The job interview is way past its best before date

| February 18, 2021

Your heart begins to pound like a jack hammer, your palms are sweaty and it feels as if dozens of expectant eyes are boring holes right through you.

This is not the experience faced by someone in court awaiting sentencing for their crime – rather, it is the terror many feel as they walk into a job interview.

As the economy recovers from the pandemic and employment prospects improve, thousands of job seekers will find themselves facing a jury of their own – the interview panel.

After subjecting job hunters to a barrage of questions, that elite group of panel members gathers to confer privately on whether the candidate in the headlights is the right fit.

For many displaced from their jobs because of the pandemic, fronting up at an interview will be a first. There will also be others who have not done a job interview in decades.

If we are totally honest, the job interview is one of the most unsettling experiences our working lives can impose upon us and one that rarely cuts enough slack for us to be our true selves.

Synonymous with the recruitment process, interviews regularly prove to be both unreliable and ineffective and fail to predict future job performance.

In fact, some experts believe interviews are more an act of deception than a tool for good decisions.

This assertion may seem harsh and will leave many recruiters shaking their heads in fierce disagreement.

But consider the many ways in which white lies, fibs, mistruths, exaggeration and ingratiation play out in most job interviews.

Candidates must put their best foot forward in an interview. At the same time, recruiters need to sell the job on offer and their organisation.

Once in the interview, the job hunter will feel compelled to exaggerate any number of things from the responsibilities attached to their previous roles through to capabilities and achievements.

As a job hunter, we try to conceal gaps in our resume, laugh at jokes we do not find funny, pretend not to see the chunk of last night’s lamb roast stuck in between the interviewer’s teeth and ignore the deplorable state of the interview room.

When questioned why we want the job, we offer lame platitudes like “this is an exciting challenge” instead of being upfront and saying “I need money to survive”.

And when we are asked where we see ourselves in five years’ time, we would never reply honestly by saying something like “I will have highlighted your incompetence and taken over your job”.

Asked why we left our previous role, we may be tempted to be truthful and answer “because the boss was deranged” but instead we choose the safe option of “I was looking for a new challenge”.

While few of us fabricate our entire career stories, many of us fudge the truth. We play a game to convince the jury we ought to be sentenced to getting the job.

Yet bold-faced falsifications and fibs are rife on both sides. Recruiters regularly spin half-truths to unsuspecting job hunters.

They will tell us their corporate culture is first-class and that people tend to be promoted at a lightning pace.

While those facts might be partly true, they will gloss over the fact most employees are expected to put in extraordinarily long hours, the role has been filled by six different people in the past 18 months and that the boss is known for promoting his incompetent mates.

Job interviews are often a lose-lose situation for job seekers and recruiters.

As we recover from the pandemic and rebuild the workforce we must come up with new ways of matching job candidates to positions without both sides having to lie through their teeth.

In the meantime, keep in mind that people you meet at a job interview – on either side of the table – are sometimes not really who they say they are.