With personal experiences on both sides of the interview table. From the applicant’s or weaker side of the table, I confess that whether I was successful or not in obtaining an offer of employment had everything to do with my interview performance or projected image. Yet, I cannot recall one instance, as an employee over those years where what was said or done by interviewers or me during my interviewing session, could foretell to anyone, including me, what my future job successes and failures would be. Like so many others, I have had the good fortune of getting employment from time to time based on an interviewer’s acceptance. Looking back, I find it interesting that I received more rejections than offers for employment after being interviewed.
Being mostly unsuccessful, what made the difference on those fewer occasions, considering that I was always myself? Maybe most of the time other applicants had simply been better qualified than I was. Sure, that’s the most plausible explanation I thought. But one day, while leading a typical job interviewing session an incident occurred. Near the conclusion of her interview, the applicant a seemingly capable person asked me. "What ‘exactly’ am I expected to say? Why should you hire me over someone else given that I know that I am qualified for this job? What’s going to mark the critical difference in your mind between me and other applicants?" Anxiously, I began shuffling my page of questions and the notes I had taken. Quickly, I glanced over her application and resume again for the umpteenth time then replied, I’m sorry, but I’m not sure yet. Perhaps someone else may be better qualified? She then asked incredulously, "As an interviewee or prospective employee?" Later, I was struck by the uncomfortable realization that what I was practicing was mostly meaningless and at worst arrogance. In other words, what she politely meant was, I came here looking for an employment opportunity and what you have subjected me to is nonsense!
Are most employment interviews as commonly conducted nonsense? Do interviewers favor applicants who are better at job interviewing more so than those who aren’t? Understandably, interviewers would prefer a situation that makes them feel at ease. Applicants who are better at job interviewing would also be better at promoting that feeling. In most interviews, the two are strangers, sharing the interviewer’s space. Without doubt, this arrangement gives an advantage to those applicants who interview better. If this distinction marks the important difference between those who get a job offer and those who don’t; then organizations should prefer applicants who do a better job of interviewing. Applicants obviously are not in position to do any other performance for the organization since they haven’t been hired yet. Meaning those applicants who typically interview poorly would more than likely continue to do so after being hired. Strongly indicating that the prospective employer’s business interest is best served by hiring those applicants who have demonstrated the most outstanding interview performances. Although, once hired, that is not the job the employer will be paying them to do. Well-known job interviewing practices pose a contradiction of purpose.
The job interview is an employer’s business process for evaluating and selecting individuals who are expected to fulfill an employer’s work objectives. It is not a job performance for those who are seeking to be employed. Applicants are not yet employees and they are not paid to perform job interviews. Employer representatives are paid for this job performance. These distinctions are not trivial. Significantly influencing the direction, quality, and perceptions of interviewer and applicant thinking as well as their observable behaviors. Ultimately concluding in gains and losses to the organization or someone. Yet, many consider employment as merely a social act of affiliation….
"Tell me about yourself." The interviewer asked.
"Well, I can read and write. And I enjoy doing math." Responded the applicant.
"Of course, but I want to know about you—your strengths and weaknesses. What motivates you? How do you see things?" Asked the interviewer.
"Huh, for what reason? I’m not looking for a favor or a benefactor. All I want is a job so I can earn some money." Replied young Einstein.
Patiently the interviewer remarked. "Well Al, I know my questions may seem odd to you. But it’s important to know that we can have a comfortable working relationship—get along. Will you fit in? What do you see yourself doing five or ten years from now? What do you enjoy doing in your spare time, any hobbies? Relax, just be yourself and talk to me."
"I don’t know. I daydream a lot about different things. Have you ever considered relativity?" Responded Albert, his impatient frown changing to a curious smile.
With skepticism, the interviewer dismissed him. "Yeah, I think about them often. It’s been nice talking with you Albert. We’ll consider your application and let you know something in a few weeks."
Later that same day…
Interviewer: "That young fellow Al was one of the most arrogant and uncooperative applicants that I have interviewed in a long time. Can you imagine, he wanted to work for this company and right off the bat; he questioned me? Had the nerve to get personal with me about my family. Poor guy, he hasn’t learned that negative responses foretell a disagreeable attitude in general. Too defensive, a loner; he would never be able to function well in a group. I wish him luck."
Coworker: "Oh that’s a shame. He’s the boss’s nephew."
Interviewer: Yeah, with a little luck I’m sure he’ll be a great team player and a wonderful asset. You think we can get him started tomorrow?