Sunday, 22 September 2013

Why job interviews are a waste of time (and interviewers are a waste of space)

The stupidest question I was ever asked in a job interview was ‘What do you expect to be doing in five years’ time?’ I know it’s a standard HR-type question. But the interview was for a temporary job.

The weirdest thing said to me in a job interview was ‘We don’t employ people with punk rock haircuts here.’ This was in the early 80s when, like most young women at the time, I had short spiky hair. I should have walked out then but I smiled politely, finished the interview, went home and waited for the rejection letter.

I thought at the time that an interview was like an exam and the interviewee was a passive victim. I know now that it isn’t how it works.

Knowing more about the process hasn’t made me like job interviews any more. I still think they are a bad way to decide someone is right for a job. How many of us have worked with a colleague who ‘interviewed well’ but turned out to be rubbish? Interviews don’t work for people who are bullshit-averse, and  who aren’t comfortable talking to strangers. It’s the extrovert bias again.

As an introvert I know that people don’t see me at my best in these situations, but I’ve got better with practice. I’ve learnt to pretend I’m in a business meeting and to put on confidence.

But I still get cross when I get knocked back for stupid reasons.

Back to the early 80s, I was actually asked in one interview whether I was planning to have children. And at another, I was turned down on the spot when they found out I was married.

That wouldn’t happen now, but I wonder sometimes whether I am being turned down when the interviewers find out I am old enough to be their mother. You can’t tell on paper (well, not on my CV anyway). I know interviewers like candidates to be ‘enthusiastic’ and I worked out that if I wave my hands a lot when I’m talking they won’t notice the age spots. But there’s still the grey hair (yes, I know... but I don’t want to).

I did an interview recently for a job that I knew I could do well. I thought I’d got this across to the two young men interviewing me. And a few days later I got an email backing saying that other candidates demonstrated more experience... of something they didn’t ask me about.

Maybe they forgot to ask me the question. Or maybe that isn’t the real reason. I’ll never know, because people are cleverer now than the ‘punk rock haircut’ days. And next time? Maybe I won’t even bother.

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