Thursday, 4 April 2013

Deliberations on giving interviews

Giving interviews is hard.

I used to think interviews are a breeze, but this was before realising that "being yourself" in an interview is not an optimal strategy. Till date I'd been fortunate -- for the most part, my interviews had been conducted by somewhat like-minded people. In such situations, being "true" to oneself works quite well.

However, the trick is in sizing up precisely what the interviewer is looking for, in asking the questions that he is. The response then needs to be tailored to match the interviewer's expectations -- not the role's. and not the organisations, even though they should ideally be aligned.

In the case of a question looking for a factual answer, while the core of the response can stick to the facts, the language it is couched in can make a big difference (firm? conciliatory? with gusto? with a sense of distaste?). This also applies to the length and approach of the answer (curt? concise? rambling? detailed?).

Of course, the most correct, internally consistent, and confidently stated responses won't do you any good if the initial read on the interviewer is completely off-base. If your approach to validate a hypothesis is Bayesian when the interviewer is a fanatical frequentist, it may not matter at all that you were entirely right. Back in the day, expounding the virtues of JSP in an interview where the interviewer was an ardent PHP fan didn't work too well.

If you aren't applying to roles that are clearly out of your league (claiming knowledge of a tool or technology that you've only read about, or only dabbled in), then the associated interview should be a piece of cake. But humans being what they are, and ridiculously susceptible to biases, the best strategy for an interview is always to get a read on the interviewer(s) and manipulate said biases in your favour. If you're unable to do this -- ceteris paribus -- the chances of making it through the interview are entirely 50-50, which is really quite low.

7 comments:

Misha Gericke said...

Luckily for me, I'm a natural at getting reads at people. :-D

Jocelyn Rish said...

I hate giving interviews. I prefer to think and deliberate over every word, so having to spout things out on the spot makes me very uncomfortable.

Best of luck with the A to Z challenge,
Jocelyn

Shrikant Narasimhan said...

@Misha: So envious! I struggled to built a competent people-detector, and it still malfunctions every now and then.

@Jocelyn: I'm okay with interviews as long as it's either general chat (most "HR interviews"), something related to my previous work, or tech talk. The problem is when an open-ended question comes my way -- then I would prefer to deliberate a bit before a response, so I get very conscious that what I happen to spout off on the spot might just be entirely stupid!

Jianne Carlo said...

I much prefer being the interviewer than the interviewed. I like people and enjoy learning more about them.

Great post and nice to meet you.

Shrikant Narasimhan said...

@Jianne: Thanks for dropping by!

Weirdly, I don't really like interviewing because I'm never sure how hard to go on the candidate. I do like learning about people, but I mostly conduct interviews for technical roles, and there's a lot of BS and outright lying that I have to wade past.

Grammy said...

Hello. Thank goodness I haven't had to apply for a position in years. I retired from teaching nearly 19 years ago. Also, just a hint, you will get more responses if you remove comment moderation from your blog during the "cChallenge". I hate to fool with them, as do most people. Thanks. Best regards to you. Ruby

Juliet Bond said...

Just stopping by for the A-Z Challenge. Please check us out and sign up to follow if you like what you see. Juliet atCity Muse Country Muse