Sports And Drunken Debauchery: Surviving The Nightmare Interview

Lisa* has succeeded in her career. So much so that her supervisor recommended that she interview for a more senior position within the company. This new position was in a department comprised of individuals considerably older than her, but she felt confident that she had worked hard and was well prepared for the challenge of new work and could work well with the existing team.

“Prior to my interview, I spoke with several of my colleagues (who happened to be all male) who knew my interviewer. I wanted to be as prepared as possible and anticipate what the meeting could be like. They told me that during their interviews they had “bro-ed out” – spending the majority of time talking about sports and nights of drunken debauchery.”

However, for Lisa, instead of meeting an overage frat boy, she met her worst nightmare.

“My interviewer met me at the elevator and barely let me introduce myself before he yelled a smart comment at his co-worker across the hall. We proceeded to the conference room where he fired question after question at me for over an hour. He evaluated each of my answers and consistently responded with negative comments. I remained professional and composed throughout my interview even though I was completely baffled by the disrespectful behavior.”

We asked Kristine E. LeBlanc, Executive Vice President and Managing Director, North American Consumer Practice of DHR International what her take was on Lisa’s interview. As a provider of executive search solutions for 20+ years and has more than 50 offices spanning the globe Kristine knows the ins and outs of the hiring process.

“This is not an uncommon scenario, unfortunately. Whether this is a male-dominated industry or not, their tact of spending interview time talking about sports and drunken debauchery is unacceptable. It sounds like it is common knowledge that this is the approach this manager takes, and for it to be commonly accepted throughout the organization is puzzling, and also unacceptable.

Interviews can be tough – and touch questions are a part of the process. However, were these questions off-base, irrelevant, disrespectful, biased or discriminatory? Were the interviewer’s negative comments biased? Perhaps Lisa needs to ask herself whether this really is a company that is worth her skills and contributions. Is there any chance that the culture will really change?

Anyone interviewing for a new role in their company has every right to go speak with the top Human Resources executive to get their input on the role, people and culture/sub-culture within that department.”

The interview left Lisa feeling discouraged but she felt confident that she had responded in the best way possible.  Lisa’s experience and her reaction to it reminds us to:

  • Never let adversity define or hinder our goals: You know what you are capable of. If someone fails to appreciate your skills for whatever reason, do not let it diminish your confidence in yourself.
  • Remain professional through the toughest circumstances: There may be times when you just want to scream or lash out due to frustration. Even if you are in the right, don’t. Remaining professional places you above the situation.
  • Use these obstacles as a stepping-stone to success: Although work place discrimination is extremely frustrating and discouraging, do not let it bring you down. Fight it. Empower yourself with the knowledge that the road does not end here.

*Name has been changed

Ping is a recent college graduate of Duke University with a degree in political science. She is excited about the next stage of her life. She loves traveling, reading, and doing yoga. More importantly, she is thrilled to be part of the NEXT for Women community!


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