Definitely Sweat the Small Stuff

It occurred to me last week, as I was discussing an offer with a candidate, just how important small things can be.

People, as in the sense that those making the offer as well as those receiving it, can be surprisingly influenced by details which some may consider completely insignificant.

What one person may not notice can be a glaring insult to another. We are not all experts in psychology and interpersonal relations, although we’d like to think we are, so this note is a reminder that we definitely need to sweat the small stuff, when it comes to the interview process. This ‘small stuff’ when it is ignored can become quite aggravating to others sometimes causing a company to choose one person over the other and the same for a person choosing between companies.

I list a couple of funny examples below that I’ve remembered over the years. If you can think of other things that come up on your number one list of annoying oversights, please feel free to send me an e- mail and I will add your thoughts…

Always reread offers before they go out! One amusing, but potentially embarrassing gaffe, my client company sent an offer to me before sending it out (thankfully) to the candidate. I read it all the way through (thankfully, again) and noticed a completely different name at the bottom! It was the wrong gender as well. Apparently they took an offer they had made a few months earlier, changed the name (at the top), changed the other details and presto, a new offer….not! That last sentence said ‘(Completely different name) we are really looking forward, to having you join our team’…. Yikes. Good thing it was caught before going out.

Here’s another potential problem. What you wear to an interview or what you are wearing when someone comes in to interview. I, personally, made the mistake of not wearing a suit while I met with a venture group for a potential search and they chose to use a different search firm. My contact informed me that they thought my earrings were too big and I had dressed like a hippy (a hippy?? Moi?, chic yes.. whadda they know…) But I’ll never do that again. Always wear a suit. Even if it you feel overdressed (watch the movie ‘My Cousin Vinnie’).

I also once sent a candidate in for a job interview and he wore a button down shirt with jeans and cowboy boots. While that doesn’t bother me at all the CEO was offended and decided that my candidate was not worth pursuing. In her estimation this was a sign that the candidate was not taking this interview seriously. I’m sure he looked positively dashing but, alas, the CEO was not impressed.

A few years ago I set up an interview for a candidate who was qualified and interested in a CSO
position for a small emerging biotech. We agreed that he would meet the CEO at Logan airport at the Admiral’s Club. My candidate showed up a few minutes late shook hands with the CEO and, while sitting down, asked “Can we make this quick I parked my car in temporary parking.”!! OK so he wasn’t thinking very clearly… airports can do that to you. But…, he did not get the offer. ….Surprise!!

Here’s another one. After a full day of interviews this candidate had performed very well. She was leading the pack. Everyone was excited about her. But, then it happened. At dinner, they were enjoying a little more casual conversation and … she did it. She made the fatal mistake. She said, “Do you guys mind if I head up to my room now, ER is coming on in 5 minutes and I hate to miss it.” Silence, nervous laughter and … no she didn’t get the offer (don’t ever let yourself get too relaxed!). While on an interview, you’re always ON.

If you are a company calling a candidate, or a candidate taking a call please remember their time is as important as yours and it does not leave a favorable impression if you put them on hold several times, while in the middle of discussions or if you call them 10-15 minutes late. We all understand important things come up but you are communicating to that Company/Candidate that something else is more important than they are. Turn off your cell phone. No don’t even leave it on vibrate!

Again, I await with bated breath (what is bated breath?) your own amusing thoughts and comments!

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