Can You Juggle?
Now I’m not one to go on and on about stuff but you may know (because I keep going on about it) that I have been made redundant twice in the past year.
Woe. Is. Me.
Being made redundant is rubbish, particularly if you love your job and the company you work for. It’s worse if it’s coming up to Christmas. It’s even worse if it’s in the middle of a global pandemic. Damn you Covid-19!
Anyway, I don’t want to talk about that, I want to talk about interviews. Not interviews that I’ve had because I'm not that hilarious or entertaining as a candidate. I want to talk about some interviews that I have carried out.
Where possible I have sought the permission of the people I’m talking about so I don’t upset anyone or cause offence and for those of you I’ve said nice things about, I haven’t bothered because it felt weird! "Oh hi, I'm writing a post on my Self Indulgent Thingimabobber, is it ok if I write nice things about you?" See? Bit odd.
Over the past 5 years or so I’ve worked in recruitment but not hardcore recruitment agency kind of recruitment. That’s all commission-based, about getting bums on seats and a bit like The Wolf of Wall Street (I know you aren’t all like that!). My job was internal recruitment which is a very different beast. It was all about getting the right people into the right roles within one company. A bit like doing a lovely jigsaw puzzle where you have to search the internet and various other places for the pieces. You then get to ask people all manner of questions (and trust me, sometimes I did... What is your favourite cheese? Can you juggle? etc.) then judge them and either crush their dreams or make them come true. It's the best job ever.
My absolute favourite bit about the job, other than telling someone they are being offered the role, is the interview. I absolutely love interviewing people. I hate being interviewed myself and although I know all the right things to say I’m not sure I always say them. I also get incredibly nervous and I’m terrible at bigging myself up without immediately putting myself down again. I do it all the time. It’s very tedious.
I like nothing more than getting a super nervous candidate in for an interview and making them feel calm and relaxed so that they can give me the best version of themselves. I am really good at doing that, probably because I don't look or come across as super corporate or anything. I am always good cop in an interview.
I remember so clearly the first interview I carried out with my manager at the first mortgage company I worked for. A really pretty, smiley young girl with the most beautiful shiny dark hair came in full of nerves, worried because she had to wear flip flops as she’d had an operation on her foot. I would never have noticed her footwear if she hadn’t mentioned it but every interview since then I’ve made sure I check out people’s footwear. Anyway, this lovely girl had no experience in Financial Services or mortgages. She was only 17, had only ever been to school and worked a few hours here and there at Woolworths so she didn’t have that many examples of things she had done to share with us. She was smart though and had so much common sense, which in my opinion is so much more valuable than any degree. I remember just being really taken by her. She told us about how she lived with her mum, dad and brother and her boyfriend and it was clear that her family was everything to her. The moment I knew we had to have her was when she said, “I just need someone to give me a chance”. It still makes my heart hurt a bit thinking about it. So we offered her the role and she was brilliant. She is genuinely one of the best people I have ever recruited (and there’s been a lot) and I would take her on again in a heartbeat wherever I worked. It has been a pleasure seeing her come from that young girl in flip flops to being the super professional, now married to that boyfriend, mummy to two lovely boys who is still so devoted to her family. Thank you for being brilliant you Georgie, for being a great first interview and proving that we were right to give you a chance. You paved the way for lots of other people in the future that I might not have considered otherwise and very much shaped how I recruit.
Although the role I had in that company wasn’t in HR I did get involved in most of the recruitment for the department because I was managing one of the four teams. We got some really strange candidates in there I can tell you. To be fair some of us that got through the interviews to work there were a bit odd so you can imagine what the ones we rejected were like. The one that sticks in my mind is the girl who was a bit away with the fairies and spent the whole interview telling us about how her mum had a bed and breakfast on the Oxford Road. She was wearing a long kind of floaty black skirt and as she turned around to leave I noticed that all the overlocked seam and labels were showing. She had her skirt on inside out. She was a no and not just because she couldn’t dress herself.
