PART 1: THE FRUSTRATING MULTI STAGE TESTS
I have been through at least a dozen interviews and listened to all my friends interview horror tales. Just yesterday, a friend of mine was telling me about how she left her office for an hour to be able to get to an interview for another company. She hates her current job and she tries to get as many interviews as possible, though it gets tricky to find the time to leave the office.
She was expecting a one-on-one traditional interview, so she dressed for the part, feeling all hopeful and confident. She had more knowledge and probably more enthusiasm than all the other candidates combined. So she was really taken aback when the Human Resources Rep. announced that she was ready to distribute the test to all the waiting candidates. My friend was more than taken aback, since the woman hadn’t let her know about this “little test”. Moreover she seemed to have informed all others. Now she had to translate 5 medical articles. The test duration was three hours yet there was no way she could be away from the office that long so she did her best for a while and then fled the scene. So apparently the actual interview would take place for the people who scored desirable test results. Oh, I think it is best that I mention she wasn’t applying for an interpreter position nor did the job description involve anything about making translations.
All the big corporations seem to have made a habit of putting candidates through a set of tests that take place through a period of weeks and each test takes hours. Well, if you are really, really willing to get the job, you might think that the time & effort you invest in the tests and if you are lucky, the interviews are a small price to pay. But then again, who in his/her right mind applies to only one corporation/company at this ridiculously fragile state of the economy and the fiercely competitive job market? So you apply to all the firms that fit your criteria: the ones that you can possibly commute to, the ones that pay reasonable salaries and/or that are remotely relevant to your education and/or to the career path you want to follow. So imagine applying to an average of 20 jobs, and that 90% of those companies puts you through those stages of exhausting tests and then don’t usually bother to call you back with some feedback.
I can see how smart an idea these tests/interviews are for an employer who wants to make sure only the best candidates are hired. But what about the potential employees whose time spent isn’t taken into consideration at all? The problem with these interviews are that they are the brainchild of executives/human resources people who have most probably forgotten what it is like to be hanging on the phone, hoping for a positive reply, or at least a heads up on the situation so they can finally move on.
Imagine how terrible it would be to actually pass the test but after getting hired, you realize that the work environment and the organizational culture are nothing like what you imagined they would be. Of course it is a worst-case scenario, but unfortunately it happens more often than not. As the unemployment rates go up, the employer gets the upper hand. Job applicants get more and more desperate, depressed even so they tend to cross-fingers and settle for what they can get, rather than question and challenge the system. Which brings us to the second part:
PART 2: AN INTERVIEW IS A TWO-WAY STREET
Another friend of mine applied to 20 jobs before he got his current job, and only two of them provided a response. One was negative and the other asked for an interview. The first interview ran smoothly and after the second one went well also, it was time to negotiate. Of course negotiation takes two parties. When his then interviewer told him about all the perks and conditions, he expected my friend to start working the next day. Instead my friend asked for some time to think. Yes, he needed the paycheck but he also needed to think it over. He was going to invest at least 10 hours everyday to this job and he had to decide if the trade-off was going to be worth it. He eventually said yes. But the funny thing is what his boss recently confessed to him about that third interview. He said that he never even thought about his interviewee may not jump at the offer; that the interview actually had two sides. My friend was also evaluating if the job and the employer was worth his time and future work.
It is funny when you think about it. People who are in the hiring position rarely even consider that you may not like to work for them. As far as they are concerned, there’s plenty of fish in the sea and if you are not pleased with the offer, they know hundreds of people who will. But this unfortunately creates a bitter and vicious cycle. The more power the applicants give away, the more powerful the firms become. The more powerful they become, they get all the options and the right to choose – which in turn gives more power to the employer.
This is exactly where you need to realize it is a power play. You need to show to the interviewer that you are a qualified candidate (we are assuming that you are fit for the job). You also need to evaluate the manners of the interviewer. From the way the interview is conducted, you can actually get a lot of clues about the work environment.