I’ve conducted a few job interviews. Whenever I interview someone, I try to create a comfortable atmosphere for the interviewee. I try to get to know them a little bit on a personal level. Unless the interviewee is relaxed and at ease, he or she is not going to be able to well in the interview. I want them to do well because awkward interviews are difficult for the interviewer too!
What I recently experienced illustrates how not to conduct an interview.
I’ve interviewed with several Internet start-ups lately. Most of my interactions with these companies were very professional and pleasant. However, one of my interviews, which was with the company’s CEO, left a bad taste in my mouth.
I initially contacted him via email and told him about my interest in his company. His response was that my resume was “impressive” and that I should talk to one of his VPs. I talked to his VP a few times on the phone and later met him for breakfast. He was great. I thought to myself, “I really like this guy. He knows this space and he would be a great person to work for.” That afternoon, I met with a couple of his co-workers, one of which was the CEO.
We started the interview in a standard fashion by going over my resume. As I was walking him through my resume, we talked about my education– i.e. why I chose Babson and Duke MBA, etc. I told him that one of the reasons I chose Babson is because “Babson is probably one of the most entrepreneurial schools in the country.” He seemed quite surprised and said he had never hard of Babson. Judging by the look on his face, he looked as though he was offended . How dare I claim such a thing in front of someone who went to Stanford?! That’s fine, but it’s true in my opinion. The Babson Alumni Magazine I receive every quarter is filled with updates from alumni, including recent graduates, about how they are now founders of their own successful companies. In fact, U.S. News & World Report has ranked Babson #1 in Entrepreneurship for more than 14 consecutive years (18 consecutive years for Babson MBA).
When I told him about my passion for start-ups and desire to be where he’s at in 10 years, he said,
“But you, you have been out of school for 6 years, yeah, about 6 years and you haven’t worked besides at your two internships.” When I asked for clarification, he told me that “consultants don’t work.”
I didn’t quite know how to respond to that and I was confused by his contradictory reaction. Was he impressed by my resume like he had said in his email or was he not? Maybe he was just getting cranking because it was late in the day? I’m still not sure.
I know what he was getting at. He was trying to say that consultants don’t actually implement any operational changes. I agree that consultants focus primarily on making sound recommendations based on their research and analyses. I get that. He kept on questioning why I went into consulting instead of joining a start-up. He found it difficult to believe that someone who claims to be entrepreneurial would go work for a consultancy after college rather than join a start-up. We must have spent at last five minutes on why consultants don’t actually do anything! For the record, he was an investment banker before working at his first start-up. Ironic, isn’t it? What ever reason I gave him (e.g. wanting to learn about various industries, gaining analytical skills, etc), he always went back to, “but consultants don’t work.” I knew the interview was over at that point.
Maybe he thought that I was jumping on the start-up bandwagon because that’s the “cool” thing to do right now. I’m still not sure why he behaved the way he did. And, frankly, it doesn’t matter now. My time pursuing a role at that particular start-up wasn’t a complete waste though. I learned a valuable lesson, which is that I should show more respect to all my interviewees and not make assumptions about their career decisions without knowing their background. I never received an official “rejection” email either. Strange. Unprofessional. Annoying.