The Mystery Of The Interview

Beast of a Job Interview, after Walter Crane

Beast of a Job Interview, after Walter Crane (Photo credit: Mike Licht,

In this brave, new world of the 21st century job hunt, there is no milestone more crucial than landing that all-important interview.

Of course there are many milestones in the process – from tweaking your resume to the final negotiations – but more attention is being given to the interview than any other area.  Why is that?

Hearing that you’ve landed the interview is often the first major milestone actually acknowledged by recruiters during the application phase.  Sure, many of us who submit online applications may get a perfunctory form letter stating that our application has been received.  And in many cases we may get a call from the recruiter trying to weed through their own piles of applicants, to ensure that the hiring manager is not wasting their time.

But whether it is a phone interview or in-person, the call to schedule that discussion is usually the first indication that our applications and resumes have made it through the wormhole and have been seen by a real human being.  The phone call from the other side of that black hole comes unexpectedly – sometimes days, weeks or even months after applications have been submitted.

And the interview process carries us pretty much from this point in time directly through to the final steps of job offer, negotiation and that first day of work.  And these days, it seems that most prospective employees who make it that far find very little time between the final interview and that first day at the new job.  “How soon can you start?” is often asked before the applicant returns home from the interview, and just as frequently it is posed before salary negotiations even begin.

So it’s no wonder that so much attention is being paid towards landing those phone, face-to-face and follow-up interviews.

According to, still a leading site dedicated to helping prospective workers and employers find that right match, there are ten basic tips to help you improve your interviewing skills:

  • Practice good nonverbal communication
  • Dress for the job or company
  • Listen
  • Don’t talk too much
  • Don’t be too familiar
  • Use appropriate language
  • Don’t be cocky
  • Take care to answer the questions
  • Ask questions
  • Don’t appear desperate
Me after a job interview.  It was bright outside.

Me after a job interview. It was bright outside. (Photo credit: Foxipher)

As regular readers will know, I have often compared the world of job hunting to that of the world of dating – finding that one best match out of the plethora of potential mates.  And this top-ten list of best practices could certainly be applied to dating as well as interviewing – after all, how many of us would ask for a second date with someone who spent the whole first date with their poorly-clad body oozing distance, telling inappropriate and personal stories ad nauseum, with an air of entitlement and, at the same time, desperation?  Not many of us, to be sure.

A little further reading might bring you to the US News article suggesting five questions to ask on your next job interview.  Now granted, this is a tough spot for many of us – we know we need to ask questions to show our intelligence and interest, but it feels forced, so the headline might give us some hope.  “Hey, I do need to know what questions to ask.  This could be just what I was looking for!”

  • What happened to the last guy?
  • What do you like about working here?
  • How do people typically work together here?
  • How can someone succeed at this job?
  • What’s next in the hiring process?

Some of these questions are not bad – throughout my own interviewing career I have always made sure to ask the first question, it being a sound piece of advice given by my uncle, but some of these others are a bit out there.  Just imagine your date asking you some of these questions – What happened to the last guy?  How do I need to behave to get along with you?  What can I do to get in your pants?  Are you going to go out with me again, or not?

Not to be done, US News continues to list some really bad questions to ask – and I certainly have no argument against any of these:

  • What do you do?
  • How much is the pay?
  • What are the hours?
  • Do you have other open positions?
  • Will there be a drug test?
Cover of "Hiring"

Cover of Hiring

While I don’t disagree with any of these, I must put in the caveat that re-phrasing some of them might give you some all-important insight into both the hiring manager and the place of employment.  For example, instead of “What do you do?”, I have found it quite beneficial to ask “How does your role fit into the rest of the organization?” or “Beyond managing this opening, what is the scope of your responsibility?”

And while it may not be politic to come out and ask directly, many of us may have genuine concerns about payscales, hours, other openings or, yes, drug tests.  You might need to find other ways to answer your questions, but none of these are questions that can be avoided if you intend to work for the company – not if any of these issues are near and dear to your heart.

Disappointed with the lack of really tangible advice out there we may turn to an article from Career Bliss, helping you to secure that all-important follow-up job interview.  Obviously, the site feels our pain:

“You’re feeling great after your first interview for a job with a prospective employer and you’re told to expect a call back from human resources about setting up a second interview. When you do get that call, your initial feelings are excitement and triumph! Then, just as quickly, those feelings are replaced by anxiety and fear when you realize that this interview will be a defining moment for you. This will be your opportunity to shine or fizzle — to stand out or fall flat on your face.

Before you panic, relax and relish the moment. Being asked back for a second interview confirms your initial assessment of the situation: The employer is sincerely interested in hiring you.

So once you’ve calmed down, how do you prepare for this significant, sought-after second interview? What can you expect in the way of questions from hiring managers and how much information should you offer during the interview?”

From there, however, the actual advice starts to thin out:

  • Have a plan
  • Sell yourself
  • Prepare to articulate your attributes
  • (How to handle a) vast array of interviewers
  • Be prepared for tricky questions
  • Ask lots of questions
  • Cultural fit
  • Don’t forget to say Thank You!

Nothing earth-shattering here, to be sure, but it is marginally more useful advice than the other articles out there.  At least this advice, at a top level, can also be applied to the dating world: have a plan, sell yourself, how to handle a group date (and all her friends), ask lots of questions, make sure you fit together, and don’t forget to say Thank You!

In the end, all of us can only do what feels right to us, and in this new world where style is as important, if not more so, than substance, following your own style will certainly go a long way towards finding that right match.

But also keep in mind that a lot of the advice out there is not overly useful.  Keep searching though, and you might find a solution that works for you.


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