Jobs

Can I have your attention, please?

Q. After two phone screenings, I was able to get invited to interview for a job I really want. Once I got there, the interviewer had me wait for 15 minutes while he “finished up a call”. Then we started to meet, and within 5 minutes he took another call. No exaggeration, within the next half hour he took 4 more calls, and these weren’t quick calls. He was totally distracted, and I don’t think he knows anything about me. He did apologize, and ended by saying they’ll be making a decision soon. I feel totally shortchanged. Can I do anything now? What should I have done?

A.Many people are too heavily scheduled, and have many demands on their time; however this isn’t the way to deal with these issues. Putting down the phone and being focused on you is what this interviewer owed you, and his company. The interviewer was asked to be involved in the process because someone at the organization wanted his feedback -and though he maybe prepared to offer his comments, they offer no value regarding you as a candidate.


In a situation where the interviewer doesn’t seem to be able to offer you the time and attention you typically find in a professional interview, you can offer to help. The interruptions need to be extreme – not a quick knock on the door, or a phone call from a child checking in. Those kinds of interruptions happen on a regular basis and effective candidates show they can adjust, be interrupted and resume discussion where they left off. If the situation is extreme, after the second phone interruption, you might have said “It doesn’t seem to be the best time for you to be away from the phone – clearly there is some urgency in what you are dealing with. Would it be better to reschedule our meeting?”
This has to be offered with no reprimanding tone of voice, but as a real offer to free up some immediate schedule time with an offer to return at a time more convenient to the interviewer. You are delivering a message that these interruptions are a distraction for both of you, and that you are reasonable, flexible, and clear about trying to remedy an uncomfortable position in a professional way.
It may not be too late for you regarding this opportunity. Call the interviewer, and let him know you enjoyed meeting him, and since you are very interested in the position, wonder if there might be some additional time for you to meet since there was “so much else going on when we met”. Your comments can’t be accusatory, and you will need to be prepared for a move right into interview conversation over the phone, which could work to your advantage. If there was a human resources person, or manager who assisted with arrangements, you can also let them know you enjoyed meeting your interviewer but he seemed under some time challenges that day so you aren’t sure you were able to communicate what you bring. You can effectively self advocate without throwing your interviewer under the bus.

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