Love ‘em or hate ‘em - job interviews are a fact of life. Except for those rare few who stay with a company for their entire career, most of us will have to endure a number of interviews throughout our working lives. Even if you work freelance, you are not exempt from them. In fact, you could argue that every phone call or meeting with a new client is a miniature interview – it’s just that we don’t feel like our entire future is riding on it!
Am I Worthy?
Ask most people and they’ll tell you they hate going to job interviews. Why? Because, in addition to feeling as if their future is in the hands of a perfect stranger; they can feel as if their entire self-worth is wrapped up in the company’s decision whether or not to hire them.
Plus, interviewers ask you stomach knotting questions such as: “How do you handle conflict?” or “Are you a team-player?” Even worse, they can ask you to describe how you would react in certain scenarios, before sitting back with grim faces to listen to your response.
I’ve had a few interviews over my working life. I’ve been interviewed in a café and given the job on the spot (best interview by far). I’ve had interviews with warm, genuine people who were keen to get the right person for the job, and who showed real interest in me as a human being – but I’ve also had interviews that left me feeling depressed and doubting my own abilities. I was once interviewed by a panel of ‘experts’ in an intimidating boardroom, with me sitting at one end and the interviewers at the other, across a gleaming table. I’ll admit that wasn’t one of my best interviews – and not surprisingly, I didn’t get the job. Yet, that wasn’t my worst interview…
The worst interviews – and the ones that always have taken me by surprise – where the interviewer appeared friendly and welcoming initially, only to dig the knife in once I had got comfy in my chair.
Beware of the Smiling Assassin
This category of interviewer – the one every interviewee should be warned about – is often one of your peers, rather than someone considerably higher up the career food-chain. He or she probably was doing the same job as the one you’re applying for, just a year or two earlier. This means that, rather than sitting comfortably in the role of manager or director, this person might still feel that he or she needs to prove how competent, clever and superior they are to the poor unfortunate sitting before them.
I’ve known people who have left interviews like these in tears, with their self-esteem in shreds. These interviewers challenge you on insignificant details of your C.V and qualifications. They ask probing questions about your work history and pounce on your answers. They make subtle put-downs on a professional or even personal level. They will seek, at every turn, to make it clear that you should be grateful to be hired by their company. They have no interest in commenting on your years of experience or shining C.V.
It’s not you – it’s Them
Read that again. Just because someone is interviewing you for a job, doesn’t make them a superior being. They are fallible, just like the rest of us. If, during an interview, your interviewer says things that make you wither inside, don’t start making excuses for yourself or apologising. Instead, take a deep-breath and a metaphorical step back.
Why? Because, the reaction your body and nervous system is having to the person interviewing you is a warning sign.
How many times have we been so intent on being hired for a job that we ignored the fact that the interviewer made us feel small and useless? The telephone call later, that tells us the job is ours, seems like a miracle. But is it? Maybe, you don’t want that job after all.
Next time you walk into an interview with sweaty palms, take a different approach. You don’t have to come across as demanding, rude or bossy – but you should know your own worth and observe the behaviour of the person interviewing you. When they ask you if you have any questions about the company, don’t hold back. This is your chance to see if this job really is for you and remember that in life, the best jobs – just like relationships – are partnerships rather than dictatorships.