Interviews are much different today than they were 20 years ago. I’m showing my age a little bit here but I can remember applying for a job, interviewing the same day, and walking out with the job. It was a simple process that took maybe 15-30 minutes and the interviewer only asked questions pertaining to skills, education, and previous work history. It was very uncommon to walk into an interview with a panel of three or more interviewers, let alone a group interview where you were expected to compete for the job with several other candidates. Times have changed and so has the style and process for interviewing potential candidates.
It seems the employment market has gone mad with exhaustive measures taken by the new leaders of industry and it is no longer a quick and simple process to get the job. The employers expect the candidate to be well prepared, know something about the company, and ask questions pertaining to the job, the company, and the mission of the organization. They also want to know things about the candidate and sometimes they ask the oddest questions, which have nothing to do with the job but they want an answer. Here are just a few examples:
- If you could be an animal what would you be and why?
- Why is there fuzz on a tennis ball?
- If the clock were to stop ticking tomorrow, what would you do today?
- How do you weigh a plane without scales?
Truth be told; these brain teaser type questions are quite relevant but more on a behavioral and thought process evaluation level. They are interested in how the wheels turn, if you can analyze and process through something without help and most of all, if you can give them a creative answer. Simply put, they are looking for people to join their organization who can think outside the box, and analyzing your ability to deal with pressure and uncertainty. Sometimes the questions are used to minimize the stress felt by both you and the interviewer, but usually it is a well-designed tool to engage the candidate in problem solving, creative thinking, and basic logic.
However and this is important, some other questions they may ask may not be based on problem solving, and the interviewer is fishing for information about your personal life and habits…be careful with these.
For instance, if they ask what your favorite drink is avoid telling them things like, “Mai Tai, Red Wine, or Tequila,” as they may pay health insurance premiums. Or, when they ask: “Tell me about yourself” they are not asking you to tell them about your life, they want to know what you can contribute as an employee. The proper way to answer this is to tell them about your professional skills and avoid details of your personal life or hobbies.
We all like the opportunity to talk about our personal life but try not to do this. Keep in mind; it is not appropriate for the interviewer to ask personal questions unless it has some relevance to the job, such as interviewing for a position as a ski instructor and being asked how often you ski. If they get too personal and ask things like, are you married, do you have children, or did you go to the XYZ bar last night I heard there was a great band playing, respectfully ask the interviewer to explain why that information is relevant to the job. If they can’t justify the reason, politely remind them you are there to share your skills and abilities with them about the job you applied for, and promptly ask them a question about the organization. This changes the subject without negativity. If they persist with personal questions, it is probably not a company you should set your sights on and you may want to end the interview by simply saying, “Thank you for your time today” and leave the interview.
Another truth about the interview process; generally speaking, when an employer chooses to do a group interview it is either because they need to hire people quickly, or they are probing into the candidates’ ability to work in a team setting. Typically they are looking for people who can work in teams and get along with others and their varying personalities. It isn’t so much about being competitive but rather how well the candidate can adapt to a team environment.
One last truth; panel interviews are very nerve-wracking but in most instances, the employer chooses this style because the candidate will probably be working under the direction of various supervisors, not just one, and the input from the other supervisors is crucial for making the final decision of whether to hire you or not.
Don’t fear the interview! Embrace it and keep in mind, the interviewer is just doing their job and they are human too.