I still smile just thinking about this. I was watching Top Chef Masters on Bravo the other day, and one of the contestants, a passionate and outspoken chef from France, reminded me of a man I once interviewed for a major university. Let’s call him Jacques.
Jacques seemed highly qualified for the manager position, at least according to his resume. He was also well-spoken and personable. I did the initial phone interview and decided to bring him in for a group interview with other managers and his potential boss. He was as charming in person as he was on the phone, and when it came to the technical questions, he aced every one. It looked like I had found a good one. Yay!
And then I asked the interview question that did him in. I explained there are people at a higher level who are not easy to deal with and will sometimes look you in the eye and tell you you’re wrong, even if you know more than they do and even if you know 100% you’re right. I then asked him what he’d do if that person kept telling him he’s wrong. And without blinking an eye he said “I’d punch him in the nose!”
You should have seen how quickly our smiles shifted to looks of utter disbelief. I thought maybe he was kidding, and even clued him in that I hoped he was kidding, and asked again what he would REALLY do. Well…he said it again, with elegance and style I might add, and went into an impassioned tirade about how this is the only way to deal with people like that. (Picture all that with hand gestures and a beautiful accent.)
If you haven’t guessed, this is not the University way.
The job interview turning point
I could almost see the moment my boss mentally branded a big NO on poor Jacques’s forehead. No recovery. No chance. No way. Her body language shifted and he was done.
But we finished the interview anyway; and he was absolutely professional the rest of the time. It was all so weird (and frustrating) that this polished, well-spoken man could have thought his interview response even remotely acceptable. A few of us liked him anyway and thought maybe…just maybe… if we carefully explained how things are done here, he’d be worth considering. But that one response made him dead meat in my boss’s eyes. And I’m sure in most boss’s eyes.
Now I can’t imagine there’s anyone reading this who really thinks “I’d punch him in the nose” is a good interview response. But just in case you do….please please please know that it isn’t. Nor is anything like that.
Still, there are those days – such as when power-trippers at the University make our lives miserable – we turn to each other and say “We sure wish we had Jacques!”
Have you ever said something in an interview that you wished you could take back? Have you ever interviewed a candidate who shocked you with what they said? Do you ever wish you had Jacques?
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