Quite a few years ago I was interviewing a candidate in my office. I was pretty impressed with his overall demeanor, presentation, and energy levels. He was narrating his career to me, including the reasons for change for each of the moves. And suddenly came that ‘awkward moment’. As he was towards the end of his third experience, there was an ironic pause for half a second. “I was fired!”, he said, with an unapologetic smile on his face. For a moment I was taken aback, and wondered how to react. There was an eerie silence in the room, not so long, but quite meaningful.
While the discussion went on, and I enquired into the details of the same, I was left with some experiences which were food for thought over the next few days. I could, in the first place, feel that this interview stood apart from several others which would have happened during those days. I was unable to take it of my mind, and the imagery was quite sharp and clear.
Several years down now, I have not experienced interviews of this nature quite often. But that makes me reflect on the differentiators of this one, as key takeaways for such situations during interviews.
Space in the room:
Getting fired, terminations, layoffs – are all a formal part of the organizational employment, stigmatized enough, though, that it’s tough to be direct about. But, in this case, the candidate, having conquered that awkward moment, created so much space in the room for the rest of the discussion to be powerful, and impactful. We were connected much better, and in deep conversation.
Well, many of us may guess, and ask the discomforting question in a nicer way. The response may me absolute truth. But the impact of initiating is altogether different. A big plus. Respect earned. Negative implication minimized. A truth in response may tantamount to the same thing, but the impact of taking the first step, by design, is certainly different.
Eliminates passive incoherence:
This was an after-effect I lived with, and then realized. My mind was equally free as his, after his disclosure. I could reminisce that I had not gotten disconnected from the conversation, which happens, more often than not, in cases when the mind is unable to logically accept and a point, or the dots don’t seem to be connecting. As a result, the discussion may start losing the track it was on thus far. A passive loop of incoherence starts gyrating in the mind of the interviewer. This affects active part of the mind involved in the conversation, as it is constantly looking for something. But confused, as it is unable to discover. The grip in the interview is not the same anymore, in most of the cases as I have experienced.
Although at some places during the chat, the content wasn’t all rosy, yet the residual feeling was good. There was a lot of positive energy left in the room, and both us left the room with smiles on our faces, I remember, and we were definitely connected. The resultant positive energy is an absolute confirmatory litmus test of the success of an interview, come what may!
During an interview, speaking upfront about the tough situations faced in our careers is helpful. Whereas, it has almost become an accepted norm to either conceal, convey indirectly or mildly, or beat around the bush in such cases during the interview.
Contrary to benefiting, such an act dilutes the power of the interview, and weakens conviction in the content that follows. It is usually not an intended action on the part of the interviewer, but a sub-conscious reaction of his or her brain. The so-far coherent conversation, gets partially or completely disarrayed. This in turn affects the absorption capacity of the interviewer in that moment, and the makes him or her stress harder for being attentive and be ‘in the discussion’. The outcomes of such interviews are sometimes unexplainable – and what went wrong remains a mystery.
The interview conversation should be kept at the same pedestal as a diagnostic discussion with a doctor, or facts briefing to a lawyer. It works better that way!