Normally I’m the one asking questions. Sometimes I design the questions, and at other times I let them come to me as we explore the interview topic together. I don’t often think about being on the receiving end of hard questions.
A job interview is a different beast altogether.
I used to tell my journalistic comrades to apply for jobs periodically simply for the purpose of perfecting their interview skills. Most journos I know don’t like to talk about themselves at all, with a few exceptions of course.
The easiest job interview format is the E-mail interview. Almost no one does this, for obvious reasons. But to have what amounts to an eternity to carefully craft your answers is a beautiful thing. Second to the E-mail interview is the phoner. This interview style is live, so you have to be quick on your feet. Not only can anything go wrong, (like your cell phone dying mid-interview) you are at the mercy of voice inflection and bad connections. The Internet age has ushered in the now-popular use of Skype and Google Chat for video interviews. For me, this remains the most awkward form of job interview.
During one interview a few years ago, I had to look at three people out of a panel of seven who were interviewing me. Body language is a huge issue here, as you tend to forget that the interviewers can see everything you do. Picking your nose mid-interview is a sure-fire way to not get a call back. I’m not saying I did this, but you become super self conscious when you’re on a Skype call in the living room of your home.
The last interview style is the face-to-face interview. If you made it this far, you’re usually in good shape. However, this is where everything can crumble. You can have a lot of confidence during a phone interview, and there are tricks to buy a little time when answering a difficult question. But a good interviewer can read you like a book when you’re sitting across from their desk or at a dinner interview. If you feel nervous, you’ll generally look nervous. What sounded great over the phone can make you sound like the village idiot when you’re stammering in front of your would-be boss.
This is especially true when you’re interviewing in groups. Four or five of what could be your future co-workers, subordinates or bosses can throw a huge kink in your well-polished interview technique.
In dealing with jobs related to digital and social networking, you can’t always assume that everyone is on the same page. You can’t go for total digital geek when the potential employer is looking for well-rounded and balanced. And you can’t go too general, for fear the next person they interview is better at explaining complex digital practices that are for all intents and purposes still theory.
After nearly four weeks in the unemployment line, (still without receiving a single unemployment check) it’s comforting to be back in the interview process again. Just knowing that there are potential employers out there on the other end of phone conversations is a huge boost to moral, not only for me but for my family as well.
The kids are hugely involved in everything I do at this point. They often help me process a call and decided whether I did well or not. They’ll ask me every day if I talked to the vice president of this or that, or if I was offered a visit for a face-to-face interview.
I don’t know where they learned this, but it’s nice to have a little support network like this at home.
We’re well past the initial E-mails and even the phoners at this point. It’s time to prepare for my first face-to-face interview, a proposition that can make or break this opportunity.
My wife and I will fly out to Alaska on Saturday to check out an amazing opportunity in Anchorage. I know the kids will expect a phone call each night to update them on how I did and to give me advice on the next steps.
Everyone should be so lucky.