toxic jobs

Personal stories about toxic jobs and workplace woes.

June 02, 2012

time wasting interviews

Karina has been on both sides of the interview table and knows that interviewing as a profession is an onerous task.

"There are good interviewers and there are bad interviewers," says Karina, "and unfortunately, there are more of the latter and job seekers really need to keep their self-esteem high while looking for work."

Karina advises to be on your guard for nasty interviewers who want to put you down.

"Expect them, be prepared for them and outwit them," says Karina.

The underlying reason why so many interviewers are nasty - and by that Karina does not mean they are overtly nasty - is that the job you are applying for may require dealing with difficult people and the interviewer may be merely testing your ability to cope under pressure.

"The HR department of some organizations," confides Karina, "is like the Secret Service and its staff members generally do not mix well with other employees. Staffed by highly stressed people and given impossible tasks - such as find me the most highly qualified and experienced person willing to work for peanuts - the HR department in any organization is often a place you visit twice in your employment with a company. To get a job and to quit!"

Bearing in mind, then, that a lot of interviewers - not all, but a good many - are going to be difficult people to deal with and are probably suffering some crisis at home to boot, Karina warns that job seekers are being unrealistic to expect interviewers to be supportive and encouraging.

"That is not what they are paid for," laughs Karina.

"In fact," warns Karina, "you should be particularly wary of interviewers who are overly nice. Sugary sweet interviewers are often just testing your ability to judge insincerity and this may be required of the job you are applying for, too."

"You can find many resources on the Web and elsewhere listing typical interview questions," says Karina, "but they won’t help you much in the real world. Basically, all of these questions are designed to assess your communication skills, your personality and your ability to fit in well with the organization. For a mass recruitment these questions serve a purpose and if you learn the patter off by heart you will get a foot in the door, but for many niche jobs very few of the standard interview questions are going to be asked and you will have to think on your feet."

"Always look behind the questions to determine what the interviewer really wants to know," advises Karina, "and ask yourself why he or she wants that information. Better still, ask the interviewer!"

Karina warns that very often interviewers have made up their minds about you the second they see you or hear you speak. The rest of the interview is thus going to be a waste of time for everyone concerned - but particularly for you because you are not getting paid for it - and is it your responsibility to learn to be quick at judging the situation and act appropriately.

"If jaws drop as soon as you walk into the interview room," says Karina, "then do not allow yourself to be humiliated any further. Politely say: 'I can see I am not the person you are looking for, so I will not waste your time and mine. Thank you for the opportunity of an interview, goodbye."

Far more tricky, according to Karina, is the situation where the interview goes well initially - they seem to like the looks and sound of you - but it gets progressively difficult with the sort of questions being asked.

"If you have omitted certain facts from your resume - for good reason - then they will either ask you these questions directly and put you on the spot, or try every trick imaginable to get you to give them the information they want."

Karina makes a point never to put her age on her resumes. It is nobody's business but hers. However, interviewers have a thing about age, and it is very likely that they have been required to employ only people within a certain age range, 21-35 being the preferred range.

"Ageism or age discrimination is the most blatant put down in the interview situation," says Karina, "and it goes against young job seekers, too. You need to be philosophical about it."

When Karina interviewed job applicants in her previous position, age was a big issue with her employer. Now that she is a job applicant herself, she knows the drill only too well.

"Some interviewers are very blunt and will ask your age outright," explains Karina. "You need to respond in accordance with legal requirements by saying: 'I would rather focus on issues relevant to the position'."

"The female interviewers are very crafty about wheedling your age out of you," laughs Karina. "They will steer the conversation into issues designed to elicit an indication of your age from the information you give. When this happens, I ask whether they are looking for a person with a specific age and, if so, why they did not make this point clear in the advertisement. In other words, rather than allowing them to waste more of my time and humiliate me, I turn the tables on them."

If you have gaps in your resume, accounting for the time you went overseas, stayed home to take care of a sick child or just wanted to paint the house or write that book, Karina points out that you will invariably encounter some nasty interviewer wanting a full and detailed description of how every day you were not working was spent.

"What the interviewer is looking for is mental instability more than anything else," explains Karina. "It is not uncommon for interviewers to come across people who spend regular periods in mental institutions. Some interviewers may go so far as to ask you this question outright. Such information is readily available when a personal security check is performed on applicants, so it is not a question interviewers have a right to ask."

Another problem area is when you omit the exact dates of commencement and termination of a position in your employment history.

Karina has a rather colorful resume, giving two years at one place, then three to six months here and there.

"In these days," explains Karina, "it is not uncommon for people to have anything up to four jobs in any one year. You can try to get away with exact dates by just stating the months you were employed at certain places, but when you come across an interviewer who wants the exact day of commencement and termination of previous jobs you will come unstuck."

"Another problem with interviews," says Karina, "is being put on the spot about highly confidential positions you may have held in the past. By virtue of the confidentiality clause you were required to sign, you are unable to divulge anything about the type of work you did. This makes it very difficult to even state the name of the employer on your resume. In these instances, inserting 'highly confidential' on your resume should be sufficient but if an interviewer persists in asking probing questions it's likely that your professionalism is being tested."

"It's a bit insulting not to have your word taken as stated," says Karina, "but I always put a halt to such questions with a simple statement: 'The confidentiality clause I signed prohibits me from answering your questions'. If the questions persist, then I cut the interview short and move on."

"Basically," says Karina, "interviewees are under no obligation to answer any question about which they feel uncomfortable. Most interviewers design conversation to put us at ease, but often this is just another ploy to discover your age, sexuality, financial circumstances, the status of your health, whether you have children and have adequate child-care arrangements and all manner of things that are none of their business and are totally irrelevant to the position and your ability to perform the duties required."

"To ask these questions, overtly or covertly, is putting us down," adds Karina, "and I don't put up with it."

At all times, Karina remembers why she is participating in the interview.

"An interview is a two-way street so you have as much right to interview the interviewer as he or she has to interview you," says Karina. "For every question the interviewer asks me, I ask a question in return. If I don't like the answers I hear, then I cut the interview short and move on."

"Time is money," adds Karina. "I'm not getting paid for attending interviews and if they're wasting my time they're wasting money I should be spending on looking for a job more suitable for me."

Copyright 2006-2014 all rights reserved Toxic Jobs



Index A-Z Toxic Jobs and Workplace Woes

Previous 10 Stories