How not to interview

The economic news in the second half of 2012 is rather glum. The banks are [again] laying off, Europe and the US continue to hit new high of unemployment, Asia is feeling the heat, and a case can be made for being guardedly pessimistic before the markets turn upward, which they invariably will.

For those with jobs, anxiety can still set in, and the logical inclination is to hold on to what you have, or cautiously look for new possibilities. Panic can create fear-Wall Street consistently proves that point. When people are fearful-and shopping the market- they may grab the first job offered.

For others who are actively looking, if they go about it the wrong way, they’ll likely end up in the wrong job, and repeat their patterns. But it doesn’t have to be that painful-there are ways to get a job that truly fits.

Bookstores carry hundreds of books on interviewing techniques and how to land that “perfect” job.. Those out of work (or soon to be) often think if they look through the classifieds-physical or virtual–LinkedIn or BlueSteps, brush up their CV, learn to answer standard interview questions, dress well, and get through the interview intact, they’re on their way.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

It is not about how to GET a job, it is how to DO a job.

I have a friend who has lived in Asia over 16 years in 3 different countries, always getting his next gig through headhunters. With a wife and two children, he was recently laid off by his US organisation, and given outplacement services. He spends his days calling every recruiter he may or may not know, and is on the Internet looking at every job board, sending out dozens of CVs weekly.

He’s had 6 interviews thus far, become a facile interviewer, and may actually get a job offer from one company after two perfunctory meetings. He’s never heard of the company, nor have I (although they’ve been in existence 50 years), doesn’t know the industry, can’t yet figure out how they make the profit they say they do, and said it doesn’t “feel right”.

He’ll probably take the job. He’s not working and needs income, but my guess is he’ll be interviewing again next year..

People such as my friend go on interviews to go on interviews. They think the more they interview, the more productive they are. But they’re so busy lining up interviews they usually have scant knowledge about the company, the issues, focusing instead on how they’ll present themselves.

If, for example, your boss asked you to spearhead a new strategic initiative, would you wait to meet in order for him to explain everything, or instead find out as much as you could prior to your meeting? Can someone with little background knowledge on a company be able to talk about their competitive challenges during an interview?

An interview is for you to show what can you do for a potential boss, and to act like an employee, not an interviewee. More and more people now focus on interviewing, which I think is backwards.

The goal is for you to get the best job, not how many interviews you’ve had or CVs sent.

I hate to tell you this, but if you’re a mid to senior level professional there are not hundreds, or even many dozens of jobs that are the right ones. As a headhunter, I get desperate calls and emails asking if I can help them get more interviews and talk to as many companies as possible. They’re off to the next interview to see if it fits better. People assume they must get plenty of rejections before receiving that dream job, interviewing for jobs they know are not right, hoping one such mismatched role will somehow blossom into the ideal situation.

All those emails sent keep an entire industry busy; in-house recruiters, on-line job boards, employment agencies. This is how job hunting has been done for decades. Technology has changed radically, but we still look for jobs with the same mindset–but now it’s email instead of snail mail, internet instead of the classifieds. HR departments are overwhelmed, and those in the “employment” sector are growing; career coaches, counselors, CV writers, outplacement firms, job hunting “experts”, all trying to help you find a job by going on as many interviews as you can. More CV iterations, more interviewing techniques, CV, guerilla tactics for the market, coaching for success, ad nauseum.

Ultimately, doing interviews is not your job; it is the job of the interviewer to size up the candidate, and it is your job to size up the opportunity. But do so prudently, sparingly, and only after you’ve done your due diligence. The jobs will come, but more likely through your network and your brand than through a surfeit of interviews.

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