Appearing for an interview? Don't miss this one thing.

Please note: This article is not part of the PsychoTech series. Also, if you are a tenured professional, you may find this article to be common-sense, as the intended audience is people in the early phases of their career.

I don't find it appropriate to make the readers wait till the end for the crux. So, here it is:

During the interview, apart from trying to prove that you are the 'best-fit' for the role, you should also try to validate that the job is indeed a 'best-fit' for your career, and for you.

So, treat the interview as an information-sharing discussion, where you get all relevant non-public information from the interviewer, and share what the interviewer needs.
That's it! If you're interested in the details, read on:

Mike's First Job

As the end of his Bachelors course got closer, Mike decided he wants to get some experience before starting the Masters. After interviewing with a number of companies, he managed to land a job with one of the big brands - a dream job for someone with his profile - the kind that most people around him were trying to get.

It was easy for Mike to prepare for the interviews. There is abundance of available aids such as tips and tutorials on interview preparation, and customized training by career counselors to help candidates like him 'ace' interviews. Just a simple google for 'Interview Tips' would lead you to tons of articles on the topic. Together, they'll help you to prepare for both the 'hard' and 'soft' aspects of the interviews - by helping you to anticipate what the questions are going to be like and teaching how to respond to them; while also helping you to learn how to present yourself. All else falling into place, this preparation helps to get the job - just like Mike did.

But, six months after joining Mike was completely disillusioned. What may have been 'a dream job for someone with his profile' was not working for him. He was so stressed that he was thinking of quitting the job immediately, even though he didn't have the answer to 'What next?'

Why did this happen?

Have you heard of such cases - where someone grew disillusioned with a job that they badly wanted? Aplenty? While people may be able to land their 'dream jobs', their happiness, quite frequently, doesn't last long. They grow dissatisfied with their jobs soon and start looking for another one. But, why does this happen?

This question is of much interest in the industry and has been (and continues to be) the focus of numerous studies. If you google for the 'Top reasons to resign from or dissatisfaction with a job', you'll find a lot of relevant results. Unsurprisingly, most of them come up with similar reasons belonging to two broad categories:

  1. Type 1 factors - related to 'professional happiness' - like salary, designation, and growth path.
  2. Type 2 factors - related to 'personal happiness and development' - like relationships with peers and superiors, learning opportunities, work life balance, appreciation for your work, quality of management, and company values.

Both seem to be prevalent in causing dissatisfaction, but do we discuss both equally, or at least sufficiently during the interview?

Look at the Type 2 factors again - do any of these matter for you? Yes? More than one?Remember the last time you were in an interview. Did you touch upon these things? No? At least, half of these things? No? Well, did you plan to improve your understanding of the company on these dimensions during the interview? No?

If so, you're not alone - Mike also made the same mistake - he also did not consider these factors. He soon realized that while he was comfortable with the projects he was in, he barely had any freedom or time to do what he loved beyond the core job. His learning also reached a point of stagnation - he was gaining tenure, but not real experience. This stressed him out and impacted his relationships with his superiors. And, all the negativity resulted in him becoming disinterested in the job.

What can you do to prevent this?

Going back to Mike's job interview: when the interviewer asked him critical (and trite) questions like why this role or why this company, Mike chose to give 'creative' answers to please the interviewer. The truth would have been something like 'because everyone considers this to be a dream job' or 'because you are the best paymasters.'

And, when the interviewer asked him if he had any questions: he asked questions about the company's business and its future strategy based on recent developments - showing that he's prepared well and is up to date on business news, but does it help him get information relevant for his decision about the job?

'Interview' - the word itself insinuates to the sharing of views. But, is that what happens? Isn't it typically just a quizzing session with the interviewer asking questions and interviewee responding. Even when the interviewer is courteous enough to ask if there are any questions - the interviewee, like Mike, again 'responds' with a well-prepared question (read answer) that'll increase his chances of landing the job. And, in the process loses the opportunity to land the right job. What can you do to land the right job?

  • Before the interview - self-introspect. Ask yourself: How would the next job fit into the 'story of your life'? Do you need it just to earn and save for the future, to add weight to your CV, to help you make connections (to get better opportunities or something that you really like), to get you started on your dream career, or something else? Then ask, what kind of job are you looking for? Keep both Type 1 and Type 2 factors in mind. Think about the information that you would need to decide on where the job ranks on both sets of factors. Note all these thoughts in a dedicated 'Happiness Notebook'.
  • During the interview, apart from trying to prove yourself, you should also try to find out whether the job is indeed a 'best-fit' for your career, and for you. So, treat the interview as an information-sharing discussion, where you get and share all relevant information with the interviewer (or interviewee, if you're the interviewer). Also, try to understand why the interviewer is asking a particular question, ask - if you are unsure, so that you can address the real point better. Interviewers remember: it is as important for you, as it is for the candidate, that he/she can completely explore. This will ensure that there are no surprises for the candidate upon joining the organisation - in the long term, contributing to a happier and healthier employee base.
  • After the interview, go back to the 'Happiness Notebook'. Did you miss something important? No problem! Ask whenever you get the next opportunity. But, before you commit to join. You have to ensure that what you are doing takes you closer to what makes you happy in life, not away from it.

It might take you longer to find a job if you do this, you will have to put in greater effort - objective self-introspection is amongst the most challenging tasks for humans, and you will have to prepare better - as you have to be much more active in driving the discussion. But, if the result is a job that makes you truly happy, with you headed towards your dreams, wouldn't it be worth it?

As for Mike, the counselor helped him with the 'Happiness Notebook' exercise - she helped him think through what he wanted, and how he wanted to handle the situation. Fortunately, he also found a senior within the organisation, who believed in the importance of 'personal development' of employees. He guided Mike through the crisis, until he found something that worked for him within the organisation - a similar role - though, challenging enough to keep him intellectually growing, while allowing much greater flexibility.

*   *   *

As humans, we often lose ourselves to the current moment, taking decisions which hamper our long term happiness. It is important that we are cognizant of what our existential goals (dreams) are, and that we make whatever effort we can to inch closer to them. In the context of the job interview, this means probing about aspects of the job that matter to you - beyond just the money and the profile.

Hope you found this useful! Please do share your thoughts about the article, and learnings from your experience in comments below.

Good Luck, for your next interview! :)

Disclaimer: Any views or statements expressed are mine and not those of my employer. The content of this article is based completely on my personal knowledge and research, and is not based on any work my employer may be engaged in, or any practices followed by it.

Mike is a fictional character, inspired by real people, who appears in my writings frequently.

This article was originally published on LinkedIn in August 2018.


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