I hate interviews. That’s a fairly obvious statement. Everyone hates interviews. But as someone who changed jobs within the last year, this issue hits particularly close to home for me. There are a lot of things that are awful about interviews. Here are just a few:
1. “Tell me about yourself”
This has been the opening line of choice on a number of my interviews, though I fail to see why. The question itself is vague to the point of meaninglessness. I know that interviewers are looking for insight into your “professional self” here. But what’s to stop someone from talking about something else? Whenever I get asked this question on an interview, I have a snap-second daydream of responding, “Well, when I was 15 I once lost my shorts in the middle of a basketball game, then ran to the nearest locker room to fix said shorts, which just so happened to be the boys locker room, where the entire wrestling team was changing. If you think of the sort of adult who may have done that as a teenager, I’m her,”
Barring deliberate misinterpretations of its intent, the problem with this question is that it asks you to summarize years of professional experiences into a 30 second spiel that will let the interviewer know that you’ll be a perfect fit for this company you probably have not researched enough. Just ask me something more specific. I still can’t summarize, and I was an English major in college.
Conversely, this question also asks a recent college grad who would just like a paycheck, please, to embellish work experience they don’t have. Take it easy on those guys, interviewers, the real world is a rough place where sleeping through your alarm and not showing up anywhere you’re supposed to be isn’t really an option anymore. These poor college grads are going to realize this soon, and it will be brutal. Don’t make their lives any harder than they are about to become.
2. “Where do you see yourself in five years?”
I don’t know where I see myself in five minutes. Literally every plan I have had up until this point in life hasn’t really panned out, which is why I’m interviewing for this job in the first place.
3. “What are your greatest weaknesses?”
To quote Michael Scott, “I work too hard. I care too much. And sometimes I can be too invested in my job.”
Nothing anyone ever says in response to this question is real. It won’t tell you anything about the person you’re interviewing, so how about we just stop asking it? You would have much better luck simply deducing a person’s weaknesses from their response to the question “what are your strengths?” For instance, if they say that they have great “attention to detail” and “see every project through to the end”, they’re probably a hard-working nitpicker who alienates everyone on their team with unrealistic expectations and a holier-than-thou attitude.
4. The fact that most of the interview doesn’t matter anyway
The person interviewing you has already reviewed your resume and the resume of every person who also applied for this job, so they know how your experience stacks up. This means that realistically, the bulk of the decision boils down to whether they like you or not. There is no such thing as being “bad at interviews”. Well, I guess there is, but it essentially means the same thing as having a personality not everyone likes at first. I should know. I’m bad at interviews.