This question was posted on the Guardian‘s Dear Jeremy (no relation) webpage [*1]
I’m going for job after job but feel more and more that I am only being asked to attend interviews to make up the numbers as every time the job appears to go to internal staff.
For example, only yesterday I had an interview that lasted 15 minutes, 10 of which I was talking through a presentation. During the interview it was very apparent that there was no interest whatsoever in what I was saying. They even said I covered two questions from my presentation and didn’t even ask them!
I’m so fed up having my time and efforts wasted and it is very demoralising as I had high hopes of some of the jobs I applied for and which I wanted very badly. It happens far too often.
… I think the crux of the matter is, how should one not get demoralised if you fail at several interviews, for whatever the reason. What is the best coping strategy for “interview rejection”?
1, there will be many people who would kill for even one interview.
2, you have to remember that any employer, public, private or third sector, will have a preference, rightly in my opinion, for the staff they already employ who show an interest in the newly available role.
3, therefore you have to do better than an internal candidate can, and this is, firstly, about the external viewpoint you can being to the role and the (wealth of) relevant experience you have, which the current employees cannot have.
4, before that, though, you have to be clear what the purpose of the interview is. Many people think the purpose of them attending an interview with a prospective employer is to get a job with that employer. It isn’t. The purpose of the interview is for the employer to learn the ways in which your presence in their organisation will be of benefit to it. The interview is about, and only about, meeting the employer’s needs.
5, you also have to be clear what your purpose is in attending the interview. Again, I suggest it is not about you getting a job; your purpose in being at the interview is to be at the interview the best you can, so that you maximise the chance of being offered the job. Being offered the job is an outcome of your purpose, not the purpose itself.
6, in fifteen minutes I am amazed—no, I am shocked—that you spent ten on giving a presentation. What was the presentation about? Even if it had been put together specifically and uniquely for this employer and succinctly expounded your findings from weeks of research into that organisation, its issues and the issues that beset its competitors and its sector generally, it was the wrong thing to do. The presentation was presumably aimed at X, the employer. But, the interview is between you and one or more live human beings. They will want to experience your interaction with them; they (not the faceless organisation) will want to be recognised as your audience; and they will want to answer the question, ‘do I want to work with this person?’, or ‘do I want this person anywhere near my staff?’. A presentation which, I assume was prepared beforehand, is not doing the interview as well as you could or, indeed, as well as some of the other interviewees managed. Indeed, it’s not being in an interview, it’s a lecture.
7, in general, I suggest the best approach is to let go of your need for this to be all about you. So, whilst I sympathise that you’re “so fed up having my time and efforts wasted and it is very demoralising as I had high hopes of some of the jobs I applied for and which I wanted very badly”, I am sure you realise that that is not really of interest to a future employer who, at worst, will construct the question ‘how come they wanted that job so badly and they still didn’t get it?’
Make it all about the employer. The better you can do that, the more attractive you will be as a future colleague.
8, I disagree: the crux of the matter is not, in my view, “how should one not get demoralised if you fail at several interviews…”. That is a suitable plausible position to adopt which, in my opinion, is used to hide the real crux which may be something more unpalatable. That is, ‘how come I keep messing up?’ You are, after all, the common factor in all these failed interviews.
Although I said you shouldn’t make the process about you, ie about meeting your needs, I suggest that each of us is 100% in control of our life and we should take full responsibility if we don’t get what we want.
9, I don’t know if you play golf. If you want to hit this ball into that hole, what do you focus on in the moments before you hit the ball? The answer is not the hole; you don’t focus on your goal, your objective, your outcome. You focus on doing, as well as you can, the only thing that will achieve your objective (getting the ball into hole), that is, you focus on the ball, and hitting it. So before you go into an interview, make it your intention to do the interview as well as you can. Make your attitude one of putting the interviewer(s) ahead of yourself. During the interview, do not lecture them, engage them in a conversation about the issue the organisation has now and in the future, what they think they need to deal with those issues, what you think they need to do, and how, as it happens, you’re just the person to do it for them. Show them that you can solve a problem which they have. If one of their problems is that they don’t know what their problems are—usually the case—then you can spend any available time in the interview exploring that with them. Lead the interview, which brings me to…
10, many people nurture the delightful, but false, belief that people who interview them for jobs know what they are doing. On the whole, they don’t. It’s in your interest to seize the moment.
11, you say, “I am only being asked to attend interviews to make up the numbers”. This is unlikely; employers who have an obligation to advertise vacancies to the wider world only have to show that they have done so, they are not obliged to go through the motions of interviewing those whom they have no intention of employing.
[*1] I feel I’m only invited to job interviews to make up the numbers (Guardian, 3 june 2016)
© Jeremy Marchant 2016 . image: Free images