the operating system of the job interview

Standard

I think we’ve all had job interviews during which red flags were raised and alarm bells went off in our heads, cautioning us to take a step back and consider whether we really want to work with these people. I certainly have. By the same token, I have also had interviews with people who were immediately engaging, whose intelligence and vision made me immediately want to join forces.

I was thinking today about the former kind, the “this isn’t good”-gut-feeling interview. That is, the interviewer is late, is rushed and stressed, fiddles with their phone or email for a few minutes once the interview has begun, apologizing but nevertheless continuing.

I’m thinking: This is a first impression, dude. And it’s not going so well.

Then the discussion begins. I’m thrown off my game a bit because they have already created this atmosphere. The tone is set. They use words that only certain kinds of people use, “Anyone who works for me will tell you this.”

I’m thinking: In this day and age, who really says ‘works for me’, especially when they’ve been touting the flat, almost-non-existent hierarchy and lack of pretense? Yes, maybe I would be part of your team… but say instead “anyone who works in my team or anyone who works with me”… . The use of “works for me” immediately conveys a kind of (possibly unconscious) structure from within that person’s mind, which strives (again, possibly unconsciously) to establish a power dynamic. And yes, maybe that person would be my manager, but I don’t want a manager who chooses that particular language. I am at a stage in my career and life where I choose with whom to work, not for whom to work.

Once the discussion ends, 45 minutes into the appointed time, right on schedule in fact, they adopt a sarcastic and accusatory tone: “This conversation has gone well over time.”

I’m thinking: Oh, I think not.

And… it was okay for you to disrespect my time at the beginning of the interview but then to get an attitude when you mistakenly believe I have overrun your time?

I don’t love being a nitpicking asshole. I don’t love being overly sensitive. In this case, I don’t like being something of an analyst about minute word choice. I have found, however, that when I dismissed these concerns in the past and convinced myself I was being overly sensitive, I have ended up in some of the worst professional situations I’ve ever been in.

And no, I don’t need that.

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