Hermits Rock

Go to content Go to navigation

7 Surprise Interview Tips

(For the interviewer.)

  1. It is unnecessary to schedule a telephone interview with a job candidate.
  2. Even if you botch the late Friday afternoon cold call and alert the candidate of your intent, you can still gain the upper hand early Monday morning by virtue of it being early Monday morning.
  3. A short introduction that says nothing about your company and less about the position is all that is required.
  4. Keep it general, stupid!
  5. You can really learn a lot about a candidate who rates himself on a scale from 1 to 10 for qualities such as, “Ambition,” “Reliability,” and “Quality of Work.”
  6. Ask at least one question to demonstrate you have not read the candidate’s application.
  7. Even though you already asked the candidate to supply a salary expectation, ask for it again for good measure.


Honorary #8:

8. It is entertaining to force a candidate to choose between saving either his mother or the cure for cancer from a hypothetical oncoming train.

correct answer for #8:

i would force my mother to always carry the cure for cancer on her person so they’d both be tied to the same train track.

Honorary #9:

9. Even if you have already asked the candidate to fill out an application and submit a resume (which duplicates the information asked for on the application), you should get the candidate to reiterate his/her qualifications again prior to the interview. Ideally, this should be done by asking the candidate to fill out another form, but it is also possible to do so verbally. Or both.

Honorary #9 revised (if L allows it):

9. Enforce redundant bureacracy.

Oh yes, yours is a much more succinct way to put it.


Congratulations to L, who announced this weekend that she will not be fielding any surprise interviews for at least a few years. It’s official: she’s a librarian!

unscheduled phone interview is just uncool. i hope you navigated it as successfully as you could.

I did do that. But I cursed at the telephone after it was over. I thought the call would be something really simple, like verifying I was who I am.

But telephone interviews I am not very polished at in general, so I couldn’t feel good about this, either. I hate not seeing the person I am talking to.

telephone interviews suck.
not usually as much as yours, though.

Kathy had one where the interviewer called, they talked a few minutes, and the woman said, “You know, we’re really looking for somebody more experienced than you—more like our other applicants.”

yep. at least that wasn’t a “surprise” phone interview. but then again, it was an interview that had been scheduled way ahead of time, so i had all kinds of time to both prepare and fret about it. and then to find out that if the lady had just read my resume, she would have seen that i didn’t have the breadth of experience she was looking for. errr.

I once had a phone interview that was scheduled, only I forgot about it, so it was more like a surprise. Bad scene. It was for an internship at WGN radio in Chicago. They asked what my top stories for the day would be; as I had just rolled out of bed and was barely even awake, I had a hard time coming up with anything coherent. I remember frantically looking for the paper in case it had any good clues about what was going on in the world.

I never had any as bad as the ones G and K have described, though. Poopy, I say, poopy!

Ooooh. I bet Ira Glass was pissed.

in my personal opinion, everything should be done on a stricly surpise basis…this way we would all always have our game-face on…we would always be ready for the repartee.

so people’s eyes get put out when you play with swords…so you end up killing Ignacio Montoya’s father and he takes out a blood oath to slowly kill you.

in the end, it’s all about progress, right?...moving forward, devouring all those who stand in the way of only the most witty, learned, and prepared.

so you think that face to face interactions are more human…off with your head!

so you think that a modicum of respect is due others (whether in writing or in person)...off with your head!

i know, i know, i’m supposed to write something that’s all touchy feely…just call me IRE Glass.

lest i come across as a real donkey…

i am sorry you’ve had this string of bad interview luck.

and i’ll leave it at that…before i start citing things that people in my sunday school class would say about the building of character and greater things stored up for you if you can just wait out the boils, the death of you children, the loss of your camels, the mocking of your wife and the general withering away of your member…

may their hair fall out, their tongue lose all moisture and may all paper they touch turn to dust

well, i don’t mean any of it but the dust part…

i don’t think the people in greg’s sunday school classes would say such things (that is, if he ever taught any or even attended). :)

oops, was that husband mockery?

anyway, i think they tend to say things more along the lines of what kind of judgment you’re in for if you engage in any supposedly questionable behaviors or even exhibit some bad luck: so you’re homeless and living under a bridge? well, you must have done something to deserve that or god wouldn’t have allowed it to happen, now would he?

well, i’m probably being harsh. it’s god’s revenge for last night’s chocolate binge.

yes, and we all know that god does not punish chocolate binges…or is it, he doesn’t punish chocolate binges so long as you drive an suv?

any and every other binger…be damned!

I always thought the binger's revenge was Montezuma’s. Now, I know better!

As for Sunday school, there's plenty enough ridiculous conventional wisdom about character building to be common here, as in Atlanta. Minds are too much like tap beer: to get to the good bock, you have to either skim the head or wait for it to subside. In Sunday school there's not enough time to wait, and lately, I'm not interested enough to skim.

Back to topic: It occurs to me that I'd have probably done swell in the surprise interview if I could've spouted off CW like I was made of it.

do you mean
Church Wisdom
Continous Waves
Computer Warehouse
Conceaed Weapons
Children & Women

Conceaed Weapons, of course.

Silly goose! No! The same conventional wisdom that’s in the 2nd paragraph. At this point, that and church wisdom are inseperable, although I’ll admit in church context, CW often is expressed in terms of how much God punishes in order to teach lessons.

I’ve had these go both ways.

One cold call came weeks after my resume was sent to them (and dozens of others). I had no clue who she was, or even why she was calling. And then she had the nerve to be pissed at me for not knowing.

Another one came weeks after it was sent. I was working at the time and not as desperate. It was the only one I had sent, so I had a pretty good idea who she was. The only thing is that she called me during work and I had to rush out of the office while she immediately started asking me about salary expectations. Because I was working at a law firm at the time, they assumed I was too expensive, so when I relieved them of that misinterpretation, I got a real live interview… which worked out fantastically and I’m with them to this day.

What I don’t get is how this kind of interview makes for good business practice. M, your experience is 50/50, which isn’t bad, but there’s a much greater risk for the employer that #1 will happen than #2. It certainly doesn’t make for respectful business practice.

But maybe that’s the best answer. Companies assume that corporate time is the only time that matters?

I think this cold call business is probably due to a possible combination of factors on the part of the interviewer that can’t be figured out by the average desperate & sweaty interviewee. Maybe the interviewer feels like he/she just doesn’t have the time to schedule a bunch of phone call appointments and needs to just get the process moving. Maybe he/she is incredibly lacking in empathy and doesn’t remember or realize how upsetting it can be to be caught off guard like that (or in contrast, assumes that the coldness of the call saves the interviewee from days of sweating it out in advance). Maybe there’s little to no thinking about it whatsoever, and that’s just the way he/she assumes it’s done. Or maybe, like the experience that I had (see above), which was not a cold call, but a scheduled one, the interviewer is lacking experience in the area of interviewing and is learning the best way to go about these things. (Yes, she actually admitted this to me.)