One of the frequent reasons a new client seeks me out is because they’re getting interviews, but no offers. The primary problem is always that the seeker has very little idea, beyond some basics, of what they’re looking for. But there are always additional layers, one of which is lack of preparation, and is, not surprisingly, closely tied to the primary problem. And as this pattern continues, other problems develop, the most prevalent of which is getting defensive. Ironically, the harder you try, the worse things get.
Here’s the prevailing – and mistaken – train of thought: “It’s an interview. They want to know what I’ve done. It’s me; it’s my career; I know all about that. Piece of cake.” And you want a job with a similar title, in a solid company that pays well, and a boss that appreciates his employees. Twenty minutes of research on the company website, and period. End of sentence. Nothing more necessary.
Then you’re in the interview and you notice you’re not learning much of import. Maybe you even realize you’re not quite sure how to find that out. Not only that, but that last question was tough to answer. Now you’re a little unsettled. You try to regain what you perceive as lost ground. Funny. You’re equally unprepared every time you interview. Why is that? Sometimes the defensiveness began long before your job search. If you’ve been fired, you’re defensive walking in the door. If you don’t have a degree and they want one, you’re already preparing your defense. If you really need a job, you’re mentally groveling and don’t even know it.
Job seekers try to fit themselves into a job without knowing if they want it. As a result, people try to get every job for which they interview. And yes, I do advocate that. But you need to know the difference between a job you’re pursuing because it fits your profile – and jobs you’re just…pursuing.
Also, when you know what you want in your perfect job, you realize an interview is a two-way street and you don’t give your power away. When you give away your power, the subtext of what you’re saying – your tone of voice, your body language, your answers, everything – says, “Hire me! Please!” How do I know this? I was a recruiter for 22 years, and I worked with both sides of the equation. I’ve had my consulting business for two years since that. This behavior – which is prevalent across all management levels and salary scales – will eventually get you a job, but not one in which you’ll be happy.
Companies who respect their employees hire people who respect themselves. Self respect shows when a job seeker has thought clearly about their next job and asks insightful and relevant questions to reflect that thought process. The person isn’t afraid to ask for clarification. They’re a discerning individual who doesn’t waste their time or the company’s.
Defensive interviewers don’t behave like this. They trip over themselves to answer a question. They’re careful not to give answers that displease and sometimes quick to correct themselves if they sense a hint of displeasure from the interviewer. It’s no surprise, really, that defensive interviewers frequently end up at companies where they’re unhappy and subsequently hate their jobs.
There are companies who use their employees as a means to the goal, and companies who value their employees for contributing to the goal. Defensive interviewers end up with the first type, because those who prey on weaker beings take advantage of those who don’t stand up for themselves. When you’re afraid of not being hired, that’s all you think about – getting hired. And you’re ripe meat for those who just want a skilled body but don’t care about the person.
Please come back next week for Part 2 of this series.
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