Luther College Chips

Changing the format of interviews for the better

Danny May, News Editor

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Most of the job interviews that I have done have been uncomfortable. I smiled stiffly to interviewers and sat down across from them, hyper aware of my hand placement and posture as I tried to listen to their questions. I prepared for these interviews and had a back pocket full of canned answers about how I demonstrate leadership and how I respond to adversity. Those answers were mostly genuine, but I walked out of those interviews feeling like I had not accomplished much beyond abstractly showing the interviewers that I have requisite skills. I accomplished little in showing my personality, and considerably less in sensing theirs, deficiencies that arise out of the flawed and general interview style.

It seems like a lot of employers have an unclear sense of what they really want to accomplish in an interview: a sense of the candidate as a human being, or their ability to answer questions. The formal interview style — candidate sits across from interviewer(s) and they fire off questions and answers — lends itself to exactly what anyone would expect, the canned answers that interviewees prepare ahead of time in an effort to impress potential employers. The problem is that the ability to do so provides insignificant insight into who it really is sitting across from an interviewer. We effectively have two monologues occurring in a room: one asks, another responds, and then on to the next question, leaving little room for conversational bits in which personality emerges.

Perhaps removing the office setting, where people sit across from one another and are hyper aware of bodily positions, is a start. Instead, people could walk around together, engage in conversation, and free themselves of the stiff and awkward interview setting; basically, make it feel entirely unlike an interview. Reframing the questions asked would also be a step toward gleaning personality. I would much rather talk about my experiences themselves than how I demonstrated a certain skill in a certain instance.

I’m vouching against well-worn formalities which rule out candidates who fold under the high stakes, high pressure interview setting, because it’s frankly an anomalous environment. There are few settings in everyday life as awkward and uncomfortable as a job interview and yet that is the tried-and-true measure on which many employers judge their employee candidates. This system favors those with a quick tongue and immediate charm, characteristics that aren’t essential to many jobs yet have become essential to gaining even minimal consideration for many.

Maybe I’m just saying this because I have faltered in interviews. But if employers want to know potential employees, they shouldn’t meet with them in an office space to talk about skills. They should converse, convey experiences, become familiar with what makes an employee distinct, and walk around to view the workplace itself. Those traits eventually emerge in the job setting itself and gaining insight into them beforehand can filter out those who are only superficially adept in interviews.

So, to any potential employers: let’s talk. And then you can hire me.

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