How to interview your interviewer … or … do you really want to work for this idiot?

Now that I’m out of the corporate world, let me share some wisdom from my slavery days.

Corporate life is nothing more than glorified slavery. Over thirty years, I’ve seen it all. Sleaze, politics, tears, exploitation, lies, anger, depression, betrayal, divorce. I saw it all. And I walked out.

Still, if you need a job, you need a job. You have a family to feed and a career to manage, and you’re willing to do what it takes. Fair enough.

The least you can do is to avoid getting into a bad company, especially on your first job. When one is fresh out of college and desperately seeking a job, it is easy to fall into the wrong company. Believe me, a bad first job will haunt you through your career.

Before the interview:

1) Ignore all those buffoons who offer expensive training courses on “interview skills”. You don’t need them. All you need are your qualifications and your sincerity. The best and most effective interview skill is – Be yourself.

2) Do your homework. Read everything you can about the company. Don’t be deceived by the apparent size of the company. A small but well-managed company will be a far better employer than a large, glamorous MNC with a dubious reputation.

Remember, “Yatha Raja, thatha praja“. As is the King, so are his subjects. If the company’s promoters are rogues, you can’t expect your future boss to be any different.

3) Always reconfirm the interview date and time. And do this immediately. If you delay, the interview will go to someone else.

4) Always be on the dot of time. And remember to consider the time it will take to complete your entry formalities at the gate and the wait for the elevator. If you are delayed for some reason (and the only acceptable reasons are an earthquake or a public riot), then always call up and explain yourself.

5) Always dress conservatively for an interview. First impressions always matter. Always.

At the interview: The classical warning signs: 

1) The watchmen at the entry-gate:  A rude watchman is a sure sign of a stingy company that doesn’t care about its visitors or employees.

2) The front desk: The receptionist is the public face of the company. She (it’s usually a she) is expected to be friendly and helpful. A disgruntled receptionist is a classic symptom of a sick company. Don’t be fooled by a dazzling smile or an equally dazzling cleavage. If the receptionist is unhappy you can always tell by her body language. In particular, watch how she talks to salespeople and job-seekers, and how she answers the phones.

3) The waiting time: If you are kept waiting at the front desk, then beware. This means your interviewer is either a bad time-manager or he’s deliberately making you wait just to rattle you. Either way, it’s a bad company to work in.

4) The dumb questions:

These classically idiotic questions are asked by classical idiots who don’t know how to conduct an interview.

a) “Tell me about yourself”.

Really? Even in this century, there are people who start an interview with this ridiculous question. Actually, I’ve asked this question too. That’s because I was a classical idiot too, once upon a time. Apparently, there’s an esoteric psychological reason behind this asinine question. Whatever. It’s still a question that insults the applicant’s intelligence.

The polite response to this question is that all you have to say about yourself is in the résumé that the interviewer already has. If he wants any specific information outside the résumé, he is welcome to ask a specific question.

b) “Why do you want to work for this company?”.  Another foolish question.

Which is followed by another foolish question, “Why do you want to leave your current employer?”.

The correct answer, but the answer no one likes – Your company is better than my current company.

For a first-timer, this question is sometimes asked to see if he knows something about the company. The correct and polite form of the question then, is “Can you tell us what you know about our company?”.

The intelligent answer is, “Yes I can”.  And then give a concise analysis of the company’s history, current financial reports, research activities, reputation in the outside world, and the like. A short, sweet and sincere report that shows you know your way around the Internet and that you are serious about whom you work for.

If your interviewer has any common-sense, he will offer you the job on the spot.

c) “Where do you see yourself five (or ten) years from now?”.

This is the uncrowned king of foolish interview questions. What am I supposed to answer it with? I’ll be the president of the company, I’ll be your boss, I’ll be your son-in-law, I’ll be successful and happy, I’ll…what?

There is one correct answer: Five years from now, I will be five years older.

c) “How soon can you join?”

The question asked by a fool. Obviously, an employed person has to serve his current employer a month’s notice, at least. If your interviewer doesn’t care about this, he is the wrong person to be your boss.

Even if you are a fresher and are desperate for that first job, don’t say you will join tomorrow morning. Tell them you need a week to wind up whatever personal obligations you have. Take that week to study the job offer thoroughly and understand its legal implications.

d) “When will you get married?”.   Or worse, “How come you’re not married?”

No matter which gender you are, there is one appropriate response. Walk out.

e) “Why did you get divorced?”.  Same answer as above.

f) “What salary do you expect?”

Frequently asked by idiots in order to confuse freshers.

A well-managed company will always disclose its emoluments to fresh graduates – instead of playing guessing games with nervous applicants.

The intelligent answer is, “I believe the normal salary for this post in reputed companies is about Of course, if your company pays more than this, I would not mind!”

h) “Can you give me one reason why I should hire you?”.

This bombastic query is meant only to demean you. The appropriate answer is – Eff you.

Since you can’t use those exact words, the next best answer is, “I’m sorry. I do not understand the question. Since you invited me for this interview only after studying my résumé, I had the impression that my qualifications and experience were directly relevant to your company’s needs. Am I to understand that this is not actually the case?”.

Usually, the interviewer gets confused and loses his cool. If this happens, you are looking at the wrong employer. Smile and leave.

It’s just an interview, for heaven’s sake. It’s not an inquisition. The purpose of which is to see if you and your potential employer are compatible and want the same things – not to make you feel like dung.

Two other classical warning signs: 

  • How your interviewer talks to his subordinates. Especially to the person who serves you refreshments during the interview. If they don’t have the courtesy to offer you refreshments, that’s another warning sign!
  • An interviewer who talks about himself, and little else.

A person who talks too much about himself and talks down to people under him is the most avoidable boss in the corporate world.

You can always tell a good company from a bad one. There’s a happy air about a well-managed company, that you can sense as soon as you enter. Noisy, cheerful chatter is a good sign. Sullen silence is not.

For a fresher, that first job is worth waiting for. Better that you remain unemployed for a few weeks, than join a bad company and regret it, as I did with my first job and several jobs thereafter.

The same wisdom applies to marriage, as I found out the hard way.

Cheers … SKS