I don’t know when this might have been but I have to think there was a time when interviewing for a job was a simple affair. Perhaps, much like when people think of the 1950s, there never really was a time when it was simple but I prefer to think there was. I like to think there was a time when you saw an ad in the paper or perhaps a Help Wanted sign at a place, walked in, filled out an application, talked to someone and walked out with a job offer. These days that just doesn’t happen.
Part of the problem has to be that people are crazy, of course. Too many people are walking around trying to get into offices so they can eventually go crazy and do harmful things to as many co-workers as possible. I personally know several people who apparently either doze through or choose to ignore the sexual harassment seminars that everyone at every office has to sit through at least once a year. There are those who have rather grim criminal records and you don’t want to give them jobs doing important things. You do not want the convicted child molester working as a school crossing guard, for example.
So, companies have orchestrated these elaborate interviewing methods. I think the point of these is to somehow weed out the chaff from the wheat or something like that. Most places require you to keep coming back time and again, like a contestant on some reality show, talking to higher and higher leveled people until you reach the top. In some ways it is also like a video game. You keep getting to each level and the monster at the end gets bigger and more intimidating. Of course there are countless books that try to teach you techniques you can use to get through these various levels. I think of these like those cheat books you can get for those video games.
The problem is each company has different standards. They may question you six hundred times but people who are constantly looking for new work become masters of the interview. They have a store of stock phrases and answers. They become almost telepathic when it comes to reading the room and thus adjusting their answer so that they can give an answer they feel is what the people in the room are looking for. They treat each interview like it’s an acting audition and they act their respective asses off.
How do I know? Because I do it all the time. I have become quite adept at creating these long-winded answers that really go nowhere and really answer nothing but sound like they do and appear to give some kind of impassioned answer to the questions asked. I think this is why in every single job I have had there has always been this nagging doubt. No matter how well I have done I am always convinced at some point everyone is going to find out I have no idea what the hell I am talking about and that I have BS-ing my way through it. Thankfully I think most workers feel the same way and are doing the same thing so really we are all wallowing in the same BS pool.
There is nothing worse than what I have come to know as the “Firing Squad” interview. Perhaps you have been on one of these. You walk into a place and look around at the dull gray cubicles and various offices and people running hither and yon in their ties and dresses acting professional. The places somehow manage to all smell the same. It is that mixture of hope, business and crushing despair that I think must come in a bottle or some kind of spraying device and is used by offices all over. Then you are lead into a room where there is a rectangular conference table. As soon as you step in there the Firing Squad is formed.
You sit on one side of the table. On either side of you, seemingly stretching for miles, are the other empty chairs where, promptly, no one else sits. Instead everyone else sits directly across from you. They all have copies of your resume. They all carry folders. Sometimes they have pre-printed questions. They all have note pads. At some point the leader of this group smiles and nods and explains who everyone is and that they are all going to ask you questions. Sometimes this is followed by a long and lengthy explanation of the company and what the job is. Most of the time this is a big giant tease to make you think that no one would possibly tell you this much inside information without wanting to offer you the job. This is a ruse, of course. For all I know all of this information is entirely made up. Then the questions come.
They come fast and they come furious. I have become good at the long answers. This seems to stem the flow and fire of the questions because eventually I have talked so long they are ready to ask me anything simple just to get me to shut up. One after another they fire. Some fire more than once. Sometimes they reach the end of the row and then just start over. At least if you are the victim facing a firing squad the guns fire and it’s over for you. These go on forever.
Once it is done they ask you if you have any questions. This comes in almost every interview. They always wait until the end for this. I have a very good friend named Tim who does so much research about the company he is interviewing with he could probably recite the entire company history to them and ask them questions about business decisions made during the Reagan administration. I don’t do this. Most of the time the people doing the interview spend forever telling you all about the company and the job anyway, thus making all of your research rather pointless. Also, by the time they get to the part where I am supposed to ask questions I am so exhausted from answering and deflecting questions I can barely remember my own name.
So, I never have any questions. I am wiped out. My only question is really where the hell is the bathroom and when the hell can I get out of here. Instead I usually come up with some kind of lame question about the job or the predicted timeline for the interview process and then I try hard to get the hell out of there.
If I were a company I would definitely dispose of the Firing Squad interviewing. I really have a hard time believing it is the best way to pick the best candidate. I had one not too long ago but I couldn’t honestly remember anything of what just happened. I could barely walk to the car and drive home.
How about just an actual conversation between two people? Is that too much to ask? Maybe some actual honest questions and some actual honest answers? I think this is probably too much to ask in the modern business world.