The art of the interview

I must have had on the order of tens of interviews in my life.

As an engineer, it was a bit easier to prepare. I knew what I was capable of, I knew my weak points and I always planned for how to go around them with care while insisting on my abilities. (Like the interviewer wouldn’t notice, haha!). Also a little joke always seemed like a good idea.

As one of the creatives, things are slightly different.

First let me start by putting myself in the interviewer’s shoes.

What would I want to find out from the person in front of me? That she is capable? That is one thing. That she is easy to work with? That is another. That she can handle stress, make decisions of her own. Those are things three and four.

But I have to say, most of the interviews I have given didn’t go that way.

They’ve invariably put me through remembering the projects I have worked on. Preferably in chronologic order. Very engineer-esque, right? Then would come my skills – what I know how to do. With examples.

Very little about the team I was part of, very little about working conditions, deadlines, expectations. And that, in my opinion, is wrong.

Why? Because so many times in the projects I worked as a creative, chemistry has been the problem. And yes, sometimes skills as well, but in a working team, people lacking skills feel motivated to learn them from the ones who possess them, if there is chemistry. And that is the first big ‘if’.

The other important bit is expectations.

We seldom spoke about expectations in the interview. I’ve been asked about what I can deliver (what skills I have) and they have automatically supposed I will do that no questions asked. Yes, sure I can write pretty much anything you ask of me if you know how to put together a good brief. And that, right there, is the second big ‘if’. There has never been a question about what happens if that brief is not complete. Whom do I have to talk to? How would that conversation go? Am I expected to do a job anyway? And if so, will they be happy with a half job (given that the working conditions are not optimal)?

There is a bigger conversation to be had here.

I have come across managers who didn’t know it all. And it’s normal. There was a problem, however, when they didn’t know they don’t know. Normally, I’d be quite open about it. And say

Look, this is not right. It should go differently.

At this point, in my experience, people tend to have two types of attitudes:

They get frustrated and become defensive/passive-aggressive. That leads to a very toxic working environment.

They recognise they don’t know and want to be shown how to do it. This is ideal. This kind of relationship often develops in long-term friendships and an amazing work atmosphere.
It normal not to know it all. Absolutely human. As a consequence, shouldn’t it be normal to want to learn? I made it my life’s mission and to be honest, I don’t understand why it shouldn’t be any different.

I know it might sound beside the point, but it’s not.

To be honest, whoever thinks that is wrong. Why? Because I have seen so many articles on LinkedIn about how to interview and not many speak about the above. The result? Well I can’t speak for the others, but I am drawing from my own experience.

I have recently had a great interview. So smooth, no pressure. The guy knew what he was doing or he had a knack for it. And I wondered: how come he is literally the first I didn’t break a sweat for? How did this fit so well? Well, it’s because he tackled those things I said in the beginning. He wasn’t interested in my history from Adam. He just wanted to see: will this woman bring any value to my company? Not ‘do the job I tell her to’, not ‘be happy and jolly and smiling all the time’.