State of the Unemployed Union

Interviewing Analysis | November 16, 2009

In  my last article we celebrated the first anniversary of the loss of my job. Now I would like to explore the dynamics of the job interview.

Immediately after losing my last job I began seeking new work by updating my resume on every online employment site I could find. These sites, like CareerBuilder.com and Monster.com, offer many helpful resources for the job seeker. These resources include resume review, salary comparisons, and interview preparation.

I delved deeply into the interview preparation advice provided on several sites. I found that many of these sites rehash the same information regarding how to dress for an interview, how to respond to various types of questions, and which questions to ask the interviewer. 

I expected the advice for questioning the questioner to be particularly helpful. So I wrote down several of the questions provided for use during my own interviews. Some of the questions I decided to use include the following (not necessarily in this order):

  1. Describe a typical workday for this position.
  2. How has this company/industry been affected by the current economic conditions?
  3. What are the skills and attributes you value most for someone being hired for this position?
  4. Describe the corporate culture.
  5. What are the performance expectations for this position over the short- and long-term?
  6. What is the next step in the interview process?

As I prepared for each interview, I made sure to clean and press my suits, print clean copies of my resume and professional references, and prepare answers for questions that I might be asked. I even prepared my list of questions to ask the interviewer.

Now, Reader, I will remind you that in the year that I have been unemployed that I have only had nine interviews. This does not include the numerous interviews that I have had with staffing agencies. I am only talking about the interviews for legitimate open positions. Nine. In one year. So I developed the routine as mentioned above and have followed it religiously.

Sometime after applying for a position – usually three to four weeks – I would receive a call from an HR manager conducting the initial screening telephone interview. Typically, that person would have to confer with departmental managers before scheduling a personal interview. Within a week of the telephone screening interview I would receive an invitation to a personal interview.

I would complete my preparation the night before the personal interview. The day of the interview I would be fresh, clean, pressed, and fully prepared. Arriving about ten minutes early, I would be greeted by a receptionist and be offered a seat in the lobby. The receptionist would notify the interviewer of my arrival.

Some time would pass, typically ten to fifteen minutes, before the interviewer would finally come to greet me. We would exchange the usual pleasantries, shake hands, and he or she would lead me to either an office or a conference room where the interview would be conducted.

Generally, the interview would begin with a description of the available position, an overview of the corporate culture, and a review of the employee benefits. And then the question – or statement – I dread the most comes. “Tell me about yourself”.

This question makes me cringe and I have to be mindful that I don’t give that away with non-verbal cues. I answer honestly with the things I have learned about myself over the years and hope that my self-description fits the model the interviewer is looking to hire. I am energetic, self-motivated, and my energy and motivation increase during periods of stress. I am proficient in the entire Microsoft Office Professional Suite, as well as a cadre of other software programs, primarily contact management and financial management databases. I have had technical training self-study in the past, have been a securities licensing candidate, and am currently pursuing a degree in Business Administration. I have consistently built a great rapport with clients, managers, and co-workers in each position I have held. These things I relay with a practiced but moderated enthusiasm. Confident, but not self-impressed. Eager to please without begging for the job.

And then comes the second question that I have come to dread. “Do you have any questions for me?” Why, yes, I do. I proceed with my handy dandy list of questions for the interviewer. I have found during this phase of job seeking that interviewers do not really want to be asked questions. Some interviewers have actually seemed perturbed that I did have questions to ask. They will answer politely and thoughtfully, but without any enthusiasm. Some interviewers have literally flubbed their way through their answers, hemming and hawing, betraying the fact that they were completely unprepared to be questioned. I have had to finish the interviewer’s sentences on more than one occasion.

These are the people who make the decisions. They have a measure of power over your professional life, namely whether or not you are chosen to join their company. And the pros tell you to ask certain questions during a job interview to show your interest in the company, the position, and to display your professionalism. These questions are supposed to help you get the job. But not under today’s job-seeking/employee-seeking environment. Under today’s conditions the job-seeker is expected to smile (but not too much), answer numerous in-depth questions (politely, but not too enthusiastically, nor too honestly), and wait however long the company decides to take to let you know whether or not you make it to the next step. (Oh, also, don’t follow up after an interview. I have followed that advice consistently and have determined that hiring managers do not want you to show any initiative)

Conclusion: Hiring managers do not want to be questioned by you. They want you to answer their questions, smile, don’t be too eager or too confident, and certainly do not show any initiative by following up with them after an interview.

So why do the so-called career experts tell candidates to prepare for interviews with specific questions and answers that no interviewer cares to hear? Interviewers are busy. Many of them have responsibilities outside of interviewing and taking the time to interview candidates takes time away from those other critical duties. How can a candidate win a job when following professional advice falls on distracted ears? It’s a no-win situation.

Reader, I ask you to submit to me your interviewing experiences. Tell me about the interviews that went bust and those that went boom. Maybe in sharing our adventures in interviewing we can glean tactics that work, learn which tactics to avoid, and eventually win that coveted next job.

 

 

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