We carried out a couple of assessment centres when we were recruiting a brand new team for the department. For those of you who might not know, an assessment centre is when you invite a group of candidates to all come in at the same time and you get them to carry out a selection of different tasks such as an interview, group exercise, role play or written assessment. It’s a really good way to recruit if you have several of the same roles to fill as you can save time and you can see how people interact with their peers in a way you don’t get to see at a standard interview. We had a couple of strange ones at these assessment centres too.
Like the girl who turned up and told us straight away she absolutely did not want a job in financial services or where she had to use the phone. We were recruiting for mortgage consultants in a contact centre. 100% on the phones and 100% financial services. She was a no.
We only had 2 of the 6 candidates turn up for the next session and they could not have been more different. They were both young men, smartly dressed but that was where the similarity ended. Mr Lovejoy was literally the most laid back person I’ve ever interviewed and possibly ever met. He may as well have been lying down he was so chilled out. He had been made redundant and said something along the lines of he’d only come for the interview because his girlfriend had been nagging him and he wanted to get out of the house. Under normal circumstances that would have put me right off but he was a really likeable and knew what he was talking about when it really came down to it. His counterpart was like nothing I’d ever seen before… or since for that matter. I would be willing to put money on the fact he was on some kind of recreational drugs, he was almost literally bouncing off the walls. Obviously, people get really nervous at interview so you do allow for weird behaviour but this was something else! Next to Mr Lovejoy he just looked even more manic. Also, even when people are super nervous, once they get into it they tend to calm down a bit, not this one… If anything he got weirder. Everything he did or said was super fast and I lost count of the number of glasses of water he downed in the time he was with us. Nothing he said really made sense either. Needless to say, he was a thanks but no thanks. We took on Mr L though and he did a fine job of being the only boy in a team full of girls.
During my time at the next company I worked for I had way more interaction with candidates because ultimately it was my job. I worked in a lovely recruitment team with the HR department and had the best time carrying out interviews for all manner of roles across the business over a period of about 5 years. I miss it so much. (A bit more woe is me...)
One of the most memorable interviews was for a role in the call centre. I had received a CV directly from a young man who didn’t have much experience but I felt like he needed to be given a chance (in the words of Georgie). I carried out a phone interview with him and he came across as fairly bright and had a nice telephone manner so we brought him in for a face to face interview.
Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately as it turned out), the only room I was able to book for the interview was right in the middle of the office, had glass walls and a steady stream of people walking past. Imagine a square goldfish bowl. It was also around lunchtime so the people traffic outside the room was busier than usual. Anyway, we sat down and started our usual routine, apologising for the slightly public room, asking if he wanted water etc. Then the questions began. He did ok, to begin with, talking through his career but suddenly, in the middle of the competency questions, he went white and started sweating profusely. It was really hot in there but this was something else, it was like full-on panic sweats. His answers started becoming poor and kind of irrelevant and the interview quickly went downhill. We then put him in the room next door to prepare for the next stage of the assessment.
A couple of minutes passed and one of my HR colleagues came into the room saying she needed to speak to me. This was really unusual, so I quickly followed her assuming the worst in typical me style; that my family had all be mauled by a pack of wolves or a 747 had crashed on my house or something. What transpired was potentially weirder. One of the lovely girls from Servicing upstairs had walked past the room I was in with my candidate on her way back from lunch and recognised him. He was her ex-boyfriend who had been stalking her for months. He had done all kinds of freakish stuff like stuffing her house door lock full of twigs so that she couldn’t get her key in it to get into her house. I mean what kind of person even thinks of doing that?? She had an open investigation going on with the police about him, he had been warned twice that he wasn’t allowed to go anywhere near her and was on his way to a non-molestation order if he carried on. She was understandably in a terrible state seeing him in her place of work and had gone straight to HR to tell them.
He knew she worked there and had clearly applied for the role knowing it would bring him closer to her like a total weirdo. I was told I had to continue with the interview and then make sure he was escorted off the premises, security had been told too so he didn’t try to get back in again. I had to do this without alerting him to the fact we were on to him. No pressure Dennett. Clearly, his funny turn had been brought on when he saw his stalkee and started to panic because he knew she was on to him. I was a bit concerned about how we would get through the next bit of the assessment but as luck would have it he had completely lost his nerve and bailed out before we had to go through the role play. Even if he wasn’t a crazed stalker it would have been a no from me. It did make me think twice about giving people a chance for a while after that.
