So, couple days ago I had an interview for an internship position in a firm offering geostrategic analysis. It was via Skype and went well; I managed to secure a place. I’m even more contend since this was actually the second interview I had with that company. In January things were a bit confusing and I was rejected. Obviously, I was very disappointed then, especially since I knew I’ve got what it takes. So I decided to take another shot and prepare myself extremely well, after taking a critical look not only at the answers I provided but at the situation back then in general. For example, at which point I should have said this or that, or how I could exposed my qualities better, and could have convinced the guy on the other end. If you ever get rejected (quite surely you will) don’t let this be the last word. In the end it can pay off to be resilient. I know, this stuff is easy said and fills mountains of bits and bytes on LinkedIn and other career sites (which have been invented to boost the inventor’s careers). Still, the important thing is to know where you are.
Yet , I found not only that I made mistakes in January, but that also went wrong with the person who interviewed me. I felt the guy wasn’t really interested in the first place. He also seemed somehow absent at times—worst of all he was late! This is an absolute no-go, I loath it when people keep me waiting, even more so when we scheduled a job interview. In Germany I know for sure that if you turn up only five minutes before the interview they reject you on the spot because that looks unprepared and hence unprofessional.
Anyway, yesterday I talked to another person, who seemed much more competent and curious. As it turned out, furthermore, the extensive preparation I had done, with drafting answers and questions, and reading them aloud back and forth, was not necessary only insofar as it gave me some confidence in talking freely. The interview itself wasn’t structured in such profane ways so common. This way, in my opinion, the interviewer learnt much more about my motivation, skills, and potential. Also, such a way shows that the company (or at least the person) commits to challenging orthodoxy, to some extent that is.
We didn’t talk about the usual rubbish, like why this company, what I’d bring to the table, where I see myself in the future, and such bollocks. Such questions are common, and ready-made answers can be found by the million on the web. Recruiters must know that. So if they hold an interview this way, they do so because they are unimaginative or company policy demands it. That means, if accepted you’re in for a dose of mediocrity. This is actually pretty hypocritical, since companies—especially those which explicitly seek individuals able to ‘make an impact’, or that out-of-the-box thinking—do not even bother to give such impression during the first serious encounter.
Therefore, I really appreciate having been spared another such experience. Instead, the person on the other end asked why I went specifically for distance learning to which I replied that I didn’t really have another choice and so see it rather as a second best option. After that we got to the real deal: I was asked to give my views on the current territorial disputes in Latin America (specially between Bolivia and Chile) and in how far they would impede development; what were my views on Cuba and the imminent changes that are going to happen there rather sooner than later, as well as other geopolitical/economic stuff. It doesn’t really happen very often that I can discuss such stuff with other professionals, so I actually enjoyed that interview!! I felt taken seriously and challenged, while the interviewer could assess language skills and competence. No asking about stupid grades (which don’t say anything anyway really), extra-curricular activity (which mostly people boast about who are about to become hypocrites themselves), or that invasive, perverse, stuff about whether I have dependents, take care for a family member, or do sports. All of this is NONE.OF.YOUR.BUSINESS!!
But in order to frame an interview this way and make it a real technical conversation, smart and knowledgeable people—preferable from the very same industry—are needed. That in turn would not only necessitate people with real ‘people skills’, it also would cost money and that, I guess, lowers profits and strengthens employees, so mediocrity in recruiting sustains the company.
Undoubtedly, there are some jewels out there. If you got bored in an interview, however, chances are you’re in for mediocrity. I’m not suggesting that this is necessarily a bad thing. Jobs are scarce these days and I’d too prefer a dull but relatively stable job, perhaps with some nice perks attached. This is almost like hitting the jackpot. What’s important though, is that you can learn in an interview as much about a company as they learn about you.
Good luck (it’s really just that) with your job-hunting!