The interview addict

I wrote this last year for the Straits Times, and have gotten a number of requests for it, so here it is again..

[framed_box]Use your time to search for the right job, don’t squander it on attending as many interviews as possible. People panic when looking for a new job. This creates a mindset of fear, and when fearful, one grabs the first thing that comes along.

This means they often end up in the wrong job, become unhappy soon after or under-perform, and are doomed to repeat their job search over and over again. But it does not have to be that way–there are ways to find a job that fits.

Thousands of books on interviewing techniques and how to land that perfect job have already been written. Many people think if they do their research, scrutinize the classifieds, brush up their CV, learn how to answer standard interview questions, dress well, and get through the first interview in one piece, they are on their way to job happiness.

Nothing could be farther from the truth. It is not how to get a job, it is how to do a job.

My friend Brian is a good case in point. He has lived overseas for more than 15 years in three different countries in Asia. Recently laid off from his last US-based organisation, with a wife and children to support, he was given outplacement help from a large firm in Singapore. Now he has an “office” and a computer and was given a psychometric exam, some pointers on his CV and interview tips, a pat on his behind and off he went..

He spends his days calling every headhunter and agency listed, reviewing online recruitment sites and all job boards, sending out several CVs each week. He has had four interviews so far and he is debating taking on a new job.

The problem? Brian doesn’t instinctively trust his new boss-to-be, who he thinks is a micro manager. He is also not sure if the company goals set for him are realistic, and the pay/bonus scheme makes him think it is not a sound company. He also cannot figure out how the company seemingly makes the money it does.

But they do have a nice office, are interested in him, he needs a job–why not grab it and make some money?

Here’s why not. Many people like Brian attend interviews, but know little about the company, the job or any of the issues the organisation faces. They only know what they have read in the company brochure and some information on its website.

If your boss asks you to spearhead a new strategic initiative, would you wait for him to explain everything to you, or instead find out as much as possible prior to your meeting? Of course you would–or should. How can someone with little background knowledge on a company be able to talk about corporate challenges during an interview?

You must view an interview as an opportunity to show what you can do for your “new” boss. Act like an employee, not an interviewee. Your goal is to get the right job for you. If you are a mid- to senior-level professional, you should know that there are not hundreds, or even dozens of jobs, that are the right ones for you.

As a headhunter, I get calls and e-mail messages from people asking if I can help them get more interviews and talk to as many companies as possible. Those are the desperate ones, running from one interview to the next to see if that one fits better.

Maybe you have become like Brian–good at interviewing, checking the Internet every day and e-mailing many CVs (almost all of which never see the light of day). You are working hard and being interviewed at every possible opportunity. That is busy work, not progress.

People assume they have to get plenty of rejections before they get that dream job. They continue trying for jobs they know are not right, hoping somehow one of these mismatched interviews will blossom into the ideal career.

CV after CV is sent out, and I guarantee you, that keeps an entire industry of in-house recruiters, online job boards and employment agencies busy.

Going for interviews, however, is not your job. Your job is to size up the opportunity given to you. Before you think about going for the next interview, do your homework on the company and the job itself. Ask yourself if it is a good fit, given your skills and interest. If it isn’t, don’t try to ace the interview for its own sake and end up leaving an important career decision to the wrong person–the interviewer.

Use the time you would have spent preparing and going for the interview on pointed activities to help you achieve better results for the right job. And be assured it can be done.

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