Wednesday, February 3, 2010

There Might Be a Reason We Seem Distracted

Ask A Manager has a new post up about showing confidence in your job search.  In general, it's great advice, and there are some specific tidbits that should prove helpful for those looking for work.

A couple of commenters to the post have brought up an interesting subject.  An anonymous commenter writes:
I wish this had been written earlier. As interesting as the personal stories are on here, it also helps to hear general advice.

However, I would like to see something added on to here: When does being assertive cross the line?

Why? There have been times in an interview where I wanted to point out something to the interviewer that I felt was wrong, but I kept my mouth shut. I've been on a couple of interviews that were interrupted or the interviewer was distracted. I wanted to say "hey, I'm over here speaking." But to me, that would've been the wrong thing to say and consequently not get me the job (which I didn't get anyway).
In response, reader a.e. writes:

Anon, I totally relate! I am a rather confident person, I would think, but I have definitely been in an interview and the other person is checking email, is reviewing some other material, taking 5+ min calls, etc. Good times! I always struggle with what to do. I have tried the, "would there be a better time to re-schedule this because you seem to have a lot on your plate right now", but that doesn't make a lot of sense when you traveled especially for the interview. Anyway, like I mentioned, I have been out of work for over a year and a half so its not as if I can say I have found a strategy that works particularly well.
Alright, a couple of things: 1.) No, you should not offer to re-schedule and imply that the interviewer isn't doing his job properly; and, 2.) No, you shouldn't even think about saying, 'hey, I'm over here speaking.'*  Really, do either of those seem like a worthwhile course of action?

Though it is true that the interviewer might just be a jerk, there is the distinct possibility that something else is going on.  First, and most straightforward, the interview might just be busy.  He might be busy because he is understaffed.  He might be busy because of the very reason that you are sitting opposite him; he needs to hire somebody.  Rather than allowing your hackles be raised, just do your best to demonstrate why you'd be a good fit for the job, why you would lessen this burden.

There is another possible explanation.  This could be a stress interview.  The interviewer could be doing his best to get a rise out of you.  He could be trying to see how you respond under pressure or in the presence of rudeness.  In such a situation, he wants to see you phased.  Don't give in.  It doesn't matter how many interruptions, seemingly useless questions or barbs you have to endure.  Take it all; let it roll off your back; keep answering questions.  Interviewing may not be a game, but that doesn't mean you can't win.

As an aside, I used to conduct some interviews as if I was ill prepared.  I'd jump around the resume, asking about school, then work experience, then volunteering, then back to work experience.  I would do this for two reasons.  First, I didn't want people to get too comfortable answering the questions, and just walk them through their resume.  By jumping around, I would try to break them of the preparation they had done for the interview so that I could see the real person.  Sometimes, people would let the guard down so much, they would tell me things that they would never usually dream of telling someone in an interview (I once had a candidate tell me that he generally had a problem following orders, and never had any respect for any of the bosses for whom he had worked previously).

I would also do this to see how they would react.  If someone was quick to get in a huff the first time something didn't seem to go quite as they would prefer, I knew that was someone that I probably wouldn't want to hire.

I don't do this anymore, it's not really appropriate for my current job, but if I ever went back to my old job, I'd probably dust this little chestnut off.  I found it worked quite well.

*Okay, as an interviewee, if you are inclined to yell at people and tell them that they have to do what you consider important, please do let me know during the interview.  Terminations are never fun.

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