I recently went to a “Career Conference” put on by my MBA program and was unfortunately not surprised that the keynote speaker was talking almost entirely about interpersonal skills and how to interact with employers. While it is true that the overarching theme was “be unique and authentic”, it was so almost to a point of fabricating one’s uniqueness ie. you better think of something to say to that potential employer that is crazier or “more unique” than the thing the guy before you used to be memorable.
As our MBA classes internship searches kick into full gear, we have had a constant stream of advice and assistance to obtaining the coveted internship. We sat in class the other day and were told we MUST send handwritten thank you notes to employers. Excuse me, what? What if sending a handwritten note is not something I would do? Why put on the facade to a recruiter? It feels dishonest to give the impression that “hey, if you hire me, I’ll write handwritten thank you notes” if that’s not something I would actually do.
We go over interview question after interview question preparing our answers all in an attempt to ensure an employer picks us. But, what if they shouldn’t pick us? What’s the real point of the interview process?
I’ve interviewed in the past and received and turned down offers that a company never should have given me. In one case, I could tell from hearing about a company that I wouldn’t be a good fit for them and actually told them so in the interview and still received an offer. Are companies equally guilty of ignoring the signs in an interview and just giving out offers to the candidates with the most credentials or some other mental short cut they’ve used to decide on who to offer positions to?
I recently interviewed for a position that is an ideal fit for me. The interview itself went incredibly smoothly and I genuinely enjoyed the discussion. Afterwards, though, I had to be nervous that the recruiter would think it only flowed so smoothly because I was TOO well rehearsed and trying TOO hard to make my skills, goals, and what I want from a position fit with that company.
I have to wonder: Are career development offices in universities creating robots who answer every question a standard robotic way and automatically send hand-written thank you notes even if that is so totally not them?
I’ve read several articles about why interviewing (especially behavioral interview questions) doesn’t work (or doesn’t work anymore). Also read about this google study which postulates that interview and workplace performance are not as strongly correlated as interviewers might hope.
The process of interviewing is a strange world that seems to be one of those things that has become “the nature of the beast”. We are abiding by protocols that we’re told to or interpret we should abide by through the repeated actions of those who have gone through it before us. Does that make it a waste of time? Well, not entirely since no one has, thus far, come up with a much better way for selecting new employees.
Still, I wish we’d stop telling people how to act in interviews, how to answer interview questions, what interview questions to ask, how to format an interview. As we standardize and standardize and standardize the interview process, we lose the uniqueness of human character. We miss out on learning new things from people who are dramatically different then ourselves because they’ve conformed to the mold. We are stuck with a room full of cookie cutter candidates who all seem like they could do the job only marginally different then each other.
If we keep sitting through class after class on the do’s and don’t of the interview process, how will we NOT feel boxed in? How will we even let ourselves be creatively and entirely our unique selves?