Bluffing at a job interviews: this guy is a disgrace!

I am always privileged to assist companies when recruiting their top managers. After attending several selection interviews, it is clear that many people still don’t know their priorities for career success.

I have often said “it does not matter how well qualified or great person you are, if people don’t know that you are great, you will remain unemployed.” With due respect to professors and other great professionals, why invest so much in your technical skills and so little in promoting those skills?

Three days ago, I was invited by the HR manager of a financial institution in Kampala to assist in the recruitment of a Risk Manager.

This guy (I will call Alex) had an impressive CV –Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA), Certified Chartered Accountant (ACCA), Bachelor’s Degree in IT, and now pursuing MBA. He had three years’ experience in an audit firm, and five in banking as an operations manager. By all accounts, Alex’s education and experience was ideal for the position.

In fact, as interviewers, we called this guy to ask a few questions so that the guy feels that he got the job after a competitive process. A risk manager is a critical position in the bank, and the Managing Director attended just to prove to the successful candidate that the role is vital. After all, the MD was so biased towards Alex. “I think Alex is the guy we need. You are doing that process for formality. Give other candidates a chance, but I am in for Alex.”

With this bias, we had to have the MD join us.

Below is Alex before the panel of five of us – MD, HR manager, Head Internal Audit (as observer of the process), Operations manager – and me, the Expert.

Before the interviews commenced, we agreed that the MD’s role was to make the introductory and closing remarks, HR managers asks for the copies of the original certificates and references. My role and that of the Ops Manager was to assess candidate’s technical skills and experience by asking the right questions; as the IA observed the process.

MD: Good morning. Thanks for your interest in working with us. I am called xx, managing director. My colleagues, from right to left are [each of introduces self and our role]. XX bank is a financial institution with headquarters in [xx]. We are number [xx]th in the market. We are looking for a brilliant and experienced professional to join our ranks as Head, Risk Manager. First tell us about yourself.

Before he begins, HR manager interjects.

“Just to be sure you are Alex; first give me a copy of your identity card and the originals of your academic transcripts.”

Alex: I did not come with the ID and the originals.

HR manager: What is inside that envelop you are holding?

Alex: My CV and copies of academic transcripts.

HR manger [getting disappointed]: You mean we invited you for the interviews without a copy of your CV and copies of academic transcripts?

Alex: The originals are very far?

MD: When did they inform you about coming here for the interview?

Alex: In July. [Keep in mind this is 25th September]

MD: Since then you did not find any reason for getting your original documents?

Alex: Yes.

MD: When you were coming, what was in your mind while coming here?

Alex: I expected God’s mercy.

[All laugh]

HR manager: We are not God to know that you have the original documents.

Alex: I can bring them tomorrow.

[All sigh! You had two months and could not get them. How will you make it tomorrow?]

MD: Ok, you will bring them. Tell us about yourself.

Alex: I am called Alex [xx]. I am 39 years. My parents are [xxx]. I was born in [xx] village, [xxx] sub-county, in [xx] district. I am the third born of six of us. I hold an IT degree, and a Certified Chartered Account Fellow. I am currently pursuing my MBA.

[As you can see, this guy has no idea of introducing himself to the panel. His mindset is of “know who” as opposed to “know how.” That is why he is telling the panel about his family so that if anyone on the panel knows about the father, he gets a sympathizer!]

“Tell us about yourself, is a standard question. You cannot be excused for not shining. This is your opportunity to show why you are the right candidate for the job. Experts advise that you should error on telling the panel how your education and experience makes you the right candidate for the job.]

e.g. “I am Mustapha Mugisa. I am one of those rare people who can say I am an enterprise risk professional and mean it. Besides my relevant professional qualifications in IT and finance, I have been involved in documenting enterprise risk management strategies for different companies including financial institutions and many private and public entities. Working as a senior consultant in [xx] audit firm, I was in charge of several due diligence assignments.

As a bank, you have to manage both internal and external risks, as well as ensure your CAMELS ranking is up. I will not only help you develop a robust enterprise wide risk management strategy, but also save you money you would spend to consultants in on-going training of your team about their role in ensuring effective risk management.

My experience as a bank operations manager has taught me one thing: a good risk manager must understand the business from A-Z, so that the CEO’s work is freed to worry about taking the right decisions instead of looking for the information to inform the decisions.

I am married with 2 children. I am stable and mature. Hiring me will be the best decision. You will see my impact in the short time in terms of cost saving and better raking from the regulator.”

Alex is a disgrace. How could he fail to carry his original academic documents to the oral interviews?

And now to you. Over the years, you have spent a lot of money in improving your technical skills. How much money have you spent in improving your life skills? You need to invest in a mentor. Someone who has seen it all and can guide you.

Once they give you a chance to appear at a panel interview, you can control the outcome. Failing to impress the interviewers is yourself to blame. Now go and get that job or deal.

Copyright 2013. Mustapha B. Mugisa, CFE. All rights reserved. 

About M. B. Mugisa

Mustapha Barnabas Mugisa is one of those rare people who provides business consulting and advisory to professionals and corporate entities who demand the very best. He is a prolific speaker and governance (strategy and risk) expert. His speaking involves making key notes at major conferences and business events on both technical subjects and leadership skills. A change agent and motivational speaker. Mustapha provides tools and proven methodologies to remarkable results through making people appreciate change. Visit Mustapha's LinkedIn profile to know more. Mustapha is the architect of #WinningMindset Leadership and #WinningTheGame strategy approach that combines Harvard Business strategy Playing To Win, with the Blue Ocean Strategy and Balanced Score Card to deliver a strategy that is easy to execute and monitor. Visit for special insights to improve your condition. Are you too good to be great?

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