Or how to vet your potential interviewer/s in an extremely short space of time.
While interviews in Gib have been utterly beyond belief, experiences in the UK, have also been worth a smile.
However, I’ll start with the best one in Gib – Do you have any experience in public relations?
I had submitted a CV that was totally based on PR, communications and journalism. Because you tailor your CV to the job you are applying for? Yes?
So I had cited my years in journalism (and quals), my years working for the UK government as a press officer (ie PR), my years working for the UK health service as a communications manager, a PR manager, a public affairs manager, all of which basically are different names for the same thing. You speak to the media and the public and you make everything nice and bright and shiny. I think it’s called putting a spin on it.
I appreciate that prospective employers may well want you to amplify your CV, but they could go about it a little more subtly than asking a question that basically sounds like they haven’t read your submission at all.
That sort of question sends a sinking feeling of gloom right down to the guts. The desire to be sarcastic and say, ‘No, I’ve just spent half my life doing x,y and z’ is paramount. But seeing as that isn’t a good idea, I tend to pause, and say, ‘Yes.’
Hello interviewer, don’t you know not to ask closed questions?
The truth is, when interviewing anyone, you have a few favourites and the others are to make up the numbers or to see if you have missed a potentially good candidate. Usually unlikely.
Classic textbook info on interviewing says that a) we all make up our minds about candidates in the first five minutes b) we base virtually everything on appearances and c) we appoint in our own image.
You know when interviewers are floundering because they start asking chatty soft questions, to pad out the time beyond ten minutes (they don’t do that in Gib!). You know you are in with a chance when they push you and ask harder questions.
‘Are you willing to work out of normal office hours?’
What a stupid fucking question. I’ve worked as a journalist, at night meetings and writing up stories at 11pm in the deserted office, and as an on-call press officer (at nights and weekends) – NO, I want to go home at five o’clock and forget about the office, comes to the tip of the tongue.
And if I wanted that job (I did), would I have said No? Another closed question incidentally.
Other fucking stupid questions tend to be on the lines of, tell me your strengths/weaknesses. Those are so stereotyped they are unbelievable. We all know to present our supposed weakness as a strength eg, ‘I’m so pertinacious (note to interviewers, do have a dictionary under the table) that I like to see everything through to the end’ – ie I’m an incredibly good completer/finisher.
‘Are you a team player?’
‘No. I hate people.’ True in my case, although I managed to get an awful lot of people to work with me, over whom I had no direct authority, through a little persuasion.
I wonder what would happen if I said ‘No’, and then cited examples of people working with me? Giving up time to attend meetings to improve patient services? Changing working practices of a lifetime? Sharing personal data about success rates for operations?
To me, that is team working without giving it a label. Not get ten people in a room and say, ‘Hello, we are now officially the red team, and we will all work together to achieve a, b, and c’.
‘How do you get results?’ is probably a better question. My answer would be pretty simple. I’m qualified to do what I can, and I expect others to do the same. So, as a manager, it’s my job to get people to contribute their expertise and experience. Not my job to tell them what to do, theirs to say what needs to be done.
So that’s easy. Because if herding cats is impossible, you want to try herding consultants in the health service.
In the past I was actually asked the extremely classic ‘Do you have plans to have a family in the near future?’. Ouch. Well, no actually, though even then I would have thought it was none of their business, but hopefully these days, that sort of question doesn’t get asked. Well, it won’t to me at more than 50. Unless they think I look young enough to conceive.
Or, where do you see yourself in x years time? Hopefully like Judith Chalmers. Fucking off to live in the sun.
Did I want to be an editor (of a newspaper)? at one interview. No, I wanted to be a reporter on a national paper like the Observer.
Got a nice letter from that editor saying I had nearly got the job (well that hardly does it). I wrote to him a couple of years later. I got another interview but the rapport had gone. He was older and greyer and I had moved on.
What about job forms? Are you married? What the hell has that got to do with you? Date of birth? Similarly. Dates of qualifications (so we can work out your age although we really don’t discriminate).
References are the best one though. I had a spat with someone over the internet over this.
I spent some time on my MBA studying personnel, or HR, or whatever it may currently be called. The Institute of Personnel Management, which has now changed its name to something else, was very clear in its guidelines.
You don’t ask for references before you offer someone a job. That means, you don’t ask for them to be submitted as part of a job application (I’ve been asked for that in Gib), you don’t ask for them prior to interview, you only ask for them when you want to make a job offer. A reference should not be part of the job application interview process. You consider someone on their own merit and a reference is to support that candidate should you decide to offer them a job.
Apart from anything else, if I apply for ten jobs a week, how pissed off are my referees going to be, writing or printing off the same old shit for no purpose. I value my referees and don’t want them to waste their time.
But these days, I’m not sure what are the right questions or the right answers.
Q: Why do you want this job?
A: (stupid question) I want the money.
Q: What can you bring to this job?
A: Shitloads. (Cite boring experience and haven’t you read the CV?) That’s why I want lots of money.
Q: What do you want from us?
A: Lots of money, but apart from that, an interesting job that doesn’t bore the socks off me.
I had one interview scheduled back in the UK, and the train was cancelled. I rang up to ask if it was worth my while turning up because I would be late. They said it was. I got the job. Which just goes to show that everything is premeditated.
Probably the worst question I was ever asked was about some proposed legislation regarding mental health patients. I just didn’t have a clue. I didn’t get that job.
Although it was probably equalled by a civil service question about whether or not the queen (EII) should visit Russia, given that her distant rellies had been killed in the revolution. I said yes, and didn’t get the job. Seven years later she visited Russia.
How about psychometric testing? I seriously think it is a load of bollocks. To put it politely.
Whenever I have done it, I’ve usually come out pretty well on it. But what is the added value?
I completed one of those barrage of tests and was told that my communication skills were excellent. Um thanks. What do you think I have been doing for the last xx years?
At another interview, (a police authority post), I was asked if I was leaching my employers because I changed jobs every two or three years. As an ambitious young woman I thought that was a particularly crass statement. I give what I can, and when I can’t get any more, I move on. What’s wrong with that?
But some years later, at a different interview, it seemed I had spent too many years working for the same organisation – you can’t win.
Whether you get a job or not is usually determined by your CV. Unless the job is stitched up anyway for someone else. Or for you.
Don’t waste people’s time.