Putting the “inter” in the job interview

The dreaded job interview is a mandatory process for basically every job filling. Whether you apply for your first job, or you have 20+ years’ experience in your field, your potential employer will naturally want to get more acquainted to you and your personality, technical abilities or problem-solving skills, to mention a few. If you have been called for an interview, you already ticked several check marks from the employer’s list of desired competencies, especially if your resume highlights them pretty well.

From the employer’s side, he wants to make sure he will trade his money for a professional service done by you. He needs someone to fill an opening in his organization, to help his business prosper and help him make a profit. And what about your side? You seek to find a stable job environment, where you can put your skills to good work and gain accordingly. This oversimplifies the real-life situations, but defines an important aspect: that the process of hiring is a win-win situation, one of the purest forms of trade mankind has experienced, forming the basis of modern economic development. As a job-seeker, you also trade something even more important: your time, or at least a large chunk of it, so it is quite normal to have several expectations or inquiries into the nature of your future potential job or employer.

The job interview should not be a process led by one side, although the definition of the word “interview” is in essence “a meeting in which someone asks someone else questions”. This contradicts the very own etymology of the word, the “inter” prefix signifying “between” or “among”. Based on these perspectives, I give below five tips that could influence, in a positive way, the course of your future interview(s); at least, they should change the way you regard yourself during such a process. They complement other excellent pieces of advice related to the best behavior during a job “discussion” (aka interview).

Keep it standard when it comes to preliminary interviews. Be careful to notice, or ask information, about the role of the person who interviews you. At large companies there may be more than four or five interview stages, each one carried out with different look-outs. Non-technical recruiters may only try to appreciate if your personality fits with the job specifics. Thus, they may ask a lot of questions seemingly unrelated to the job opening (but perfectly related to their job). You should not try to play reverse-psychology games with them, nor let them know you think you are perfect for the job; you are better off being sincere and highlighting your qualities as fit for the opening.

When technical recruiters are involved, they will most certain try to see the talent in you. Remember you already qualify for the job, from the technical point of view. But so may be tens or hundreds of candidates. Let them know you master in your field of expertise, but you are also flexible to changes. Engaging in an active dialogue may not be appreciated if the recruiters have an interview workflow they must follow or are simply not keen to prolong an interview when they have many more scheduled the same day. It is up to you to decide if a shot at open dialogue is worth it.

Try to “click” with the interviewer from later interview stages. The final stages should involve talking with the project manager, or even the managing director (or another decision-maker from the organization e.g. hiring manager), which will become your future bosses or are in direct relation to them. Either way, here is where my rattling from the beginning of the article could help more. Try to “read” your interlocutor and assess if you can ride the “two-way street” with the meeting. Traditionally, your questions are expected from you only after they have finished asking their questions (you should be asked to address any questions at the end of the interview, particularly if the interview went well). Do you have what it takes to change that dogma? There are numerous thoughtful aspects you can inquire into by simply asking, but are you confident that addressing them as a whole in the final minutes of an interview is the right choice? At this stage, you should “click” with the one person in front of you. If you had an hour (or any length of time, for that matter) to talk for the first time with your soulmate, would you rather have an open dialogue, or should each one take just one turn in asking-answering before you decide to stay together or part ways? Exactly.

Landing a job is not the whole purpose of the interview, from neither side of the debate. You or the employer can stop a career in its tracks in the 90-days or longer probation period. In such a case, the interview was most likely a failure, resulting in uncoordinated understandings. The end result is a waste of your precious time and an awkward addition to your resume which you will be asked to explain in future applications. Bad hires are more frequent than you think and are also costly to the employers. Engaging in active discussion with the interviewers makes it easier to appreciate one another and to make the best decisions.

Affirm yourself. Highlight some of the qualities most organizations prefer from their employees: loyalty, client-orientation, pursuing perfection etc. Take loyalty for instance. The average period of time spent working for one employer in the US is 4.1 years, dropping to 2.8 years for workers aged 25-34, and a mere 1.9 years for workers in service occupations. Typical routine questions employers might ask to determine whether or not you are a long-term prospect include: “How do you see yourself in 5-10 years?” or “How would you react to being approached by competing companies?”. Take the lead and induce the person in front of you on your trustworthiness, even before such book questions arise (and you answer them with book responses, leading nowhere).

You are more valuable than you may think, especially if you came across this article. If you value freedom of choice, respectful business, free trade, positive human interaction, and private property, there is a high probability you already stand out among candidates of any job fit for you. You and your desired organization stand equal to one another when it comes to fruitful exchange. Why shouldn’t the job interview signal your desire for collaboration and honesty? If these are not well taken, then maybe the problem does not lie in your court, and you are better off playing ball with someone else – there are dozens of courts!

Instead of a conclusion, I will share with you an apothegm very common with the tongue of employers during the post-communist period in my country (Romania). Lack of capital and a chaotic private order in the Romanian society at that time (mostly 90’s) coincided with high unemployment rates; at the same time, people were mostly unskilled (or their skills became rapidly deprecated in the transition from state-owned to private-owned enterprise) – job openings adapted to the workforce – they were mostly low-payment and low-skilled. Such a state empowered employers to say: “there are dozens more at the gate”, in reference to the easiness of replacing one worker from his job.

Times have certainly changed, more or less. I enjoy every time I hear in press that Romanian employers now actively seek out candidates, in order for them to stay in business.

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