Inappropriate laughter: The job interviewPosted: September 19, 2010 | |
I recently was reminded of a horrifying event from my professional life. Actually, as I think about it, this one event should be enough to reclassify my entire portfolio of professional work as semi-professional.
Let’s Set The Scene
A couple years ago, I was involved in the selection of some people for a highly specialized position. There were about 5 people involved in conducting a panel style interview of the candidates. We started at about 7:30 in the morning.
Late in the afternoon we were getting a little goofy from being locked in the interview room, firing the same questions at people over and over. During a break, something that was mildly funny happened. It was one of those things that is only funny in the moment, to people who were trapped in the room that day. We all had our laugh, it wasn’t even a big laugh.
Then the next candidate came in for their interview. I had never met the candidate, but had heard great things about her from people I think highly of. This was the favorite to get the position.
The person chairing the interviews introduced everyone, then said “Omawarisan has the first question.”
And Then, It Happened
That is where everything when horribly, giggly, unexpectedly wrong.
I took off my glasses, looked down at the question I had been asking all day, looked back up at the candidate and lost my mind. I started laughing about the weak joke we’d just pulled. I can’t explain it, I just started laughing…hard. Laughing until I was in tears. Laughing until my sides hurt. I could not stop for about fifteen seconds.
I finally gathered myself. I apologized to the candidate and explained that I was laughing at something that happened before she’d come in. I looked down, started to ask the question again, looked up and went to pieces again. I laughed harder than the first time.
I again got myself together, then lost it. Again. I was embarrassed, I felt awful for the candidate. I let someone else ask the question I was assigned.
For the rest of the interview, I kept my head down and took notes. I pretty much got mauled by the other interviewers after it was all over. There really was no explaining it. We all knew what I was laughing at and that it was not really funny. To this day, I can not explain why switching two people’s chairs was that funny at that moment.
Fortunately, the candidate aced the interview despite my performance. She got the position. I sought her out later in the week and apologized profusely. She was extremely gracious about the whole thing, probably more so than I could have been. We absolutely got the right person for the job, despite my meltdown.
In The End…
Not surprisingly, I have not been invited back to help with candidate interviews for that particular section. I have successfully interviewed people for other positions without going to pieces since that very strange day.
I started this out be referring to it as a horrifying event from my professional life. As horrifying as it was through my eyes, I can’t imagine how much more so it was for that poor woman sitting there wondering what she’d done.
- Weird and Wacky Job Interviews: Bad Hiring and Bad Psychology (psychologytoday.com)
- How to Ace a Job Interview (lifescript.com)