How to Survive Extreme Interviewing

Hunger GamesFor those of you like me who were ashamed to admit they were reading the Hunger Games trilogy, you can put that shame away. The story it turns out is not fun fluff; it is a serious guidebook for how to survive job interviews today… without blood… yet. Employers are finding more extreme ways to mess with the jobless, which may be fun for them, but for the unemployed looking for a way to pay for food and rent, it’s a fight for their lives. According to the LA Times article “Job Interviewing to the Extreme” there is still a glut of job seekers in the market. As a result, employers are able to take extra precautions to hire the right people while having some fun at the expense of hopeful candidates.

After watching enough reality TV, recruiters are learning that resumes, references and regular interviews don’t give them all the information they need; it’s better and more entertaining to throw job seekers into unexpected obstacle courses with no tools or preparation. After all, work life is like a reality show–you are always given random deadlines, everything is made out to be a bigger deal than it is and there is always someone who is waiting to throw you off the island. So what can we–the desperate for work–do to get back into the workplace? Train yourselves job seekers–we have become contestants in our very own reality show with amateur producers.

Be Creative

Companies like Google and Zappos know you’re expecting the one dreaded question, “What is your worst trait as an employee?”  But are you expecting questions like:

What’s your theme song? What super hero would you be? How weird are you on a scale of 1-10? Out of 25 horses, pick the fastest 3 horses. In each race, only 5 horses can run at the same time. What is the minimum number of races required?

Did those throw you off? Don’t let them! Believe it or not, you’re the one in control in the interview. Recruiters will try to tell you that these questions are a way to learn how creative you are and if you’re left-brained or right-brained. But like every amateur reality show producer, they just want to know if you thought their challenge was creative and clever, so treat it as such and play the game.

As you would for any contest, arrive prepared and have a simple answer that will work for every random question that doesn’t pertain to the job, like the word oneOne is a perfect answer for math problems and personality questions because although it’s not always right, it’s just as random. After saying, “One,” make sure you have a reason for your answer should they ask for it. I advise coming up with something that takes as much effort as they put into making your fun senseless question. This is where one really shines. With so much implied meaning behind the number, the bullsh** possibilities are endless!

My theme song is “One” because I’m a passionate team player that believes we should all work as one for your mission here at X Company and because I’m as amazing as Bono and I will save the world.

Or…

The minimum number of races required is one because I run the track and I said so!

When creativity is what they think they’re looking for, try thinking like a kid who has gotten into trouble. Kids come up with the worst excuses but always have the most entertaining stories to back them up.

Think On Your Feet

People love talent shows. That’s why we love America’s Got Talent and Top Chef. So before you go in, think about your special talent and have it in your bag of tricks. Should you get a question like:

Just entertain me for five minutes; I’m not going to talk.

Easy peasy. Sing your favorite karaoke tune. Dance a jig while sitting down. And if you’re greatest talent is throwing back things in people’s faces, hold up a mirror to the interviewer for five minutes. I’m sure he/she will be entertained. Just be sure that no matter what you’re good at, only present it with as much enthusiasm as your interviewer is showing you. No more, no less.

Sociology Experiment / Work Well Under Pressure

Sometimes recruiters want to see how you play with others and take the interview process out of the office and into unexpected environments like a restaurant or bar. Then without notice they add other candidates to your interview time to see who may turn out to be catty and who plays well with others.  What?! You might be thinking… This isn’t what I was expecting. I’m already run down and scared because I haven’t had a job in over two years and these interviews mean more to me than just a silly game. I don’t know if I can handle this. I don’t know how much longer we can afford rent and I just want to be able to feed my husband and kids. And now I have to face other candidates for the job who may be more confident or have connections I can only dream of?

SNAP OUT OF IT! Extreme Interviewing is always waiting for one psychological breakdown. Of course you can unravel with other unemployed people because they feel your pain, but those with jobs never will. After all, interviews are about making the other person believe you’re one of them, so be psycho for a day and pretend you’re like them: employed, well-off and with little regard for how much this job means to you.

The Truth

In the end, there is one thing all of these interview processes that are meant to keep you off-balance can’t do, and that is determine which applicant will really flourish in the company. So to see how well someone will do in the job before they get the job is nothing more than a game for game’s sake. Some job applicants who excel in playing “Choose Me!” are great at interviews, but once given the security of a job and paycheck, may spend more time on Facebook than delivering top-notch ideas and productivity. And who knows, if you offer a job to that person that wasn’t as interview savvy but had great references, you may find yourself with someone who will give you more than you asked for once they can stop worrying where their next paycheck will come from. Does approaching job seekers this way sound fun, exciting, challenging or mind-bending? No. But neither should it be. Messing with people’s minds is a great way to find other people who are good with messing with people’s minds, but during this recession, it would be considerate of recruiters to stop messing with people who feel messed with enough as is.

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One thought on “How to Survive Extreme Interviewing

  1. […]  Check out Rene Parker’s latest on Parker Platform.  An article on How to Survive Extreme Interviewing that references the Hunger Games trilogy?  Yes, […]

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