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Beware of Sloppy Seconds During the Interview Process

June 5, 2012
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From start to finish, it's all a test!

I've been working on a difficult search for the past month or so, trying to help a prominent hospital facility fill a critical project management leadership role for their brand new Epic implementation project.  This particular position has several experience and certification requirements that are tough to find, and so the healthcare IT professionals who possess them are in high demand.  Therefore I was very excited when I located one such professional who not only filled the bill, but he lived in the area of the project and therefore cut out the relocation or commuting costs for the client.  Sweet!  But sweet can quickly turn sour. . .

On the phone the candidate was articulate, intelligent, and thoughtful - so far so good.  His resume was professionally-written - nice.  His credentials were impressive and his background varied and interesting - great!  At this point, he is looking very strong and things are progressing well, and I'm starting to feel very positive about the fit.  Until I receive this email:


Thanks for wetting me know about this position - my initial interveiw went well.


Argh... the perfect candidate can't spell and doesn't use a spell checker.  On top of that, he was obviously in a hurry and didn't catch his "wetting" problem.  At first glance this may seem incidental - he was rushed and took a few (sloppy) seconds to shoot me a courtesy email.  The thing is, though, that if his correspondence to me contained careless errors, it was not a good sign for a candidate who, if he landed the role, was expected to be maniacal when it came to attention to detail.  Shortly after the initial email I received a revised version with the note, "Sorry, I'm trying to do fifty things at once."  (Great, so now I'm questioning his multi-tasking abilities!)

One of my first blog posts for HCI was called, "Never, Ever, Blow Your Cover," which stressed the importance of 100% error-free cover letters, since they are often the first impression given.  Equally important, however, is the quality of the followup.  Every call, every document, and in this case, every email will be scrutinized - it's all a test!   Business email correspondence has a tendency to be a bit more casual than what is expected in a business letter, and that's fine.  But if you're in the midst of an interview process - slow down and pay attention to each and every word you compose, even if (especially if) it's just a brief courtesy email - it all counts, and you don't want it counting against you.



#1) There's no such thing as multi-tasking. So stop questioning someone's multi-tasking skills and start questioning your own misperception.

#2) Everything in that blog post shows what's wrong with so-called recruiting these days. You KNOW that person can do the job very very well. But you feel vindicated that you add some value by discerning that the guy has some deficiency that you've intuited. That's BS. "I'm starting to feel positive about the fit." MORE BS. Sounds more like you're looking for your mate on eHarmony. That info had nothing to do with a "fit" at any particular company. You need to set up the interview and get out of the way.

Dear Anonymous,

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog post. I'd like to respond to your comments:

#1) As someone who, as a mom, has had to (on any given morning) pack a lunch while calming a fussy baby while trying not to burn the field trip cookies while talking on the phone setting up a business meeting while trying not to trip on the geriatric dog that needs to go out NOW, I respectfully disagree with you on this point.

#2) Employers hire recruiters to help them find candidates for key roles because they don't have the time, resources, or ability to do it themselves. If it were as easy as simply creating a checklist of skills and experience, and then finding candidates who satisfied just those requirements, then yes, it would be a matter of just "setting up the interview and getting out of the way." And some (mediocre) recruiters do just that. And perhaps that's sufficient in certain types of entry to mid-level positions. Those of us, however, who focus on senior-level positions and pride ourselves on a reputation for excellence, know that a good "fit" goes way beyond that initial checklist. Before beginning the search we interview the client, asking questions that give us a sense of the culture, as well as the intangibles, the nuances, and the personality type needed to do the role well.

The particular position I referenced in my post was for a Testing Manager of an enormous undertaking - an Epic implementation that involved multiple facilities. The role had been filled (by another recruiter), but was now once again available because of the previous candidate's lack of "attention to detail" and his inability to "juggle multiple priorities at once." So these two attributes were stressed as critically important and "must-haves." So, yes, initially, I was feeling positive about the fit. And trust me, Anonymous, I feel no sense of vindication when it turns out that a candidate I've spent time and resources sourcing and recruiting turns out to be deficient in some key (as identified by the client) area. It's very disappointing when that happens, as it means that I'm back to the drawing board, which means more time and resources. I'd like nothing better than to quickly fill a role, collect my compensation, and move on to the next one! But that's not why clients hire me to help them. They hire me because they can count on the fact that I'm going to take ALL of their needs into consideration and find candidates who, in addition to having the skills and experience needed, will be a good cultural fit, and will excel in the specific "soft skill" areas they deem necessary for success - like attention to detail. Sometimes finding that person takes reading between the lines, or in this case, reading the (typo-filled) lines.

Thanks again for your comments - if you've had an unpleasant experience with a recruiter in the past, I'm sorry. Happy to help you if I can - my email address is - feel free to contact me directly.

p.s. I met my husband on eHarmony - I highly recommend it! :)

Hello everyone,

Thanks for the interesting read. It is unfortunate that the person seeking the IT job made a mistake which has deprived him or her of the opportunity. Well, the job meant for him/her will "come to past" without mistakes of any sort in due season.

Now let me say that the idea of multitasking has been taken to unrealistic heights by the American society that strives to overwork employees at the expense of productivity. This is why you don't Text n Drive" - it makes the individual worse than a drunken driver. Furthermore the concept of multitasking can be analyzed more as a progressive shift of thought from one task to another in the shortest most possible time "T". Further investigation will reveal that in absolute terms, multitasking is not existent but if at all there may be a record of it, you will find the occurrence in 1:1 Billion person that have such an ability. Given, some persons have the ability to switch from one task to another in nano-seconds while greatly maintaining the flow and coordination of all tasks engaged. Know that this back-n-forth diminishes the productivity level of preceding tasks and continues to add on, and even get exponential as the number of task continue to increase. Unfortunately this forum is not ideal for fully investigation and commentary on multitasking but I just wanted to throw that in there for contemplation purposes.

