When searching for a job, one of the most rigorous and closely-analyzed part of the process is the interview. A whole industry—interview coaches, resume writers, personal growth coaches, and so forth—bases its livelihood on the potential interviewee (you), lacking confidence regarding your interview. Job aspirants need to know that the interview is as much a learning process for the company as it is for you.
In many cases, the interviewer has no idea what they are doing, and I’ve compiled just a short list of my experiences in which the interviewer may have been more nervous that the interviewee.
1. My Party Interview at a World-Renowned University:
I once interviewed for an administrative position at a world-renowned university here in the Chicagoland area. The position was in the university’s grants department, and the aim was to compile huge amounts of data so that the university could continue to properly apply for funding for scientific research.
When I walked into the interview door, there were eight women, mostly aged 25-35, seated around a large conference table, chatting about whatever. They went around in order, asking the most basic questions of me, and only two of the eight seemed to even be able to hear what I had to say. One pair kept chatting over me the whole time. Safe to say, I walked out there wondering how they thought they were going to get a qualified candidate, and how such a prestigious institution could think that was an interview.
2. The Generic Under-Interview:
In many positions I’ve fulfilled, I went into the interview needing a job, and was more or less immediately handed one. In a situation in which you need some source of income, this is great: maximum reward for minimum effort. However, when the person does so little to analyze how you might fulfill the position, that itself should raise flags. Not analyzing your ability to do the work at interview stage means the interviewer will likely under- or over-estimate the needs of a task later on, and you will often be left confused, overburdened, or both. If you need to take a position like this, after you are hired, be prepared to ask a ton of questions, because the supervisor will almost never give you what you need.
3. The Cultish Interview:
On one or maybe two occasions, I went into a company thinking I was getting interviewed and basically came out thinking the company either was trying to get me to buy their product or maybe even trying to brainwash me. The most recent occasion was for a company that sold sales self-improvement advice called Glazer-Kennedy Insider’s Circle. (I feel comfortable mentioning their name because of their lower Better Business Bureau rating.) While that certainly can be a serious business sector, the panel of rotating interviewers at GKIC kept repeating the name “Dan Kennedy” over and over. The first interviewer said it just a few times, the second interviewer repeated it consistently, and when the third interviewer came in and asked me, before sitting down, “What do [you] know about Dan Kennedy?” I wished I had stayed home. Whether it was a Ponzi scheme or an actual cult, I never bothered to find out.
4. The Therapy Session:
I cannot recall an instance in which this happened to me specifically, but several colleagues have recalled interviews in which the questions were intensely personal. For example, when I worked under the worst boss I ever had, coworkers and I would regularly commiserate, and one of them shared that my boss confided a past history of paternal abuse during my coworker’s interview. While my coworker took the position because she would not have to directly report to this tortured supervisor, I wish I had a glimpse of that before I took the position, because my tenure ended when I went to the Equal Employment Opportunity commission to see if several encounters qualified as sexual harassment. Sometimes, the interviewer is incredibly unstable, and, given the chance, they will show you that side.
5. The Casual Chat:
If ever an interview feels like you are chatting with a friend and not a potential employer, you can go ahead and assume you aren’t really even being considered. Signs of this include: talking about the requirements of the job more than your qualifications, conversing about a shared history, or even talking about the weather or news too much. Much like this entry, the casual chat interview will leave you pleasant and happy, but totally uninformed, lacking in a sense of accomplishment, and unconcerned about following up.
Featured photo credit: WOCinTech Chat/Jimbo Fisher via flickr.com