing a post to say that you must maintain your decorum and remain calm in condition such as these but I do remember thinking that if this is what these people are going to remember me by, that at least I will be remembered!


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