Here is one I’ve never seen you address in your blog. I was interviewing a job candidate for a management position. Mid-way through our interview, he had a loud but brief gas attack as I was asking a question. He made a funny face and I just kept asking my question as if I had not heard a thing. He answered the question and we finished the interview. It was really awkward, so now I am wondering if I should have said or done something to break the awkwardness. What do you think?
— H.R. Honcho
Do what, exactly? Pass out? Light a match?
If it were me in your place, I would not have “done” anything but I also would not have allowed a gas attack in my office to pass by silently. That’s just how I roll. Depending on the candidate and my mood, I would have said one of the following:
- “I’m sorry, but no one here is allowed to make a stink until after their 90-day orientation period.”
- “For the sake of clarity, please only use words to respond to my questions.”
- “That is one odd ring-tone, mister.”
Look on the bright side – you could hear the attack. It is the ones you can’t hear that are supposed to be so deadly.
— Evil Skippy
Despite ES’s advice, the well-accepted etiquette rule for this situation is, “Nothing happened. Nope, nothing at all. Didn’t hear a thing. Move along.” That means all you needed to do was wait for the visitor to leave, air out your office and proceed as if it were just another routine day at work. Your interview would not have been any less awkward had you tried to smooth everything over with a comforting comment of some kind. (What would that comforting word have been? “Whoops?”).
Your letter reminded me of an entertaining “thank you” note that I received after interviewing an applicant many years ago. He wrote, “I enjoyed meeting you and need to apologize if my little gas problem was noticeable. Usually I can hold it all in, but I was nervous about the interview and lost control.” I had not noticed his “lost control” at the time, although I did recall a sudden bout of dizziness that day as he was talking. It is hazards such as this that justify high wages for H.R. professionals.
Readers – other than simply remaining sensibly silent, what would you have done in this interviewer’s situation?
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