Job Interviewing Circa 2012

I recently had lunch with a friend I hadn’t seen for a while.  He was still at the company where we’d worked together some years ago but had started looking for a new job.  After ten years at the same company he was no longer excited by the projects.  He wanted something new and more exciting.

I was entertained for the first half hour by his stories about the craziness of job interviewing.  One company told him he didn’t have enough management experience (he has 20 years) and another told him he was too management oriented and they wanted somebody more hands-on.  A third told him he didn’t have enough background in Java (he has over 10 years) while another was disappointed to learn he had never designed a low noise 10 GHz receiver front end.  This disappointment, in a face-to-face interview, was despite the fact that his background is computer science and his resume makes no mention of any RF work.

Together we laughed at the silliness of the interview process.  We were able to laugh because, right now, we both have jobs.

He then mentioned an interview he’d been to only the day before.  It seemed like a good company and the interview process was very thorough.  He was interviewed by human resources, three staff members, and an executive.  He was concerned, however, that three of the interviewers (HR, one staff member, and the executive) focused heavily on his skills at keeping projects on schedule.  He thought such focus on one issue might indicate a widespread problem in the company.

Not necessarily, I said, but it might be good to know why there was an opening.  Was it from growth or had they let someone go because of their scheduling problems, or did they WANT to let someone go?  As we discussed this, an excellent question came up.  Did they want to keep projects on arbitrary and perhaps artificially accelerated schedules or did they want a skilled and experienced manager to create a realistic schedule to efficiently guide the work?  He decided to call back the executive and find out.

The executive took his call and immediately explained they were very impressed and were putting an offer together.  My friend thanked him, then asked the question.  The executive explained they wanted aggressive schedules to keep the staff highly focused.  My friend asked if it might be possible that shortcuts taken to meet an aggressive schedule were responsible for causing downstream delays.  The executive explained that it was the manager’s job to keep the project on schedule.

So far my friend has not received the promised offer.  Even if he does, his answer will be “no”, because he can’t fix the executive’s broken thinking process.  This was clearly a corporate culture that had, and would continue, making the same mistake.  He’ll let some other person try to keep projects on aggressive and arbitrary schedules.