I asked a potential engineering intern if he could meet me downtown and specified the date, time and place that would work for me – including the address. Ten minutes past our meeting time he still hadn’t showed up. So I emailed him and asked if he was in the café and I just missed him somehow. Another five minutes passed and I received a reply email: he was in the wrong place.
He ended up being 20 minutes late to the interview. When he finally arrived he didn’t apologize for being late.
Still, I started the interview by asking what his plans were for the summer. "I already have a job, but I want to work for a start-up," he said.
I nodded my head prompting him to say more.
"I started a company with two other founders," he said, and then with a contemptuous tone, "...business-types."
"Hmm," I murmured and made a mental note: dislikes "business types."
"But it didn’t work out," he continued.
"Why not?" I asked. I was unprepared for the onslaught of explanation, excuse-making and generalized defensiveness that tumbled out. I smiled. There was no way in hell I'd ever hire him.
He had in short order, already told me all I needed to know about him.
His tardiness to the interview showed that he didn’t pay attention to detail--the address of the location was in the email. He didn’t assume accountability for being late when he did arrive. Accidents do happen, people get lost, but how you handle mistakes says volumes. Finally, his start-up failure story showed poor judgment. On many levels.
First, it’s not a story I would advise leading with in an interview. It was clear in the retelling of his story that he still felt very emotional about what transpired between the founders. His emotions were leaking everywhere and the story overall did not put him in a positive light. He would have been better off leading with a success and not a failure. Yes, failure is acceptable, but you wouldn’t start a date with how your last relationship failed.
The real failure, though, was his inability to recognize the part he played in the situation. That lack of introspection and self awareness made me wary. In my experience it’s difficult to work with people who lack awareness of the part they play in relationships. He was in two words, emotionally immature.
Which highlights the aspect of interviews that many a person (age doesn’t necessarily make a difference) can bungle. You can get the address right, be on time, and lead with success stories, but only the self-aware can truly show up.
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[Image: Flickr user John McNab]