The real reason we have job interviews
I recently published an article on the ten questions you’re most likely to be asked in every job interview – along with instructions for how to answer them. A young job seeker responded to this post on Facebook by asking me: “If most employers are asking the same questions, and there are templates for right and wrong answers, then what is the point of having job interviews at all?”
The answer sounds unkind, but it’s actually to narrow down the field of applicants, to weed people out. Employers read through piles of resumes to select the few candidates they choose to interview. Then they interview those people to whittle the group down to one.
How can you do that by asking predictable questions for which there are easily prepared answers? Well, preparation itself is an asset. Employers will score a candidate higher who comes to an interview prepared to talk about their skills and experience in a way that is relevant to the company and job over one who is trying to ‘wing it.’
I heard one top recruiter talking about the common question “What is your greatest weakness?” He said that since everyone knows it’s coming, it’s a useless question that yields few insights, except that sometimes “crazy people will actually answer it honestly.” So you can weed them out right away.
Employers don’t want to hire someone who will be honest about their weakness for hitting deadlines or propensity for coming into work hungover. Honesty isn’t a virtue here. Employers want someone savvy enough to say the right thing.
And that’s what the interview is really all about. How savvy you are, how confident you are, and how personable you are. If the prospective employer didn’t think you had the skills and experience necessary to do the job, you wouldn’t have landed the interview in the first place.
Now they want to see how you comport yourself. How you handle pressure. How you can communicate. If they like you.
It’s your hard skills, your credentials and qualifications, and your experience in your resume that will land you a job interview. At the interview, however, it’s your soft skills, especially interpersonal relations that will get you the job.
So you have to show some personality. Employers don’t want to hire a robot reciting a memorized script. But you also need to be an informed, positive, professional version of yourself.
Similarly, if you are extremely confident in your superior knowledge of everything, it’s possible to come across as too show-offy or arrogant about it at the interview.
So be yourself, but be cool. Seeing if you can’t do that is what job interviews are really for.