Attitude adjustment needed – interviewee

Dear Joan:
Much has been written about the proper approach to the interview, always biased toward the proper conduct of the person being interviewed. Please give thought to the interview from the point of the interviewee.

Immediate question: Where on earth does some of the interviewing techniques come from? -"What did you like best about your last job?"-"What did you like least?" What is this inane question supposed to reveal when answered? (1) It is very seldom honestly answered because it cannot be. It's a game of charades. It reveals an interviewer, however, who is relatively incompetent, playing pop-psychology. It is irritating to an intelligent applicant. If you have someone who smiles brightly back and rattles off a delightful answer, don't hire her. She will never be able to make an independent move. But don't worry, an intelligent applicant won't take the job anyway. No one likes to have working for him a person who is intellectually superior to his supervisors.

Now let's deal with the comprehensive explanation technique. This is good. The applicant is carefully listening. Nothing can possibly be added to the explanation of job performance and procedures, benefits, et al. Now the applicant gets the "are there any questions routine?" How can there be? He just got the course. He knows his field, his area of competence and what will be expected. What more can there be. The only questions that can come can be found during the performance of the job-not any time prior to that. This guy is not clairvoyant.

Lastly, let’s address the professional smiler. This is the interviewer who comes in flashing marvelously expensive dental work while striking a pretty little pose, which is supposed to compliment the applicant. If the applicant is older than the interviewer, this comes off as patronizing; if not, it comes off merely as a grand phony. Either way, the interviewer is making a fool of herself and of the applicant.

Why not adopt a new innovative idea with which to approach your interviews, ladies and gentlemen? Why not assume the competence and intelligence of the applicant and approach him from that frame of reference. I realize it could blow your last workshop and your prepared gambits. Throw caution to the winds. Base your approach on the notion that this person across your desk is an intelligent, competent human being capable of comprehension and worthy of your respect. Don't presuppose his interests and outlook. Ninety percent of the time you're wrong anyway.

My hunch is that no matter what I write, you will reject it. I am dismayed when I receive letters such as yours because it appears that it's almost too late to get through with any reason. Your anger and resentment is so intense, it can only blind you and cripple any chances of being considered for a position. If you ran a business, would you want to hire someone dripping with venom and bristling with feelings of resentment? I sure wouldn't.

You've gone over the edge and unless you want to stay unemployed for life, I hope you'll reevaluate your attitude before you hit bottom. Unfortunately, you have taken job rejections very personally. Even attempts to make you comfortable in the interview you scorned as "phony" and "patronizing." You feel that if the interviewer is courteous enough to ask you if you have any questions, he's a fool. I suppose if he doesn't ask you if you have any questions, he's a fool, too. What would you like him or her to do?

You suggest that the interviewer should "try a new innovative approach" and assume you are competent and intelligent and worthy of your respect. It appears to me that you have been treated with quite a bit of respect. When an interviewer respects the intellect of a candidate, he or she explains the position in enough detail so that good questions can be asked. It's unfair to blame your interviewer if you can't think of any. A brief explanation of the job usually doesn't include what an average day is like, what is considered outstanding performance and what the boss's leadership style is. You can demonstrate your intelligence by asking for more detail on these things. If you don't probe for this information in advance, you deserve to be disappointed if you don't like the job.

When the interviewer asks you "What did like most and least about your former job?" he or she is trying to be fair to you and to the company. The interviewer is attempting to match your interests and abilities with the position. You may think that most candidates have these responses scripted and "rattle them off," but most interviewers will tell you that with a bit of probing about the detail behind the answer, a lot can be revealed.

An interviewer who doesn't care about you certainly wouldn't try to put you at ease with a smile. You are so defensive about being rejected, you are even dismissing kind gestures as fake and patronizing.

Certainly, there are incompetent interviewers and I'm not suggesting all of your feelings are unfounded but I can't agree with your examples as being the fault here.

Before you go to one more interview, consider seeking the help of a trained counselor who can help you gain some perspective and vent your anger. The sign of an intelligent, competent employee is the ability to take responsibility for his or her own problems. Until you do some serious introspection, you are likely to miss the real cause of the problem- yourself.

Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 573-1616,, or 
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