Lately, there have been a lot of articles circulating that have to do with the subject of performing well in job interviews. It’s understandable that we’re seeing so many of them, given that the unemployment rate has been as high as it has for so long. I have to say, however, that I take issue with a lot of what is being dispensed as advice for job applicants, all of it by human resources “professionals.” Just recently, The Wall Street Journal published an article entitled What Not to Say in a Job Interview, in which it reported that there are very wrong ways to answer queries like, “Tell me a little about yourself,” “Describe why you want to leave your current position, and “Describe your biggest strengths and weaknesses,” among other notable interview questions. What struck me was how innocuous some of the sample “wrong” answers are…and how if a candidate gives them, then he should consider himself completely done-for as far as his chances of getting the job.
A big part of the problem with all of this is that human resources, and the job hiring process, more generally, have morphed into sort of a chic industry, replete with psychologists, counselors, and other variously-titled “experts.” The vast majority of people I have personally known (including myself) who’ve hired others were, and are, simply looking for good candidates that they liked. It’s pretty much that simple. These managers did not adhere to some “science” of recruiting, or interviewing, or hiring. They were interested to see if you were qualified for the job, and if they liked you well enough to want to have you around several hours each day. If a candidate presented the best combination of qualifications and likability, he was the one hired.
Now, it’s all a specialty…with specific words that have to be avoided because now they’re considered code for something sinister, “physical cues” you have to be careful not to give off, because, of course, if you ever fold your arms during a conversation, why that absolutely means you’re mentally unavailable and not a team player. I heard one HR person recently say that anyone who drops off a resume to a company in person is now actually looked at negatively, that doing so proves that the candidate is behind the times, and that submitting one online is the only way to go about it now. Are you kidding me? Why would I, as a manager, ever look at a person negatively expressly because he went to the trouble of making himself highly presentable and screwed up the requisite courage to knock on doors, resume in hand?
Can’t we just take two or three steps back from the “science” of hiring, and just do what we did before? Call back those resumes that are most professional-looking and that most closely match the requirements of the open position. As for the interview, assuming the candidate arrives appropriately groomed and attired, ask some sensible, straightforward questions that allow you to properly gauge if what you liked about the resume translates in person. Of those that do well up to that point, hire the one that seems to be superior to the rest, and if the “contest” is too close, hire the one you think will get along the best within the confines of your company.
Then again, I possess no advanced degree in human resources; I’ve only run successful companies for several decades…so what in the world could I possibly know?
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Bob Yetman, Editor-at-Large at Christian Money.com (www.christianmoney.com), is an author of a variety of materials on personal finance and investing, as well as on topics of fitness and self defense, to include the book Investor's Passport to Hedge Fund Profits (John Wiley & Sons, Inc.) and the unarmed combat training DVD Thunderstrikes – How to Develop One Shot, One Kill Striking Power (Paladin Press).