20 Feb 2017

The dangers of autopilot...

I saw a news article in the Telegraph recently.  It attracted my interest with the Headline - Teen shocked by interview feedback shaming her 'basic' answers. http://ow.ly/MoQi309a2AT.  Really, it was a headline befitting one of the tabloids and whilst I read the story, I then felt that the whole story was more suitable for the Daily Mail - really very few facts in the article and just a headline designed to shock/antagonise the reader.

In essence, an 18 year old had gone for a job interview with a local pub/restaurant - part of a chain.  It was for a waitressing job. Minutes after the interview, she was texted to say she hadn't got the job. An inappropriate text saying it was a no, and then another one (when she queried  why), to say answers were 'like' basic and she was not engaging. There was also a 'cry-laughing' emoji.

It turned out that the HR person who interviewed, had thought it was an internal person they were texting and that the texts were not meant for the candidate.

So I was thinking. There were so many places to pick holes in the story and for me, the overriding message wasn't about candidate feedback, being professional in interviews, not even selling ridiculous stories to the media etc. It was more that we all need to slow down a bit.

I work at the speed of light. I come from a client services background so my default setting is working at pace with a sense of urgency. I often think I am superhuman so great is the volume of work that I can get through (only half joking...). I bang on and on to my candidates about the importance of attention to detail and typically, I pride myself on this - whether it's typos, grammar, proposal writing etc.  But last week, I made a cock up. Not a big one and as it happens, I don't think anyone actually noticed, but I did, and I beat myself up and suffered at least 24 hours of self loathing.  When I analysed why it had happened, I concluded that I'd just been going too fast.  I was on autopilot and I just didn't check the email (which went out to 500 client contacts...).  And this is the problem now.  With the speed of digital, we bang out the email and hit the send button and 'pow', it's gone.  And if you've made an error, you're sat staring at the screen in disbelief and thinking, 'how am I that stupid?'.  If we all just slow down a bit, rely less on the autopilot and 'check' before we hit send....run through the mental checklist, is it going to the right person? is the subject line right (my blooper), no typos, check sign off etc etc. I'm sure we'd make less slip ups.

The pub chain apologised and said that the text had been meant for the recruiting manager and that they'd take steps to ensure that such errors never happen again.  But really, it's human error and I'll bet it's a classic case of someone texting too fast and then just hitting send - without checking who it has actually gone to.

I'm trying to slow down but it's not easy.  I know I won't make that mistake again but if I don't rein in my power working tendencies, I'll fall off the treadmill with another cock up. The alternative is to lower my expectations (of myself) but I think that's harder. In the meantime, I've started Yoga classes - I have amazed myself with the power of breathing and 'taking a moment'.  So for now, that's my advice.  I can't slow down too much  - I'd be out of work pretty quickly, but if a slower pace means less cock ups, well, that's a good balance.

Top tips for interview feedback:

As a candidate in an interview, ask during the interview what the process for feedback is.
As a client. Make it a policy to telephone feedback to direct applicants.  Try to avoid email and NEVER use text.
As a client, make feedback constructive. Don't be afraid to highlight the negatives so that candidates can improve their performance for future interviews. 
If you're 'banging' out anything, you need to stop and breathe.