August 24, 2013

Hey interviewers, it's not just us! Here are a few things you're doing wrong ... [By HowToBeJobless Blog]


"Dear appli-CAN'T,
Thank you for your interest. Due to the high volume of applications we receive, only successful candidates will be contacted. If you do not hear from us within two weeks, please assume you made some stupid error on your CV, and that your risibly incompetent covering letter has been forwarded to all staff for an afternoon laugh."

Said no employer, ever - but that's what we see. So we go straight to the self-help articles. Five mistakes to avoid on your covering letter, most common CV blunders, eighty things you should never do in an interview...all useful stuff. But is it necessarily all our fault? Why are we the only ones jumping through hoops? We never did a GCSE in hoop-jumping - now it's a skill we use daily. It's like we trained for 11 years to play chess and ended up on an episode of Takeshi's Castle.
Among the 900 or so applicants to every job are often dozens who could do the job well. It's not as if they have to trawl through 894 covering letters written in crayon, beginning, "Dear whatever mag this is, gizza job!" to uncover the only six candidates who wouldn't bring their cat to the interview. Plenty of other applicants are just as capable as you, but only one can win the raffle. Repeat until you sob: it's not your fault. (Add "probably" at your own discretion.)

We've all read the posts detailing the hundreds of things we're doing wrong. So, in the interests of fairness - interviewers: here's where YOU'RE going wrong...

Forcing us to talk like those bellends on The Apprentice

"If you were an animal, what would you be?" Two HTBJ readers told me they've been asked this in an interview. What better way to discuss a candidate’s qualities than having them assemble some tenuous word play? "I'd be an ant, because I'm hardworking and can carry ten times my weight." "I'd be a sloth, because I'm slow-moving yet oddly impervious to predators." "I'd be a slug, because I exude a sticky translucent goo behind me."

One reader was asked to detail a time he'd "engineered a win-win outcome". Presumably he was applying for the position of Win-Win Coordinator, and had to show his win-win credentials, plus his certificate from the Academy of Winning. The test, I suppose, was to see if he'd walk out, engineering the win-win outcome of him not having to work for a fleet of douche-canoes and them not having to pay sick leave for an eye-rolling injury.

Stealing our ideas
You know we read your publication, right? So when you ask us for three pitches in the application, we notice when they pop up later, with your staff writer’s byline. Was there even a job going, or was the editorial team just stumped for ideas this month?
So, employers, if you want to impress applicants, at least send a, "Sorry, no – but thanks for the ideas. Sincerely, a publication you used to respect".

And screw, may we add, you.

Asking us questions we were going to ask you

"What would a typical day in this job entail?" Seems like a pretty innocuous question, but it isn't. We're onto you, interviewers. It suggests you're not interested in anyone who needs on-the-job training. You want us to know the job inside out already - so, graduates, prepare to do a lot of internships or guess like a Jedi.
Also, what answer do you expect? A list of journalisty tasks – or do you want us to take your job ad, packed with words like "streamline", "integrate distribution" and "collate social media platforms", and put it through the de-fluffer we brought with us? What an excellent use of everyone's time - turn plain English into bullshit and have the interviewee translate it back.

Not coming prepared

A popular bullet point on lists of mistakes WE make, interviewers who waste our time by turning up unprepared are particularly irksome. Especially since we’re expected to be able to reel off every feature you've run since the invention of the printing press. If you want to stand out from other interviewers, you'll have to do a bit better than turning up with our CV still warm from the printer and questions you made up in the lift.

The worst thing about unprepared interviewers is they go on the defensive. A cursory glance reveals the applicant has been to a good university - "I see you've been to Fancypants Uni, are you only about the academics? What actual experience do you have? Get out."
Also, interviewers, don't disguise your lack of preparation with absurd hypotheticals like, "Number 10's on the phone, the person they're after is out of the office, how do you establish a rapport?" "If you were asking someone what animal they would be and why, what animal would you think is a good answer, and why?" "If you had a large boil on your backside, would you wait for it to go away or should I see a doctor?"
We're interviewing you, too
It's easy to see how interviewers can get cocky. They're buyers in a buyer's market. But still, interviewers – lose the attitude. Sometimes you're so condescending its almost as if you think we're arrogant for showing up. May we remind you - you invited us?

