Let me share a dirty little secret. People conducting interviews are very, very bad at them. Most interviewers would rather be doing almost anything else. It’s true! I would rather file than interview someone. I would rather deal with the nastiest employee problem than interview someone. I am well trained and comfortable with those activities. So would most people I know. No one likes to talk about it but it is true!
Here are five reasons why interviewers are terrible. I am sure there are lots more but let’s start with the top five reasons:
- Most interviewers are not well trained. Even in HR. They might have had some basic training years ago but they don’t really remember since they don’t interview candidates very often. The candidate probably has more experience in interviews than the interviewer.
- Most interviewers don’t know what to ask so they all ask the same questions. I used to call them the 23 most frequently asked questions. You know the ones: tell me a little about yourself, what would you say are your strengths/development areas, why did you leave your last job, what kind of position are you looking for now?
- Most interviewers normally talk more than the candidate. I once got a job offer to be Director of Human Resources without answering more than a few questions during about 6 hours of interviews with a series of really bad interviewers. I took the job but in hindsight…
- Most interviewers don’t really know what they want. Specifications can change, requirements are often unclear. That means the questions you answer today might not relate to the position as defined tomorrow. So everyone is off balance.
- Most interviewers are really busy so the recruiting process takes forever. After a while, the busy interviewer won’t remember who they saw or what questions they asked which candidate. Normally interviews are conducted to fill a position that is vacant because someone moved on – either promoted or left the company. The boss who is responsible for filling the position is most likely completing her own tasks plus the tasks for the vacant position. She is busier than a one armed paper hanger. She doesn’t have time to devote to the interviewing process so she goes into the interview unprepared and hassled.
- Interviewing is very risky so most interviewers are afraid they will make a mistake and hire the wrong person. So they are tentative and really want to avoid interviews altogether. Fear is not a good foundation for interviewing, either for the interviewer or the candidate.
So what does this mean for you? You will have an advantage if you are better prepared than the interviewer. In fact, with proper preparation you are almost guaranteed to be better prepared than most interviewers. If you are better prepared you can control the interview. You can structure the information you provide so that the interviewer will be happy to talk about what YOU want to talk about. You will always be an expert on what YOU want to talk about.
A prepared candidate beats an unprepared interviewer any day!
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