I have never failed a job interview. I always get a call back, always make it to the second interview, always get the offer. Until very recently, I have never actually turned down the offer.
I know all the tricks. Never bad talk your old employer. Instead, say ‘no room for growth’, makes you sound ambitious. Make your greatest weakness somehow a strength. “I care too much, I don’t delegate enough, I’m a perfectionist”. Don’t ask about salary, even though you probably really need to know that. Instead, ask about the companies five year plan, even though, let’s be honest, you don’t really care.
Despite passing every question with flying colors, I have been unsuccessful at every single interview I have had and I only have myself to blame.
I passed, but I didn’t succeed because I lied myself into a job I hate. On a minimum, I want to off myself at least once a day. There is not a task on my desk I don’t dread doing or a meeting I don’t want to take. My stomach churns every time the phone rings. My job is heavy dead-lined, high stress, conflict ridden and analytical.
I’m an extroverted pacifist who once forgot her baby in her car.
During the interview, when the interviewer asked me my greatest weakness, I dropped the standard “I don’t like to delegate”. Perfect right? Makes me sound like I’m a control freak who needs to be hands on in everything. Interviewers eat that stuff up. Problem is that’s not true. My greatest weakness would probably be my lack of attention to detail (for example, see the above ‘left baby’ in car reference). But I didn’t say that. I lied, and now my job requires the same level of attention to detail as a Rabbi overseeing a bris.
Google ‘bris’ if you don’t know what that means. I’ll wait.
If I had been honest with my interviewer, then I would have had a truly successful interview. I would have been turned down on the spot, maybe even escorted out by security when I told them what I really thought of The LEAN Process and Six Sigma. My interview would have been successful because I wouldn’t have ended up in a job that’s not suited to my personality or my abilities.
Funny thing is, I bet I’m not alone. I bet I’m in the same boat as a lot of other people like me, those who have been coached to the gills to pass interviews. Interviews used to be a two way street. The candidate would ask about the company and decide if they were interested in the position. The company would ask the candidate questions to see if they were right for the position. Through time, they morphed into nothing more than a lying contest. Instead of asking them about their company, we impress them with the information we obtained googling the company on our I-Phone ten minutes before the interview.
Now, instead of having an honest job interview that truly determines if we are the right fit for the position, and if the position is the right fit for us, we act like we’re trying to win a contest. The prize? Unlimited time in a job in a job that makes you want to tie a noose with your necktie or choke yourself with your own headset. The employers don’t win either. They get a disinterested miserable employee phoning it in for the minimum 40 hours a week as they search CareerBuilder and update their LinkedIn account.
The secret to a truly successful job interview? Getting a job that you actually enjoy doing, or at the very least one that doesn’t make you look forward to Zombie Apocalypse.
Google ‘Brain Parasites’. I’ll wait.
I propose this solution. Be honest in your job interview. Actually admit to a weakness you really have. Now don’t go crazy and admit to a penchant for yiffing. (Goggle it). But do admit actual weaknesses, like difficulties juggling deadlines, dealing with conflict, etc. That way, if the employer is interviewing you for a job that’s deadline focused or frequently combative, you’ll both know right off that you’re probably not the best fit for the position. On the upside, if that weakness has nothing to do with the position, (i.e. you’re a proofreader with a stutter), the interviewer has nothing to worry about and you can move on.
Also, start asking questions you want to know the answer to again. The companies five year plan is certainly very interesting, but that’s not going to put braces on your kid’s teeth. Ask about salary, ask about benefits. That way, you won’t be interviewing for a job you can’t afford to take without picking up a second job at Hooters.
Ask what the job actually entails. If being attached to an auto dialer all day would make you want to jump off the roof, it’s better to find out now than when the police negotiator is trying to talk you off the ledge.
I will admit now that there are some employers that won’t get on board with my idea. These are the kind of companies that have cookie cutter, perfect answer interviews and score everything one to ten scale, kind of like drunk frat boys checking out girls at a bar. These companies are looking for robots, not people, and they will treat you like a robot. They’ll spew out phrases like “Work/Life Balance”, then give you the evil eye as you leave the office after a ten hour workday. If that’s the kind of employer you want to work for, by all means, continue to lie at your interviews. Tell Ken at the suicide hotline that I said ‘Hi”.
I’ll be at the cupcake factory, as the head developer in charge of squiggle and squiggle design, after being hired by a boss who understands that I am human. I come with flaws and they expected to hear about my real ones at my interview. My honesty was refreshing and they didn’t have to hide an eye roll as yet another candidate told them how ‘they can be too focused’ or ‘care too much’.
My point is, don’t go to a job interview with the mindset that you’re trying to win the Emmy for ‘Best Actor in an Interview’. Instead, go with an undecided opinion on whether you want to work for this employer. Ask what you really want to know and don’t tell them what they want to hear. Tell the truth, get turned down a few times. Turn them down yourself when the job isn’t for you. When you find the company that takes your answers at face value because you’ve given them honestly, then you will have had the truly successful job interview.