And quit the presumptive questions. A reader tells me one of you asked her, "How many languages do you speak?" The poor girl had to reply, "Just the one." Would it really be so terrible to frame it as, "Do you speak any other languages?"
What next? "Tell me about a time you baked a batch of cookies and brought them in for everyone in the office"?

Well, that's about it, interviewers.
Thank you for your interest in The Jobless. Due to the high volume of interviews we receive, only successful employers will be contacted. If you do not hear from us within two weeks, please assume you made some stupid error and that your risibly incompetent interviewing style has been forwarded to the #Pyjarmy for an afternoon laugh.
This was originally published on: How To Be Jobless blog - and appears here with the creator's generous permission. Their work is also regularly featured on Go Think Big.Co.UK. 



  1. Another great post from HTBJ. Those interviewers should take a long hard look at themselves! And after reading this piece, I think I will find the next one more tolerable.

  2. Hi Carmen, being in HR and also a mature-age worker, you'll be happy to know I've been fighting from the inside. Thankfully, some of my bosses allow me to "bully" them and put them on the straight and narrow when it comes to age discrimination.

    Today, I rang the Human Rights Commission (by the way, this is where I got your link from when you replied in one of their forums), and I told them in no uncertain terms what is going on out there and how out of touch they are. I also told them that like the good, old "Affirmative Action" of yesteryear, they should hold employers accountable if they don't employ a good ratio of mature-age workers. A yearly report, like the one we now have to do on "Work Gender Equality", would help. I also had a big chat with the WGEA (Work Gender Equality Agency) and asked them why they don't incorporate age into their reporting requirements. They don't seem to care about this as long as employers have enough women in jobs. Hmm. Not very helpful in my opinion as we are now discriminating against men (although this is soon changing in next year's criteria for WGEA reporting).

    I freelance in HR while I work toward my dream of becoming a full time author. I also blog about ageing but take into consideration both work AND relationships. You may care to check out my last blog post.

    Feel free to contact me if you wish.

    Sylvia Massara

    1. Nice to meet you Sylvia. Feedback like yours (as an industry "insider") makes me realise it's not "just me" thinking this. And thanks for playing your part to change the accepted thinking on the age discrimination issue.

      At the 11th hour pre-election I did contact my local Liberal MP, and was glad to hear their final policy announcement directed at the employment of the "mature-aged". From memory it's a $3,000 incentive to employers taking on older workers (triple the amount offered in labour's policy). It's a start. Let's hope that with a new government in power, this incentive can be complimented and supported by some new public conversations about the topic. I remain convinced that cash incentives alone, to employers, are not enough and that conversation and change can only happen via an intelligent media/ad campaign.

      Meantime, I've checked out your website. Great books! Great themes. I would love to know how you got started writing your first one.

      Also finally Sylvia, would you ever consider writing a guest post for my blog?

      Best wishes,

  3. I couldn't help but burst out laughing during parts of this article! Hilarious! I mean honestly, what IS the right answer to "What kind of animal would you be?". I've never been asked that specifically, but I certainly have been asked some doosies before. Job hunting is certainly quite the trying experience, and it doesn't seem to have gotten any easier. I've heard about a woman who is supposedly the best psychic in Sydney and even does email reading. I think it might be time to give her a shot so I can steer myself in the right direction.

  4. Hi Haley. Thanks for this feedback. We are not alone in thinking how pathetic the interview process can be. The HowToBeJobless blogger writes some wonderful pieces, with intelligent snappy humour that's key to maintaining sanity, throughout the job hunt (something that's particularly needed with tiresome and gruelling interviews being part of that process). Also, I think a psychic consultation could be a move in the right direction. If only interviewers these days had psychic abilities - in contrast to the single dimensional, corporate-speaking daffy ducks I am coming across.