A Tale of Two Elevators

This week I’d like to go back a few years to describe two different elevator stories: one with a happy ending and another that was not. To start, let me try to paint the picture of what in-person Alliance hiring conferences were like prior to us shifting to virtual conferences. They all took place in nice hotels with great amenities. You could say it was a very dynamic environment with dozens of candidates and client representatives moving about. Given the limited traffic patterns within the hotel, the various participants were likely to cross paths throughout the day. One of the most likely of those places was at the elevator.

With that said, I’ll describe two situations that occurred at separate conferences. In the first case, one of our candidates was waiting by the elevator along with a representative. of a client company They had not met before and this candidate was not slated to interview with this particular company. But it was obvious to our client that this was an Alliance candidate – the short hair and military bearing were dead giveaways! So he struck up a conversation with the candidate while they waited together. What the candidate did not know was that he was speaking with a company vice president who was the primary hiring authority for a division within the largest midstream oil and gas company in the US. Fast forward a few hours and this client stopped by our operations center. In so many words he said “I met this very impressive candidate of yours at the elevator and I noticed he is not on our schedule. I’d sure like to interview him.” We obviously obliged, the candidate conducted the interview the next day, and he nailed it. I have no idea what was said between the two of them while they were waiting at the elevator, but the candidate clearly made a strong impression, even though he had no idea who he was speaking to.

Now for the second story. In this case, we had a client who was interviewing over a two-day period. At the end of day one, the client, who was the director of sales for a medical device company, provided us with some feedback about the candidates with whom he had met that day. It was a good day, but there was one particular candidate who he was having a hard time evaluating. The candidate had an impressive resume, told great stories, and said all the right things. But for some reason, he did not connect well with the interviewer. Because of the candidate’s impressive credentials, the client didn’t want to rush to judgment and said he would keep him under consideration. After day two, this client performed his final out-brief with our team and said something to the effect, “Hey, as far as Candidate X that I was unsure about yesterday, I’d like to remove him from consideration.” Naturally, we were curious as to why he had reversed course on the candidate. The short explanation was that he rode the elevator with the candidate during the lunch hour and the candidate barely acknowledged him. That was all it took for the interviewer to conclude that the individual did not have the right stuff for this position. Given that the role required someone who could connect well with new clients, he failed that test in the unlikeliest of places – the elevator.

While you may not find yourself in these exact circumstances, I can tell similar stories of candidates who lost follow-up interviews because of unfavorable impressions made outside the interviewing arena, whether with a receptionist, a driver, or a potential co-worker in the parking lot. I hope the lesson here is obvious. You never know who you may be interacting with, so you should always be on guard and make every encounter a positive one.