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The Uselessness Of The Job Interview

Just thinking about the prospect of job hunting/changing early next year provokes a pretty phobic response from me. I've never been a fan of the interview procedure, a feeling made more unfortunate by the fact that I have to do a fair number of second interviews these days though thankfully via telephone and focused entirely on generic technical knowledge. All of this is made extra pointless as the job that I'm interviewing for really doesn't require any technical knowledge whatsoever as nearly every aspect of the job has more to do with procedural busy work and any solid foundation in troubleshooting technical problems is more likely a hindrance than a help.

Seth Godin makes a whole bunch of great points in his post that questions the point of interviews in terms of benefit to an employer as well. The questions he asks are solid: what the hell does an interview really prove other than a very basic understanding of interview protocol and the most fundamental ability to successfully interact with other people without switching into some kind of serial killer mode? Usually the first couple of weeks after a person is hired at a new job are stressful enough without introducing a bunch of theoretical situations posed by managers who likely have no idea about the actual goings on of the position. To me, that irrelevance is one of the factors that make interviews more like jumping through hoops and less like an assessment of ability or how well someone will fit in to a given work situation.

Most of his suggestions are pretty good in terms of concept and at least veer away from the lying contest that most interview situations inevitably degenerate into. When interviewing for this last job I did have 'the tour' but it was mainly to have other people pitch pretty random questions at me and most of them seemed of a less pointed 'interview' variety anyway. This sounds like it would be somewhat relevant but mainly turned into a mock social interaction and was a little more cocktail party than I would be comfortable advocating but at very least it was a departure from the conference room conversations that preceded it. Again though, the well equipped interview liar (and we are all interview liars at least those of us who are hired at the end of running the gauntlet of confusion and misdirection) will breeze through this without giving the interviewer a clue as to what their real interactions will be like.

I do think that a partial inclusion into the actual process of day to day work is a way more sane measure of ability than any of the above. For me, this also means that my potential employer has some interest in hiring people who know what the hell they're doing and less about getting people on board who have a future in management. Getting thrown into the water to see if you can indeed swim is a relief when compared to all of the other wacky steps that modern management methods believe they need to throw at you and brings the assessment process into more sane terms for all parties involved. It seems like the more traditional interview process is more a case of old habits dying hard even when they don't yield any tangible results. This is compounded by the number of 'interview' texts out there which are the inverse mirror of the same books that create the seed questions that make up most interviews. Maybe we need to get some efficiency experts in to measure this and the make the whole process full circle, eh?

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