Liz Ryan: The Workplace

Sleepy Interviewer? Here's How to Follow Up


Dear Liz,

I had the most frustrating experience last week. After pursuing a certain prospective employer for months, watching the job boards for openings and the news for business events that might create a need for my services, I finally got a break. I met a woman who knows someone who knows someone else, and I got an interview. I was thrilled.

When I got to the interview at 8 a.m., the interviewer told me she'd been at work until 2 a.m. the previous night. She had barely slept, and it was obvious. She was bleary and disconnected for the whole conversation. The poor lady looked in dire need of sleep. I doubt that she retained more than 10% of what we talked about. It's been a week, and I haven't heard anything. I don't know how to proceed. Any suggestions?

Thanks,Laurent

Dear Laurent,

That is a tough blow—to get all the way to the interview and then have the opportunity for a substantive conversation yanked away from you! I am sorry you had to go through that. I'd proceed almost as though you hadn't interviewed at all (but with the advantage of having a solid contact inside the company—namely, Miss Sleepy herself).

Here's what you do. You can't very well call or write her and say, "You were a mess when I met you. Let's do it again." Instead, you'll call her and leave the world's most pleasant and upbeat voice message, and say "Hi, Ellen! It was tremendous to meet you last week, and as you suggested, I'd love to continue the conversation by phone—perhaps early next week?"

O.K., maybe she didn't actually say, "Let's continue this conversation by phone" when she met you, but it sounds like she was so exhausted that she's unlikely to recall much, if anything, about the conversation.

As an alternative, you could write to her and say, "You mentioned that Audrey Smith would be a good person in the organization for me to talk with next. Shall we set that up?" If she mentioned any names of people who are close to the job that is open or who would be in the interviewing roster, do not hesitate to suggest meetings with those people. Sometimes, we need to help nudge the interview process along, and you have certainly earned the right to do that by undergoing the sort of interview you did.

You will be playing your sleepy-interviewer advantage, and in my opinion, that's a perfectly appropriate thing to do. After all, it's not right that you should be denied a shot at the job because the interviewer stayed too late at work the night before.

Perhaps it goes without saying that the leave-at-two-and-return-at-eight shift is not for everyone. You may need to think twice about this employer if that sort of work schedule is par for the course in this shop.

Best,Liz
Liz_ryan_2
Liz Ryan is an expert on the new-millennium workplace and a former Fortune 500 HR executive.

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