Posted: by HRNasty in Climbing Career Ladder, Job Interview Tips, What HR Really Thinks

Interview Fatigue

Don’t short cut your answers and you will land the offer

Interview Fatigue

I have been using the term “Interview Fatigue” around our company for a while and because I am a firm believer that Interview Fatigue keeps candidates from landing jobs, I thought it would be good to articulate this idea.  If you consistently find yourself with multiple interviews for the same position but are not able to land an offer, this may shed some light as to why.

I am not trying to take credit for this term.  Interview Fatigue is just a phrase I find myself using on a regular basis.  Out of curiosity, I Googled it to see if others were using it, and yes, the term does exist, but the definitions I found were not used in the same context.   

From my quick Google research, Interview Fatigue relates to a candidate going through a full day of interviews and becoming physically tired.  Over the course of a day of interviewing, the candidate becomes tired, lethargic, and their energy level decreases.  Although this is not my version of Interview Fatigue, I provide advice below to avoid experiencing this show stopper:

  • Get a good nights rest the night before the interview.  Don’t stay out late and drink alcohol.
  • Avoid a breakfast of coffee sugary donuts for breakfast.  After a few hours the caffeine and sugar wears off and you crash.  They don’t call it the most important meal of the day for nothing.

The Interview Fatigue that I am referring to is a little different.  I find that some candidates get tired of answering the same questions over and over and their answers become abbreviated and less enthusiastic as the day wears on.  The great answers that I heard during the first interview are a far cry from what the 4th interviewer hears when asking the same questions later in the day.   

1st interview:

I am usually the first person to interview a candidate that is interested in working here at Acme Publishing.  A standard question I ask is some version of “Why do you want to work at Acme Publishing”.  This question gives me an idea about how excited the candidate is and gives the candidate an opportunity to show off how much homework they did.  A good answer could last 3 full minutes and spawn multiple topics of conversation.  The candidate tells us what they like about the company, who they have talked with, friends that work with us, our new products, our blog, and some of the great things they have heard about our company culture.  They may talk about the industry, the upside of the position, how much impact they feel they can make. . .you get the idea.  They are excited!  They are energetic and full of smiles as they deliver their answer.  This is all good stuff.  I get excited about a candidate when I hear this kind of answer and I can’t help but imagine how excited the hiring manager will be as well.

Thinking I am going to look like a hero for uncovering this hidden gem of a candidate, I am excited to pass this candidate along to the hiring manager or hiring team. 

Interview #2

The candidate is asked the same “Why work at Acme Publishing” questions in their second interview because everyone wants to hear the answer for him or herself.  What happens with Interview Fatigue is that the 3 minute answer I just heard becomes a 2 minute answer in the second interview.  Although not as animated as their first answer, the answer passes the litmus test and everyone is “excited enough” to pass the candidate to the third interview but no one is doing the Happy Dance like I was.

Interview #3

This could be the hiring manager.  Of course, this manager wants someone that is sincerely interested in the company working on their team so they ask the same question.  “Why do you want to work for Acme Publishing”.  The answer that I heard in this candidate’s first interview was 3 minutes and on a scale of 1-10, rated a 9.  The answer that was delivered in the second interview was 2 minutes and rated a 7.5 on our scale.  Decent enough answer, but isn’t showing the passion that I heard.

The hiring manager asks the same question and hears a 1-minute answer with very little emotion and none of the pomp and circumstance.  There were no jazz hands in this number and this lands the candidate in hot water with a solid 6 out of 10.  The candidate just answered the same question 3 times in a row and the third deliver was just “Meh”. 

Now remember, I asked 10-12 questions in the first interview.  Interviewer number 2 is asking 10 more questions of which we can be sure that 2 or 3 of these will be repeats. 

  • Why do you want to work at Acme Publishing?
  • What do you know about Acme Publishing?
  • What do you like to do in your spare time?

Our third interviewer is the hiring manager.  The hiring manager is also asking 10 questions and will be asking a couple of the same questions which were asked in interview number 1 and number 2.

The Hiring manager just heard a 1 minute “Meh” answer.  The candidate just delivered 2 answers to questions at the beginning of the interview which for lack of a better term “suck”.  They delivered the Cliff Notes on the Iliad of answers. Our hiring manager is NOT impressed but presses on.  The hiring manager is wondering, “WTF, why am I wasting my time?  The gatekeeper and hiring team just passed the candidate along so there must be something here. . .keep pressing forward.”  

The candidate doesn’t realize it but they just shortened their first two answers to such a degree that they are NOT going to win any favors let alone land the job.  What the candidate also did was subconsciously put themselves in the mode where they are not giving the hiring manager full answers FOR THE REST OF THE INTERVIEW.   All of the answers moving forward are shortened and less enthusiastic.  The candidate became lazy, tired, and “fatigued” of answering questions that they aced just 2 interviews ago.   The depth, detail, and enthusiasm displayed in their answers in the first interview is now non-existent.  The hiring manager in later stage interviews sees a VERY different candidate than the one that was presented in the first interview.  This is too bad.  Had they stuck with what they were doing earlier, they probably would have had a shot at an offer.

The good news for the hiring company is that if you do not possess this discipline, if you do not possess the “stick with what got you the win” gene this will probably carry over.  If you cut corners in your answers, you are probably going to cut corners in other factors of your work life. 

This is why I like multiple interviews before making a hiring decision.  Multiple interviews will weed out those without the foresight.  We have all heard of Darwin’s Theory of Natural Selection.  This is the HRNasty’s theory of natural selection in the hiring process.

True Story:  I interviewed in corporate America back in the day.  I wore a grey pin stripe suit, white shirt, leather soled shoes, and conservative tie.  I had made it past the first interview and was invited back for what would be a series of 6 interviews and lunch.  I asked the recruiter at the time what I should wear to the second interview.  Although I had a number of suits, they told me to

“WEAR THE EXACT SAME THING TO THE NEXT INTERVIEW.  STICK WITH WHAT GOT YOU TO THE NEXT STEP.  DON’T JUST WEAR THE EXACT SAME SUIT, WEAR THE SAME UNDERWEAR AND WEAR THE SAME SOCKS.” 

Do not take any chances.   Yes, I landed the job.  

I always remember this story when I hear back from the hiring manager that the answers they heard were much shorter and incomplete than what I heard.  The candidate should have worn the same underwear.    

Next week, we talk about long interview loops and HRNasty’s theory of interview frustration.

See you at the after party,

nasty:  an unreal maneuver of incredible technique, something that is ridiculously good, tricky and manipulative but with a result that can’t help but be admired, a phrase used to describe someone that is good at something. E.G.  “He has a nasty fork ball”.

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  • pippidee

    So your aim is to wear down a perfectly good candidate with repetitive questioning in order to weed them out? Why wouldn’t the focus be to have an efficient interview process to encourage great candidates to want to work with you? Is duplication of work effort and waste standard in your company? As a candidate, I would see a 4 separate interview in one day process as: a)inefficient b)a waste of my time, your time, your managers time; all valuable time that costs money. c)an indication of the work environment one would be subjected to; one that has no value for my time or anyone elses for that matter and enjoys wasting company resources. Do a panel interview.

  • Anh Quan Chu

    “why do you want to work for us?” is not the worst question. I went to interview, which was my 2nd one, for a position at a bank in Hanoi, but I was still being requested to give 3 minute introduction about myself again. Don’t know if that’s fully appropriate but I find this very offended. Though the interviewer is a different one in each row but at lease he/she could ask the colleagues or HR officers and get some info about the candidate from the prior interview.