Do Job Interviews Have To Be So Grueling?

job interview candidate preparing

It's an amazing thing, really, the degree of stress one feels when preparing for a job interview, especially when:

1. You've been out of work for two-plus years.
2. You know that there are scads of well-qualified candidates being interviewed for the same job and
3. You're feeling rusty because you haven't been called for an interview in awhile.

Regardless of how well I've prepared for a particular interview, the dominant thoughts in my head on the day of the interview all sound something like this:

I don't want to do this. I don't have to go. I can just not show up. I don't want to go. Why do I have to do this? I don't have to do this. No one's making me do this. Why do I have to go through this? I hate this.

Still, masochist that I am, I do it.

The amount of research I do and advice I read and decisions I make and people I contact in preparing for each rare and highly-prized job interview astounds me. I study up on the company, its mission, its goals. I peruse articles and discussions and websites that offer helpful tips, techniques and to-dos for interviews.

I also tailor my portfolio of writing samples to the particular job and company. Should I include this or that? Can I find more examples of a certain type of written communication vs. another? On which computer did I create the document I want and will I be able to find it now? Do I have hard copies of this or that article I've published? Do I have a binder, clear plastic sleeves, dividers for the sections, so everything's organized?

More: How To Win Over An Employer In 10 Minutes Or Less

I talk to people I know at the company or to people I know who may know people there. I do a lot of reading to make sure I'm conversant about the latest communications tools and their applications in the specific field for which I'll be interviewed.

What to wear is always an important decision too. Should I wear a skirt and jacket or a suit? Which one combined with which top? Or maybe a dress? And which shoes and purse? Are my hair and nails OK? Do I present a youthful -- appropriate to my age, of course -- appearance? Do I exude energy and enthusiasm and confidence and interest?

Even the drive to the interview requires preparation. I MapQuest the route so that I have an idea of how long it takes to get there. In my car I use GPS, so I hope it'll take me on a sensible route that isn't delayed by road repairs, blinking traffic lights or cars with flats.

Remember, all of this thought and consideration and planning are required, and I haven't even gotten to the actual interview yet!

More: Why Job Interviews Have Become Grueling (And What To Do About It)

An interview is the absolute epitome of multitasking. You try to remember the advice you received, and the information you read, and the points you want to make, and the anecdotes you want to tell -- all while actually listening to and understanding the questions being asked, and responding thoughtfully and appropriately while not rambling on (and not forgetting to make good eye contact, and to project positive body language and facial expressions.)

After what feels like an eternity but fortunately isn't, it's done and they smile and thank you, and you smile and thank them and you shake hands (firmly) and make your exit. And when you get home, the very first thing you must do is dispatch a perfect and memorable thank-you note.

Once that's done, you can finally collapse, dog-tired, on your couch (and in my case, with my cuddly pug), curl up, close your eyes, pull up your "blankie" and shut it all out.

For me, at least, job interviews, and everything leading up to them, are utterly exhausting. I'm surprised that I even managed to find the energy to write this post.

How do you prepare for job interviews?

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Most interviews are plain rubbish and do more harm to a firm than good - I have often left an interview thinking that if I were a potential customer or investor, I would be having grave second thoughts about the firm.

In fact, when I consult to those, I advise them to apply for a few positions at the prospective firm because all kinds of skeletons wander out of the closets that the marketing department can't or don't control.

Although it is wise for a job-seeker just to suck it up and humor interviewers, my focus is on the other side of the coin.

Firstly, unstructured interviews are basically tests of whether one likes the candidate and whether they are like you - it has lower success than flipping a coin because it lets a ton of unconscious biases in through the back door. Basing a decision to hire on unstructured interviews feels good but only in the way that alcohol feels good to an addict.

Secondly, most interviews are a waste of time, there is usually nothing in them that isn't already contained in the resume or that five minutes on LinkedIn wouldn't answer, and then each interviewer tends to cover the same ground. It is a massive waste of effort and leads to laziness.

Thirdly, and the worst in my view - interviews hardly ever reveal the most important question. "What will the actual job be like and what will this person be like in that situation". Even when interviewers ask what they think are probing questions, few are ever able to sketch a real situation for the candidate to respond to, instead they pose artificial and obscure scenarios that have nothing to do with the actual role.

To the candidates: suck it up and research the company, prepare some good questions related to the job and market environment. Prepare some answers for experiences you have had that would be typical to this role, and stand ready for the stupid questions like "why do you want this job" etc. Show some passion for what you are good at and relate it to the role.

To hiring managers: folks, either do the hard work and come up with a structured interview, knock of the "tell me about a time when ...", and decide amongst you who will ask what and stick to it, OR, better yet, admit you aren't an I/O Psychologist and leave the interview to last once you have already decided on a person.

The interview can be that nice social bit at the end but that has no influence over the decision.

October 25 2012 at 10:11 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Hi Fran,
I completely agree with your article. You go through all the interview stress and then....wait. If you're lucky you'll get a call back. In my case I've had feedback from "We'll call you" to "You're hired! LOL You're perfect BUT we have to have you interview with another person". Then nothing.

I follow up and follow up. If I'm lucky I get a response, a generic response not an answer. Am I the only person that actually answers questions from an email? I just want to know if I should stop thinking about the position.

How is it possibly to get all positive feedback and no offers? I've only been looking for a couple months but the only offer I received was retail holiday work. I haven't made minimum wage for 25 years.

It's so discouraging!

October 23 2012 at 4:29 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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