Job interviews have changed dramatically over the decades. (unless you’re looking for work as a security guard or Walmart Greeter in which case they don’t need an interview – they’ll take any breathing, willing body) Gone are the days when you are met by a sincere, friendly face and the conversation flows naturally. No longer do they want to know who you are, your likes, dislikes, hobbies, family; anything that will give them a sense for your fit within the office. They really don’t care. Now all they want is a list of your designations and accomplishments to date, and an account on how you can be of benefit to their bottom line. Random questions around the job description have been replaced with scripted interview questions, and there is a right or wrong answer.
Nothing is more stressful than the face to face interview, especially panel interviews, where 3-4 stern looking people file in to a room and sit directly across from you, notepads in hand. As you scan the faces praying to make eye contact with someone compassionate, but don’t, your gaze drops to the writing on their pads – this is going to be long and painful,,,, and that’s just the way they want it.
They introduce themselves, outline the objective of the interview, (which generally has little to do with the actual job) all the while nodding in unison, and then the drill begins. The first question is situational, ‘how would you handle, blah, blah, blah’, then they sit back smugly and watch you struggle for the appropriate answer, brows furrowed in anticipation. (wouldn’t you love to flip that query back on them with something like “beats me, what would you do?”, or laugh out loud and say “I dunno man, that’s a stumper!”) If they like what you’re saying you’ll get the affirmative nods, no smiles, never, and once you’re done, they stare as though you’re not finished; they were expecting more, then each scribbles madly on their notepads. (you know, that security guard thing isn’t looking so bad now……)
You’ll then get the inevitable ‘give us an example of a time when you experienced blah, blah, blah, and how did you resolve it?’ Again, blank stares as you launch into your story, fumbling for the words that will spark a positive reaction. None comes – make one up, and make it a beaut! It’s not like they’ll check. (Tell them how you saved the Prime Ministers son from a life of hooligamism by introducing him to the wonders of meditation and a high fibre diet,,,blah, blah) God, they’re like robots – why am I here? Do I really want to work here? You glance at your watch stunned to see you’ve only been there a few moments. With nothing more to add, you remain silent staring back at them. More scribbling – this can’t be good. (maybe a stop over at Walmart on the way home is in order…..)
At the end of their interrogation, they ask if you have any questions for them, and make sure you do – it’s a must. Just make sure it’s not anything like what’s your policy on work and family balance?, or how much vacation do I get?, cause that’ll send up alarms that say ‘this guy’s already asking for time off’. And if you ask specifically about salary they’ll label you as insincere about the business and focused on compensation (which everyone is but you can’t show it) Tell them you want a Blackberry and laptop so you can enjoy your job 7/24. (employers expect that anyway – they just don’t say it because it breaches any number of labour laws)
If you’re given any option, always go for the telephone interview. They can’t see you sweat or roll your eyes, and you can’t see the tough stance that’s meant to unruffle you. The telephone interview gives you the opportunity to present a stronger you because they can’t see you waver. They can’t see you reference your notes in answer to their questions (and by the way, interviewers aren’t the only ones who can have scripted answers) They can’t see you rubbing your brow in search for the answer, and they can’t see you gesture rudely or frown into the phone like ‘really, are you kidding me?’, in response to one of their generic stupid questions. They also can’t see that you’re in your pajamas.
I know a young fellow who has perfected the telephone interview. He is calm, cool, and collected; has mastered how to keep his voice even and gives the illusion he is sitting behind a desk in a business setting no matter where he is at the time of the call. The trick, he says, is to speak assertively and very closely into the receiver to ensure no background noises are audible to the interviewer. This strategy has worked most of the time, however and unfortunately, most recently, an interviewer called when he was in a stall in the men’s room at the Halifax airport. Not wanting to miss this opportunity he answered and conducted the entire interview from the stall. The interview went smoothly and he thought he had it nailed until he stood up (having completed his business) and the automatic flush of the toilet echoed throughout the enclosed space. After a brief silence, the interviewer burst out laughing and said. ‘this is one for the water cooler!’
He didn’t get the job.