Flipping the Script on Job Interviews ~ 30 Jun 2021

Interviewing for a job is scary. In 2019, I got a job at a great company. Minutes before my interview there, I sat across the street from the company headquarters, journaling in a Panera Bread. Two years later, I’m looking for my next gig, this time as a software engineer. I stumbled across that original journal entry. Since I’m on a new job-seeking quest, I decided to fine-tune, rewrite, and publish it.

There’s something about looking and interviewing for a job that is uniquely terrifying. Although I’m relatively early in my career, I’ve been lucky enough to be on both sides of the interview process. I’ve experienced enough to intuit that candidacy, and ultimately a hire — is about fit. It’s about making sure people align on where they are — in life and their career.

Finding a job isn’t a game of numbers or credentials. It’s about finding the right piece of a puzzle at the right time. It can be an intentional quest to achieve one particular role, and it can be as serendipitous as finding love. It’s not about brown-nosing and impressing the interviewer; it’s about being authentic. It’s about saying “yes” when something is good, and “no” when something doesn’t fit. It’s about Truth for companies and candidates.

Those butterflies we feel as job-seekers, those waves of fear and twinges of self-doubt — I’ve found that to be a normal ebb and flow during the job hunt. In a way, it’s concerning when there isn’t some degree of apprehension involved in finding a new job. If there isn’t some signal of discomfort, we’re likely within our comfort zone, and we can shoot higher.

People can sniff out disingenuous BS right away. Recruiters are hired for their people intuition, after all. And, in turn, they can also tell when someone speaks their “capital-T” Truth. That’s why it’s hard for me (and I typically refuse) to send out hundreds of applications into the void.

There’s nothing wrong with being genuine and vulnerable in the job application process. There’s everything right about it. The key to doing this in an authentic manner that can still be effective at landing a position is what I call “flipping the script” on the interview.

Job searching is scary because we relinquish so much control to companies when we’re looking for a gig. The fear manifests itself around how an interviewer perceives us.

But what if we were interviewing a company instead? What if we put the ball back in our court? That’s the mindset that has worked for me, and it’s the mindset that I have when I’m interviewing for roles now.

I evaluate companies as much as they evaluate me. When they wonder about culture fit, I’m wondering about it too. When they wonder if I have the correct skillset, I wonder about how my skillset can grow. When they wonder about how much I can improve their bottom line, I wonder how much is fair for me to earn.

When I evaluate a company as much as they evaluate me, I’m paying attention to all the details that they might. My experience as a candidate (not just within the context of an interview) says a lot about how a company is run and how a company operates.

In that spirit, these are a smattering of “interview questions” that I have for companies when I’m communicating with them, whether that’s in an interview setting or not:

  • Does this company seem organized and thoughtful?
  • Do I get along with the folks who are interviewing me?
  • What would my growth trajectory look like at this organization?
  • Would I be excited to wake up and see these faces (virtually) every day?
  • Do the company policies allow me to live the fullest version of myself?

With the script flipped, the fear of interviewing slips away. While some anxiety lingers, it is to be cherished and accepted — it means we’re growing. In the end, isn’t that what it’s all about?

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© Saalik Lokhandwala, 2021