If only we could have a different conversation during our interviews

For those that know me (or perhaps read my article), you probably know that I’ve done an insurmountable amount of interviews – being interviewed for volunteer work, paid work, job shadows, informational interviews, work-trades, club positions (relative to the number of years I’ve been in the workforce at least). You could say that this somewhat qualifies me to be an mentor, and give advice to future interviewees on how they should perform in interviews with the “lessons” I’ve learned through my experiences.

However rather than this being another “How to ace your interview” type of article, I would like to share my 2 cents with interviewers out there instead.

Because I believe it takes two hands to clap to make an interview session a successful one. However it always seem to be that the candidate is the one taking the blame if a session did not go as smooth as expected.

For a start, I’m gonna be honest and say that most of the time, I’m not completely honest (i’m speaking as an interviewee, and here’s me hoping that most of us resonate to that so I don’t feel so bad about myself lol).

But it’s not that I don’t want to be completely truthful, but because I’m just saying what I’ve rehearsed through typical interview questions I have read online, and crafted the perfect answer I think you(the interviewer) would like to hear in order for you to like me, but TBH I’m just trying to compensate for the mistakes and biases that you might make; moreover I think some of those questions asked are a BS way of really getting to know someone.

Hence, If only hiring managers could hear my real thoughts (in italic below), the conversation during my interviews would probably go somewhere along the lines of this:

In this hypothetical conversation, I’m just gonna address some typical interview questions that I find ridiculously put, rather than drafting a full-blown interview session. Also, for easier understanding, I’m gonna address it from the context of an employer(E) and candidate(C) interview.

E: “Nice to meet you, I’m ___. How are you?”

C: “Great, nice to meet you too. I’m___.”

How am I? Im actually f*cking nervous right now and I didn’t sleep well yesterday night because of this. I hope I don’t have a sudden brain fog that makes me say something stupid later or just completely blank out…also I’m fidgeting a lot because this heels Im wearing that I had to borrow from my mum is really uncomfortable, I was coerced into wearing it because she said i gotta look presentable as a lady for interviews and unfortunately my sports attire filled-wardrobe is inappropriate for this occasion.

Advice: Don’t ask ‘how are you’ unless you’re ready to handle the truth of our overwhelming emotions.

E: “How about we start with you telling me about yourself?“

C: “I’ve been in the ___ industry for over ___ years, primarily working in ___ roles. I most recently worked as a senior PM for a managing ___ and overseeing___. And while I really enjoyed the work that I did, I’d love the chance to dig in much deeper with one specific ___company, which is why I’m so excited about this opportunity with ___.”

How much time do you have? We might need to camp here overnight. Cause I don’t think I have truly answered your question. What I mentioned to you it’s essentially only 1 % of my life (which you’ve probably already knew from my resume and I don’t understand why you would want me to repeat myself verbally) so it’s not fair to say that that is entirely who I am. Are you ready to hear the other 99% of my life which is what I understand from the context of your question? Alright I’ll start with when I was one year old, I……

Advice: A better way to ask this question would be for example: “How did you decide to go about with the decisions you’ve made throughout your career journey?” Please be more specific on what you really want to know about someone, unless you have a whole night and want to test your patience.

E: “What are you greatest strengths?”

C: “My greatest strength is my [insert ideal employee trait]. I did ___ and [insert accomplishments]happened. I also got most _[insert award]_ by my previous company because of that.”

Did I sound like a narcissist? I can’t even believe what I’m hearing as I speak. It does not sound like what I’m really good at since I got some help to get that recognition or it was more of the results of working with a good team rather than entirely relying on my strengths my efforts alone.But If I say that does it mean I can’t do great things as in individual? There are days that I don’t achieve as well, what does that say about me then? Now I sound like an imposter.

Advice: Ask instead, “What are some values you’ve presented through your actions that have brought joy within yourself and in the lives of others? This gives us the space to be more honest about the values that we most likely can bring to the organization without feeling like we are trying to woo you with a seemingly fabricated story that we don’t really resonate with.

E: “What are your greatest weaknesses?”

C: “My greatest weakness used to be [insert defect]. I would [insert inglorious behaviour]. However, after [insert moment of enlightenment], I’ve learned to [insert strategy advice found from Googling] and now I no longer am [insert defect].”

I am completely aware of my [insert defect], but that doesn’t mean I’ve completely surpassed it and suddenly became this perfect individual. I’m trying to improve myself bit by bit, day by day, but I don’t think you’d wanna hear that this ‘problematic’ trait of mine might time to time, still interfere with the work I would be doing with you. Also, I’m addicted to coffee. Is that something you should know as well?

