In today’s economy, getting a job in the formal sector is a bit like finding a unicorn. It is a hard and often thankless task. What is even worse is that , browsing through the Twitter and the endless LinkedIn updates and the Facebook and the Instagram, everyone else is living their dream life except for YOU.
I have had lots and lots of awful, painful and embarrassing job interviews that ended in polite rejection letters. I’m sure I am not the only one. During my long, long years in under/ unemployment, I made a few observations that made me think that the whole concept of job interviews is quite silly.
1. We are all reading from the same script
It seems like HR people ignored their training in favor of internet articles on interview questions. Which explains why every single interview I have ever had rarely strays from the path of ‘tell me about yourself, what are your strengths, what do you want in life.’
Does anyone actually expect any honest answers? It would go something like this:
‘I have a degree that taught me a lot of American theories. I am very good at putting pictures in my Power Point Presentations. If I don’t know something I will go on Google until I find it. I want a job because my mother is threatening to kick me out of the house. And this jacket is the only formal piece of clothing in my wardrobe.’
This tells you nothing about what I can actually do, and it tells me nothing about what kind of company you run.
2. Interviews are only good for weeding out blatant liars and psychopaths
Since we are all reading the same articles from Wikipedia and Business Insider, you can be sure that anyone with an internet connection and an empty bank account has memorized all the answers to all your tough, probing questions.
‘How much are you currently earning?’
*Laughter* ‘Less than I would like’
‘Could you give me a rough estimate?’
‘It’s too early to start digging my own grave’
I understand the employer’s dilemma. Which is basically, ‘Can I actually spend 8 hours a day, 5 days a week with this person without killing them?’
But since we all have to hide our real intentions behind buzzwords and adjectives that convey our enthusiasm, this can be very difficult.
Which is why people are often hired through networks. At least you have someone to stand up for you and say, ‘this person will, at the very least, show up everyday and use big, impressive words.’
3. The lies go both ways
I once went for an interview where we spent a considerable amount of time discussing my ‘flexibility’ and ‘willingness to go the extra mile’. What they were really asking me was whether I was willing to work on weekends and in the evening.
The real answer, of course, would have been,
‘MADAM, I AM SELLING MYSELF TO THE HIGHEST BIDDER. HOW MUCH WILL YOU PAY ME TO WORK ON WEEKENDS AND IN THE EVENING?????’
Instead I made noises about dedication to the project and my desire to grow my career.
4. We tend to forget that we too should be interviewing the company
The behavior of the person interviewing you can tell you a lot about the company culture. And whether you actually want to work there. You should be able to spot a slave contract disguised as a learning opportunity.
You can also tell the person’s thinking processes by the way they handle the interview: lateness, last minute cancellations, aggression, using the interview as a chance to display superiority and so forth.
There is once I was interviewed by a woman who seemed physically repulsed by my presence. I soldiered on and answered her silly questions but I knew without a doubt that I had already failed. If I could go back in time, I would have asked her point blank why she looked so disgusted. It would have made for a much more entertaining experience for all involved.
In fact, if you fail these kinds of interviews, thank God because you dodged a massive bullet.
5. You should never stop interviewing
This is a new piece of advice that I haven’t tried yet. Basically, you should always be scanning the horizon for new opportunities. And actually go out and interview, even if you have no intention of moving from your current place of work.
That being said, if you actually do find a job that you genuinely enjoy, with people that you get along with, doing things that you like, then thank your lucky stars. I have heard that such things actually exist.
For the rest of us, let’s keep memorizing answers from the internet and smiling like our lives depend on it. Oh, and throw in a few curve balls, especially if you realize that you have zero chances of getting hired.
I want to hear your ridiculous interview stories.
[Sorry HR people, please don’t take offence.]