Saturday, January 12, 2008

Job Interviews: Do Ask, Don't Tell

What is the purpose of the job interview? The interviewer wants to know if the prospect is right for the job. The employer gives money and benefits for time and devotion; while the prospect wants the money and benefits. The interviewer hopes to ask the right questions; the prospect hopes to give the right answers.

This reminds me of a great Saturday Night Live routine called Subliminal Man. Subliminal Man spoke in undertones. In a clear stentorian voice he stated what was expected, then in a quiet staccato voice he said what he really thought. Would it be nice if this is the way job interviews worked?

Let’s see how Subliminal Man does in a typical interview. First assume that the job interview is being conducted by a twenty-something svelte attractive former cheerleader, possibly an imported-wine drinker.

Our optimistic job candidate, with beer gut, has been somewhat happily unemployed for the past two years. His presence at this interview can best be explained by the insistence of his full-time working wife and his recurring back ache from sleeping on the couch. Our Bud man has a decided preference for hunting, fishing and watching football.

The Interview:

Good morning Mr. Johnson.
It’s Johnston.
Oh, sorry, Mr. Johnston.
Oh no problem, it happens all the time. (Subliminal Man kicks in—“What a twit”)
What attracted you to our company, Mr. Johnston?
I saw your ad in the newspaper. (“Actually my wife cut out your ad and put it on my tackle box”)
How much experience have you had driving a semi with a triplex transmission?
Five years, yeah was five years. Now that I think about it, it could have been six. (“None whatsoever, what the hell is a triplex?”)
Did you enjoy over-the-road driving?
You bet, ten-four back at you.
You obviously know your way around trucking.
Thanks (“Yeah, my kid has a little red one, what a dork”)
What are your salary requirements?
I understand that this type of job pays around 45 thousand per year. (“Three paychecks and I got that bass boat sweetie”)
Do you see this as a long term commitment?
Absolutely (“At least until duck season”)
Do you have any questions for me?
When would I start if I got the job? (“What are you doing Saturday night, my wife will be working”)
We should be making a decision within two weeks.
Thank you, I look forward to hearing from you. (“Great, two more weeks on the couch, take your time you wine-sipping twit”)
As you may have guessed, I tend to consider the job interview a somewhat inexact science. That’s why I recommend the Workplace Attitude Test in addition to the interview plus a background check. See


Anita Campbell said...

Do you have a recommended list of interview questions, Dale? And a recommended format for interviews?

I am always amazed at the number of hiring managers in smaller businesses who ramble halfway aimlessly in interview settings.


Anonymous said...


Thanks for these questions.

In our Workplace Attitudes Test there are 45 forced-choice questions and here is one example.

Q Concerning my rights as an individual . . . (Pick one of the following answers)
A. I feel that if I don't defend myself, no one else will.
B. on some occasions I feel it is necessary to defend myself.
C. basically, I am not very defensive so this is not much of an issue for me.

We are testing nine attitudes and there are five questions for each attitude. To get a high warning signal for one attitude, the person has to answer several out of the five questions in the extreme.

I see the test as a tool to help interviewers ask better questions and become more focused. The job candidate can take the test online and then results are sent to the interviewer so it gives them a contextual opportunity to discuss attitudes with the applicant.

I hope this is helpful.