Another very memorable interview was for the same role. We brought a lovely young lady in to see us who had previous call centre experience so that was exciting. Exciting might be too strong a word but when you advertise call centre roles you tend to get a lot of applications from people that don’t have any call centre experience so when you get one that does... ooh yeah! The call centre she had previously worked in was for a dating agency. If I remember correctly there were two parts to the agency; a section that dealt with older people so she spent a lot of time talking them through how to use the website and get themselves registered and then the other section which was a bit more… specialist… or niche… or fetishy. During that interview I learned that there is such a thing as a micro-penis. Like it’s actually a medical thing and there are people who love it and other people who are proud of them (not that they shouldn’t be of course!). Interviewing is educational and fun sometimes, kids. Listening to this very pretty, well turned out with beautiful hair (I like nice hair) mummy of one talk quite seriously about micro-penises (is that the plural of penis? Penii?) was a very strange experience. She was a yes though and that wasn’t the last time we talked about her discussing small appendages in her interview.
The other thing you get is the candidates who don’t turn up for interviews. No-shows aren't that unusual but some of the excuses you get are. You wouldn’t believe the number of nans / grandads / brothers / sisters / parents that have an accident / get sick / die on interview days. It’s a really unlucky time for family members. Sometimes you get the same nan dying twice which is really unfortunate. I’ve had candidates who have been on their way to interviews and crashed their cars a couple of times. One still made it in for the interview but the other one we never heard from again. I hope they just changed their mind!
I had a few favourite interview partners too. You’re not supposed to have favourites but it’s hard not to.
One of my all-time favourite interview buddies is the best Irish man I know, the legendary Declando… see I try to disguise people’s names but I think I might have failed on this one if you know him. Declando and I are an interview dream team and over the years we have recruited some amazing people (and a couple that were maybe not quite as amazing).
Nine times out of ten we agree on a person but there was one time we didn’t… I’m feeling pretty furious just thinking about it, not that I’m one to dwell on things or bear a grudge of course. It was a good few years ago now and the team needed a few temps for about 3 months. We had already filled most of the roles but had one left. So off we went, me with my clipboard of doom that came to every interview, Declando with his coffee, probably in a Star Wars mug, ready to interview the next candidate…
In walked the biggest man I think I’ve ever seen. He was literally 10 foot tall… That is a slight exaggeration, he must have been at least 6 foot 5 though and built like a tank. He had dreadlocks which we later found out came down nearly to his waist tied up in a neat bun and he had a giant beard. He would have looked pretty intimidating but had the smiliest face and was so friendly. As well as work things, he talked about his wife who he clearly loved more than anything in the world and how they had spent time travelling. They had lived somewhere, I want to say Greece but I could be wrong, for a while working in a cat sanctuary and I think they had come back to the UK for a bit before they were going off travelling again. How amazing is that? I was amazed and already decided he was a yes for sure. There was literally no reason why he would be a no. A giant man who loved his wife and cats? What more could you want from a temp? I’m fully aware none of these things were actually in the job description but… Well, shush.
So, he was a shoo-in as far as I was concerned. No way was I prepared for Declando and his quiet but firm “no”. Er, what? What do you mean, no? I have clearly repressed the memories of why Declando said no because they are just too painful (not that I’m overly dramatic or anything) but I’m sure he thought he was doing the right thing. We discussed this candidate at great length over a couple of days I think and I pulled out some of my best sulking faces but nothing worked. It was a no and that was that. So, as a last-ditch resort, I used the only thing I had left. I said “FINE”. Had there been a narrator there at the time (I’m thinking Morgan Freeman), you would have heard the words “…but things were not fine”. If I hadn’t been sitting at my desk, I would have tossed my hair and flounced off. That’ll learn you Declando!
Declando has never let me forget our one and only falling out (and to be honest I haven’t let him forget either) we still both think we are right and the other one was wrong. While the young lady we got to fill the role, in the end, was great (and also REALLY tall but more like a nice tree than a tank), I do still think our cat loving mountain of a dreadlocked man would have done a FINE job too.