Sunday, January 18, 2015

Interview your Interviewer

I was trapped. Not physically stuck, but held in my seat by social etiquette and confusion about what was happening. I sat in a small, windowless office, waiting for time to expire. Across the table sat an aggressive, old man ranting on about how China was ruining the American economy and every now and then pausing to make sure I was still listening. I think he might have been someone important at his company, like the CEO or founder. I decided his company wasn't a good cultural fit for me.

This was a campus recruiting event and I had tossed my resume into the pile, not really knowing what I had signed up for. Four companies had participated. Students would spend 45 minutes interviewing with each company. I was waiting for my 45 minutes to expire.

The whole time I was sitting there, I was thinking, "do they screen these people?" Is there a process for determining if someone is fit to conduct an interview?

It turns out there isn't a screening process for who you interview with. Companies will screen all the resumes they receive for qualities like good communicator or team player. Job candidates, however, don’t have much information to screen the company or the interviewer. Had I known I was going to be in a windowless room with an aggressive old man who seemed a little, quite frankly, crazy; I would have stayed in the undergraduate lab finishing up my assignment.

This was one of those aha moments. I realized that an interview is a date and both parties are determining if this will be a good fit. My parents grew up with the notion that you either got the job or you didn’t. They taught me that it was the interviewer who was evaluating me.

Sitting through 45 minutes of being lectured by a crazy person, taught me that I’m also evaluating the interviewer and the company he represents. Do I really want to work for this person? Can I spend the next two years in the same building as this person? Will this be a mutually beneficial relationship?

Since that terrible interview I have never been nervous about interviewing. In fact, I like the excitement of not knowing what type of person I’ll be meeting. I know that it is good if it doesn’t work out, because I don't want to be in a career limiting relationship.

- Surprise yourself this week.