Finally, the fellow 'Anonymous" was very angry and lashed out in an inappropriate manner which is wrong though he had some genuine points - arguably as it may be.
At the end of it, we all have learnt a few lessons from this discussion.

B.Engr, BSN.

Thank you for your response on the multitasking! It was exactly how I read the original post -that there is no such thing as multitasking.

I think it a shame the Epic applicant did not get past his mispelled words. No worries for him though, with Epic experience he will get many an offer, of this I am sure.


It sounds as though you have had a terrible experience with recruiting or a recruiter in your past; however that does not mean that you should assume every recruiter will be the same. You're essentially doing the same thing that you're accusing Gwen of doing which is hypocritical. You're looking for something to disqualify her as a recruiter and you're not doing a good or professional job of it.

Let's take a look at each of your points though.

#1) "There's no such thing as multi-tasking." Ha! You've got to be kidding, right? I feel perfectly confident saying that every Healthcare IT consultant in my network would disagree with you. A Healthcare IT project manager often manages multiple projects at the same time. For instance, an Ancillary Project Manager most likely has Laboratory, Radiology and Pharmacy all under his/her area of responsibility and must manage the phases of all three specialty areas simultaneously. There's no such thing as multi-tasking? Really? What do you do in your job? Do you have to build and add your build to a build tracker? That's multi-tasking. Do you have to delegate build and report to a Lead Analyst? Also multi-tasking. Do you have to manage your email and your project responsibilities in the same day? Again, multi-tasking. You are simply incorrect that multi-tasking is not a real thing.

#2) Gwen is absolutely right that the ability to write and carefully proof-read are necessary skills when it comes to project managers. I am also a recruiter and I would have forgiven his error above; however I agree with Gwen that writing is a key skill. What if that gentlemen sent emails with errors to client executives? That would be bad. Here's a blog post that I recently wrote about writing and for this post, I asked the CEO at Idaho Blue Cross the one skill he looks for in new hires which he responded with is writing (

Gwen has every right to question a candidate given their written communication. I won't hire a candidate that sends me overly-sloppy emails and I take the time to re-read any important emails that I send as well. This is why recruiters exist; to decide what technical and soft skills a candidate has before sending them over to a client. I would say that this candidate would still be worth interviewing, but I would carefully watch his written communication.

Now, Anonymous, let's ask you; what happened in your professional experience that made you write such a strident post? I would be curious to know and post about it as well.

Also, Anonymous, just an opinion of my own for you. Anonymous posts are cowardly. If you have something to say, why not say it and stand by your words instead of taking the measly way out?

Cassie Thiessen


I must respectfully disagree with you,

1st of all multi-tasking is a very real part of society these days. Perhaps in a perfect world we could only focus on one thing at a time, unfortunately today that is almost impossible. I would say your misperception is that you think multi-tasking doesn’t exist. I do not know a lot about the position Gwen speaks of, but I can tell you from my experience a Project Manager is expected to be able to multi-task, direct many individuals and prioritize on a dime. So the ability to do many things well at once is a HUGE part of the position!

I also believe you are missing the point of Gwen’s article. Gwen is trying to give tips, to those who are interviewing for a new position, that all correspondence is important.

I tell all of my candidates that in the beginning of the screening process, they are only a few sheets of paper to the client. My role is to help present the candidate in the best light possible, in order for them to move to the next step, which hopefully will be an interview. Part of that role is making sure that they don’t say or write anything that can be held against them. There are usually several candidates and the littlest thing could separate them.

Typically I will have candidates send me Thank You letters, 1st so I can help them re-word or fix and issues that might be in the letter. Having a second set of eyes review something as important as a Thank You letter, is never a bad idea!

You mention e-Harmony and you are right, applying for a position is a lot like looking for your soul mate. Many, many times I have seen a candidate with less experience or knowledge “win” the position over a more experienced candidate, because they “hit it off or sold themselves” better with the hiring manager. Skills are always important. Skills will secure the interview, but it is the intangibles that get you the job! The world is not black and white; it is many many many different shades of gray!


Unfortunately in the hyper competitive Epic market many will overlook such shortcomings if the candidate is certified and has walked by a hospital. I'd be equally discerning if you are concerned about the reputation of your firm.

- Carter

Oh boy, Gwen.

Well, that is a hard one to get past (that and he spelled 'interview' wrong, too). I bet he is kicking himself right now.

Hey, I get it. I'm a writer and we all make mistakes. However, when it comes to correspondence, or your 'final' document you are sending someone, it needs to be perfect.

ALWAYS, ALWAYS double check your work. When responding to an ad or a recruiter, SLOW DOWN and look at what you have written. Read it twice.

You'll be glad you did.


It has been my experience that what someone "does" in the interview process is more important than what someone "says" in the interview process. As an example, I have had many people tell me they are meticulous in their attention to detail and then send emails similar to the one that has been illustrated. I guess a point worth mentioning is, how difficult is it for someone, knowing they are being evaluated, to review a one line email before sending? Sending a one line email to a recruiter representing you for a career opportunity is much different than sending one to a friend.

Dave Kushan

Gwen, are you aware of the sexual connotations of "sloppy seconds"? And if you are why would you use such a term in a professional publication?