Ask the Headhunter: Don’t go to a job interview you’re not ready for

BY Nick Corcodilos  March 25, 2014 at 11:57 AM EST
If an interview request arrives last minute and you're not prepared, don't do the interview, says headhunter Nick Corcodilos. Photo by Zia Soleil/The Image Bank via Getty Images.

If an interview request arrives last minute and you’re not prepared, don’t do the interview, says headhunter Nick Corcodilos. Photo by Zia Soleil/The Image Bank via Getty Images.

Nick Corcodilos started headhunting in Silicon Valley in 1979, and has answered over 30,000 questions from the Ask The Headhunter community over the past decade.

In this special Making Sense edition of Ask The Headhunter, Nick shares insider advice and contrarian methods about winning and keeping the right job, on one condition: that you, dear Making Sense reader, send Nick your questions about your personal challenges with job hunting, interviewing, networking, resumes, job boards, or salary negotiations. No guarantees — just a promise to do his best to offer useful advice.


Question: Here’s the harsh reality of job interviewing. You apply for a job, you are called in for the interview, and there is no time to do all the research and preparation that you recommend we do. I have been in this spot, as I know most people have. How many times has a headhunter called at 4:00 p.m. and said, “I have a great job possibility for you. Are you available tomorrow at 9:00 a.m.?” How can you prepare yourself in the manner that you recommend? Should one just say no to the interview? I think not, especially when one has been out of work for a while. What is your answer?

Nick Corcodilos: Why on earth would you want to go into an interview when you are unprepared and likely to embarrass yourself?

I have three comments on this.

1. Don’t apply if you didn’t choose the interview based on research.

If you selected this company as one you want to work for, I expect you selected it for several good reasons, all based on your research. Even if you were introduced by a headhunter, due diligence is necessary. Thus, you must know quite a bit about the company. Otherwise, why interview?

2. Good headhunters always prep their candidates.

Any headhunter worth his salt has lots of information about his client company. If he isn’t willing to share it with you, you’re interviewing blindly. Why would you want to do that? If the headhunter doesn’t know enough about the company to be able to prep you thoroughly, then the company is not his client. (See “Is your resume spaghetti?”) You’re wasting your time. (If you need help figuring out whether the headhunter knows what he’s doing, see my PDF book “How to Work With Headhunters… and how to make headhunters work for you.”)

3. Preparation is more important than showing up on demand.

A request for an interview is not a command. It’s an invitation. You are allowed to say to the headhunter, “I need two days to prepare properly for this interview — to optimize my chances of success as well as your chances of earning a placement fee.” What idiot of a headhunter would want to send an unprepared candidate to an interview? (Hint: One whose placement strategy is scheduling as many interviews as possible rather than a few good ones.)

Please remember: Both you and the headhunter have an immense responsibility to make a job interview productive and profitable. Both your reputations are on the line. If you’re dealing with lousy headhunters, stop. If you’re desperate to interview as often as possible under any circumstance, stop.

My answer: Decline the interview until you are prepared. This isn’t a race. It’s business, and unprepared business people lose.

Dear Readers: What happened the last time you went on an interview unprepared? Is there a way to fake it that actually works? How do you deal with situations like this?


Nick Corcodilos invites Making Sense readers to subscribe to his free weekly Ask The Headhunter© Newsletter. His in-depth “how to” PDF books are available on his website: “How to Work With Headhunters…and how to make headhunters work for you,” “How Can I Change Careers?”, “Keep Your Salary Under Wraps” and “Fearless Job Hunting.”

Send your questions to Nick, and join him for discussion every week here on Making Sense. Thanks for participating!

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