I’m not an expert. I’m just a guy who likes to think about stuff.
Your hands are clammy. Your throat is dry. Your mind is racing. You’re seated in the lobby of a sterile office building. You are anxiety personified.
The job interview. We’ve all experienced it. It’s arguably the worst thing about being an employee. It’s so bad that some of us avoid it at all costs by staying at jobs we don’t like. Why?
Before you ever step foot in an interview room, you have to prepare for them. Any career coach or article on interviewing will tell you to research the company and compile a list of questions for your interviewers. You have to figure out what issues the hiring manager is dealing with and how you would address them. Of course, you don’t know exactly what the hiring manager is dealing with, so you’ll have to guess based on the industry and the job position. That’ll take time. You may have to go through multiple rounds of interviewing. If you have a job, that means taking time off work several times. At least in the US, when you leave a job, that job is required to pay you for your unused vacation time. If you’re using some of that time to interview, that’s less money for you upon leaving. Interviewing has a cost associated with it, both in terms of time and money.
Now you’re in the interview room and have to meet a bunch of strangers who will decide whether you’re a “good fit” for the job. You want the job, so you’ll have to impress these people. That can be stressful! What will impress them? Should you prattle off your accomplishments with all the buzzwords you can stomach? Strategic, skill set, team player – you get the point. The interviewers will ask you questions you don’t want to answer. What’s your biggest weakness? Where do you see yourself in 5 years? How would your boss describe you? The interviewer will be a king on top of a hill, while you’re just a knave at the bottom of it. Your armpits will be sweating so badly that you’ll be glad you wore a jacket! Or is that just me?
You’ve been through a round of interviews and hear nothing. You email HR, and still – nothing. Finally, you get a curt, automatically-generated email weeks after you interviewed, informing you that you were not selected for the position. Your self-esteem comes crashing down while questions swirl around your head. What did I do wrong? I was perfect for that job, why didn’t they hire me? Interviewing makes most feel small, a feeling no one likes.
I suggest that people look at interviews differently. Instead of being stressful events, think of them as fact-finding missions. Get a list of the interviewers’ names beforehand. Go to their LinkedIn profiles. Find out their history so you have something to talk about besides the job – small talk. Don’t be overly concerned with the boilerplate interview questions that most interviewers ask. They’re only asking those questions because they feel like they have to and to pass the time. Take control of the interview by finding out what you need to know. What does the job entail? What types of situations will you encounter in the position? Would you be replacing someone? If so, where did that person go? An interviewer once told me a few years ago that he felt like he was being interviewed. I guess he wasn’t used to an interviewee asking questions of him. I didn’t get the job, but I didn’t care. If my questions rattled him, I wasn’t meant to work there.
Interviewing can suck. You have to prepare, speak to interviewers for hours on end, and may not even get the job. That’s no reason to stay in an untenable job, though. Remember, an interviewee does not have to feel powerless. Go into interviews empowered, and you’ll notice the interviewing dynamic shift in your favor.