Your Office Coach: Put away the laptops when interviewing job candidates

Q: I am trying to decide whether I should feel offended by my last job interview. The format was a panel discussion with three interviewers, including two young men in their 20s and a woman in her 60s. The woman was friendly, attentive and interested in my answers. The guys brought laptops and typed continuously for the entire hour, occasionally looking up to interject a question.

Although the conversation was relaxed and friendly, I couldn’t help feeling that the laptops were a nuisance. It was like having dinner with someone who constantly keeps checking their cell phone. On the other hand, this is my first interview in eight years, so perhaps I’m behind the times. Has this become accepted interviewing behavior?

A: At best, these preoccupied gentlemen may have been diligently transcribing every syllable of your answers. At worst, they were responding to emails or working on other projects. But either way, their absorption with electronic devices was counterproductive. Not only did they appear rude and disrespectful, but they also missed a lot of information.

Important interviews are conducted face-to-face for a reason. When you are in someone’s presence, or even viewing them onscreen, you can learn a great deal from their body language, facial expressions, and other non-verbal behaviors. So even if these laptop jockeys were accurately capturing the content of your comments, they certainly weren’t getting to know you.

When screening job candidates, interviewers sometimes forget that they are not the only ones making a decision. The applicants are choosing an employer, and boorish behavior can easily drive them away. Therefore, smart managers use technology where it will improve the hiring process, but also recognize when it becomes an impediment.

Q: One of my direct reports is a very negative person who refuses to accept responsibility for her frequent mistakes. If I am talking about her with my other direct reports, would this be considered gossip?

A: That depends upon the purpose of the conversation. If your other staff members are describing how these errors have affected their work, with the goal of clarifying and correcting the problem, that would be an appropriate business topic. But if you are simply venting about your own frustrations, then you are completely out of line.

Any discussion of this employee’s shortcomings should be conducted directly with her. If additional consultation is required, talk with your boss or human resources manager. Only a very immature supervisor would make a habit of complaining to one employee about another.

Q: You recently advised someone concerned about her personnel record to contact human resources because she had a right to know what was in her file. I don’t believe that employees in every state have this right.

A: You are absolutely correct. I should have chosen my words more carefully, because I did not mean to imply a legal obligation. State laws about access to personnel records vary greatly, and that information can easily be found online.

About The Writer

Marie G. McIntyre is a workplace coach and the author of “Secrets to Winning at Office Politics.” Send in questions and get free coaching tips at her Twitter @officecoach.

(c)2015 Tribune Content Agency, LLC

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