We talked with a job seeker turned interviewer to better understand the interview process.
When you're in the middle of your job search trying to land your dream position, the interview process can seem like a long, daunting journey full of obstacles meant to fill you with doubt. “Are they only interviewing me because the person they want hasn't accepted the offer yet? Why haven't they followed up yet? We get it — there is a lot of distance between candidates and their interviewers. Luckily, we spoke with one of our own, Emma Wise, who was just in a job search only a few months ago. She told us about her transition from job seeker to hiring manager, describing the complexities of the interview process and what it's like on the other side of the table.
You were recently in a job hunt. How long did it take for you to land the job?
About four months. On average, my job hunts have lasted about three months from beginning to end, although they've been as quick as less than a month and up to almost half a year! While there's obviously an average length of time for a job hunt, every situation, circumstance, and individual's journey is unique.
What was the hardest part for you while you were interviewing during your search?
The hardest part of interviewing for me is twofold. First, I work hard to stay “on,” to maintain the high energy levels, the constant stream of perfect responses, and the positive energy people respond well to when I'm being interviewed. That sense of performing was a learned skill for me and will always be something I aim to improve upon. Secondly, no matter how many times I tell myself that what an interviewer thinks of me at the end of the day has no bearing on the person I am, it can be hard to keep that top of mind. It's easy for me to fall into a “would have, could have, should have” trap after an interview and obsess over it — beat myself up. Don't do that.
What was your perception of the interview process as a job seeker?
Before I ever had the experience of being a hiring manager, I candidly thought most interviews were rigged — that in many cases, a preferred candidate was already chosen and many interviews were just for a quota or for confirmation that the right individual was selected.
How has this perception changed once you became an interviewer?
Now that I've become the interviewer, I have a much more genuine understanding of how difficult is to find and recruit talent. Interviews are almost never for show. Time is precious and I know I'm not willing to waste mine just to check a box. If you're being interviewed, it's a sign that the company truly is interested in you, your talents, your skills, and how they might leverage them to help drive their business forward. And you should always feel proud when you get a call in, even if you don't wind up landing the job.
What is like it to be the interviewer?
As a naturally extroverted person, I find the interview experience extremely enjoyable! I like probing people about their personal histories and learning more about every person I speak with. Everyone's career path is so phenomenally unique that I often find myself learning new things during interviews. I like to think that my relaxed and easy demeanor also helps convey a good impression to the candidate too since it demonstrates I'm someone my colleagues find kind and easy to work with. But it's worth noting, too, that your mileage with interviewers may vary — not everyone is like me!
What is the hardest part of interviewing?
The hardest part of interviewing is fitting it all in. It's hard to learn everything you want to know about someone in only 30–45 minutes; often I find myself wishing for more, more, more! The second hardest part of the interview is being quick to move through the process and hire the candidates we want. Talent is in high demand, and hiring is easy to deprioritize among other job responsibilities. Being quick to move throughout the process, whether that's reviewing resumes, calling in candidates for interviews, or extending an offer — is critical for securing the best candidates who may be in-demand elsewhere.
What do you look for in candidates during the interview?
I look for a combination of two things: competence and kindness. I look for competence by asking questions about past work and how a person tackles problems and learning about their career history. I look for kindness by inquiring about how a person solves problems, how they give and receive feedback, and what their values are when it comes to the workplace and their co-workers. I don't look for someone who is my mirror or who looks and thinks exactly like me — I do value different perspectives — but I actively avoid brilliant jerks.
Want to make sure you don't come off as a “brilliant jerk” — or a jerk altogether? Our TopInterview coaches can help!
What is your advice for job seekers as they tackle the interview process?
Confidence above all; believe in yourself. Go in fearless and do whatever you need to do to achieve that powerful mindset. When I was actively interviewing, I always listened to my favorite hype music and made sure I was caffeinated prior to any engagement.
Also, do your homework on the company and come prepared to answer common interview questions as well as specifics about the role and how your talents can directly contribute to the company's bottom line. Don't hesitate to ask questions — there's no need to save them until the end. This practice will show me you're engaged and actively listening and will help you better see what I'm looking for so you can adjust your responses accordingly. Stay relaxed and remember to breathe. Always say thank you. Finally, being rejected after the interview process is not a reflection of you as a person. You are worthy and have a lot to offer regardless of whether or not my company wants to hire you. Your job does not define you.
What do you know now that you would tell your job-seeker self?
I would tell her to remember that the person who is interviewing you is human too. They have stress, worries, fears — all of the same feelings you feel. Sometimes I would mythologize the interviewers and make them out to be larger than life in my head, which only served to make me more anxious and weaken my performance at the end of the day. We're all just out here trying to do our best.
Now that you have all of this info, what can you do with it? Well, our interview coaches can help you piece it together!