I have worked with literally 1000s of job candidates training them for interviews. While many say “Thank God I have an interview” not one has said “I am really looking forward to my interview.” For most job candidates an interview is somewhere between a trip to the dentist and an IRS audit; understandably so.
Why are interviews so painful? Here are some of my thoughts:
A job interview is a pass-fail test:
Adults don’t like taking tests particularly ones that are difficult to prepare for, the scoring system is typically haphazard, and even though they get the results they don’t know how they achieved the results. What is worse, often times candidates don’t even get the results just silence which after a long enough time results in the conclusion – no pass.
Being interviewed is an out of control feeling and and who likes that?
The typical interview is like an interrogation or a cross examination. Candidate comes in, sits down, answers some questions, and gets up and leaves. The interviewer controls the interview asking the questions they want answered. Bad interviewer, which is not uncommon, bad interview and loss of opportunity. Most candidates just don’t know how to influence the direction of the interview and end up feeling helpless.
Interviews are arbitrary and subjective
Most interviewers are not trained to interview and they make decisions based on what they think are highly intuitive “gut feelings”. Problem is these highly intuitive gut feelings are only accurate 50% of the time. Following the interview, many candidates think they did a good job and nailed the interview only to find they are not offered the position. When asked, many interviewers can only come up with vague nebulous reasons for rejecting the candidate. Companies say employees are their greatest assets but they choose them in essence by guessing.
Questions Questions Questions
There are literally thousands of possible interview questions from sensible to ridiculous. Candidates are often asked questions which seem to come out of left field and have no obvious purpose. Interviews are typically question answer question answer rather than a productive conversation. Candidates get caught up in preparing to answer random questions for their interviews rather than preparing to sell themselves into a position.
Its a long long process
These days candidates typically go through multiple rounds of interviews strung out over many weeks. This makes it an excruciating process rife with frustration and mystery about what is going on. Most companies are terrible at supporting candidates and only communicate when absolutely necessary. This leaves candidates guessing and wondering am I still a candidate, when will I hear, has the job been filled, should I call, etc etc.
Companies don’t know what they want anyway
Many companies begin interviewing with poorly defined job descriptions. This results in a confused selection process with poorly defined hiring criteria. It also results in hiring the wrong person 50% of the time. Good candidates lose out to a poor selection process.
Overall, interviews are a difficult and stressful process with poor predictability. However, there is no systematic attempts to improve them. With the exception of interview presentations, interviews remain the same and typically suck.