Where’s Waldo? The Hidden Answers In An Interview

Where's Waldo? What are the hidden messages of things said or unsaid in interviews for both candidates and hiring managers to pay attention to?

When we were kids or played with our own children, I am sure most of you played some version of “Where’s Waldo?” For those veterans, do you remember the comic strip where you had to find the name of the artist, which was always included in the strip somewhere? I believe it was Vera, but it was a long time ago.  The point is that anything can be hidden in an obvious place, you just have to look to find it. In “Where’s Waldo?” for example, he can be hidden somewhere on each page in a book with other characters that may look like him but are not indeed him. What exactly does this have to do with candidates and hiring managers? 

Enough About Where’s Waldo, What’s The Point? 

The point to this is that we as candidates and hiring managers must take this same attitude when we are having conversations with our prospective matches. We need to listen to what may not be said in an interview that we expected to be said. Or conversely, we need to hear that a question was not answered the way it should have been. We need to expect answers to lead us down one path but instead, be sensitive when they take us down a different path. We need to be sleuths in essence. Let me give more concrete examples to make this point clearer.

Examples Of Your “Where’s Waldo” Warning Signs For Both Candidates And Hiring Managers

What do these “Where’s Waldo?” warning signs look like for both candidates and hiring managers? For example, the other day one of my clients was interviewing an associate banker. During the interview, there were no questions from the associate about their career path. You would like to think that someone contemplating leaving a firm would be interested in not just the current opportunities but what the future could look like for that person. How can I become a more integral part of this team? And yet, no questions about that at all. Both my client and I after discussing the call were surprised by that. Another example is a firm that is towards the end of negotiating with a prospective client, and they are hesitant to fly out to meet with her. Instead, they suggest further meetings even though an offer has been tendered. My candidate’s immediate concern is that maybe the tendered offer, even if accepted by me, would be pulled.  A third example is that you ask a candidate about their job history, and they evade the question about why they have been at so many firms at such a young age.

To All Candidates And Hiring Managers: What Is Your Hidden Issue?

All the above to me are considered “Where’s Waldo?” issues. What’s being hidden from the candidates and hiring managers depending on who’s hiding Waldo? Waldo’s there somewhere, but are you going to stick around and play, or are you going to pick up and leave the negotiating table? Only you can make this decision, but it should be one that you ponder considerably. Sometimes he can be right there in front of you, and you just miss a great opportunity. Other times he may be hiding, and you too should move on as the warning signs are too great. My intent in writing this was not to point fingers at any one situation but to make you aware when you are having your next discussion with a candidate or an employer. Always listen for what is not being said. Most of the time that is more important than what is being said.


If you would like to discuss your options, please reach out for a confidential conversation at 760-477-1284 or email at [email protected]. He can also be reached on LinkedIn. Subscribe to our monthly newsletter here, which is a compilation of our weekly blogs, so you never miss one. You can find our listing in the “supplier and services” section of the Red Book under the title of “executive recruiting.”

About Harlan Friedman, JD & Founding Member, H. Friedman Search LLC. Harlan is a thirty-year veteran Public Finance Banker turned recruiter who specializes in the placement of all levels Public Finance Bankers, Healthcare Bankers, Municipal Advisors, Compliance Officers, Issuers, and Bond Counsels.