Advice: If you really want us to be more truthful about our weaknesses so that you can be truly prepared to handle potential mishaps when we work together in the future, be more vulnerable and share some parts of yours as well. This allows us to let their guard down and not have the feeling that we have to constantly say the things that sound impressive to you.

E: “Why should we hire you?”

C: “I read on the job description that you’re looking for someone with experience in ____. I’ve done that for 3 years and can immediately help you accomplish ____.”

Pretty similar thoughts to the“What are you greatest strengths?” question.

Advice: Another chance for the natural sweet-talkers to ‘entice’ you with their charm. However, introverts or less eloquent individuals like us might find a hard time with this question. Perhaps a better way to go about would be: “How do you see yourself playing a part towards achieving the company’s mission and vision?”

E: “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?”

C: “In 5 years I see myself taking on more responsibilities, either through management or higher level individual contributions. I’m not sure which path will make sense to pursue, but I know my goal right now is to build a strong foundation and gain valuable experience so that I’ll have a successful future in this industry.”

I just want to see myself as still being happy after 5 years man. So If I focus on the things that matters to me like personal growth, health and relationships; unafraid to explore and try new things, while being happy now and doing the best I can with what I have everyday, I think I will get there. Setting a 5 year goal seem futile when life is so uncertain and there are so many things beyond our control that could potentially divert our focus anytime. But obviously that doesn’t sound too spectacular from a career point of view, might sound lazy even…oh my better not let that slip out!

Advice: Most of the time the chances of us achieving the goals (long term ones at least) we’ve set for ourselves is pretty slim, due to the many possible reasons that could accur (e.g. change of our beliefs, our living conditions, life events etc.). Hence, a better way to go about it could be: “What can our company do to give you a great career-building experience?”

E: “Are you interviewing with other companies?”

C: : I’m interviewing with a few companies, but so far it seems that this work scope and the company’s dedication to growth is the most ideal in terms of what i was looking for to progress in my career path, which I find very appealing.

I just want to get a job ASAP man, so I’m trying to make the most out of my time now and going for as much interviews as I can hoping to get it over with. But of course I’m going to eventually evaluate which one is gonna offer me the best chance to get what I’m looking for, for sure.

OR

I’m not interviewing with other companies because I really want to work for you guys! But that might come off as desperate?

Advice: Ask instead: “What have you noticed is different in your company so far?”. With that, you can prompt us to think in more detail about why we would really want to choose you over other potential employers. Otherwise, you’re pretty much going to expect a very generic answer.

E: “What are your salary expectations?”

C: “I’m hoping to get [insert amount]……but it’s negotiable!”

How about you give me a number and I’ll see whether I can take that offer? If you have a modicum of compassion you would give me an appropriate amount that I would be able to sustain myself in this city and be able to fund for some aspects of my social life and personal growth, so that I won’t resent you in the future when I’m 50 and I still live with my parents because I couldn’t even afford to pay rent.

Advice: Just don’t ask this question. If you’re a human living in similar conditions too, you should know what amount is good for us. But if you’re an interviewer reading this and you disagree, do enlighten me (comments welcomed).

E: Do you have anymore questions for me?

C: [Best questions to ask at the end of an interview — through Google search]

Why can’t you just tell me directly already what kind of things should I expect If I take on this offer (like job responsibilities, requirements and flexibility etc.)? Or else It just seems like i’m interrogating you with all the questions I have in my head because I clearly can’t read your mind and I don’t know what the heck you have in store for me.

Advice: You know what information we need to know. You’ve been in our shoes. So don’t wait for us to ask, just tell us already.

Does this scenario sound familiar?

So dear interviewers, the point of any interview is to get a better understanding of who your candidate is and not to intimidate them and find weak links. At least that’s not the way it ought to be!

Thus, if you can learn to have a better conversation with the person on the other side, you will get more answers to your questions and better assess if there is a mutual fit between them, the role and your company’s culture.

Hopefully, these tips will help you know how to have a better interview (by giving candidates a better experience when they are given the chance of expressing who they truly are and how they are able to contribute).

And for those that is constantly ‘failing’ at interviews, it’s not entirely your fault so don’t sweat too much about it. Just stick to being truthful, while having good intention and not being a jerk. I’m sure you would find someone that will ultimately appreciate the real (sometimes simple, sometimes crazy) you and the value that you can bring to the organization.

A photo I secretly wish to attach in my CVs

Thank you for reading and comment to help me understand your point of view=)

With love,

Tien Cin

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Yong Tien Cin

Yong Tien Cin

A biologically affirmed adult with infinite facets of identity, living life fuelled by her inner child-like passions and desires. More musings @insta kind.r3bel