27 Annoying soul-crushing things that nobody (except me) tells you about interviewing  

By Jack J. Kelly


One of my top goals when I write about interviewing and offering career advice (in addition to blatant self-promotion) is to provide a real-life perspective on what really happens.  Too often, when people write articles about the interview process, they offer banal generalities- such as “make sure to make eye contact and have a firm handshake” and “don’t forget to bring extra copies of your resume.”

Having the luxury (or misfortune) of being an Executive Recruiter for 20 years, I recognize that this type of advice doesn’t cut-it.  Actually, it is offensive and hurtful to job seekers, as they’re not given a real and accurate glimpse into the challenges they will be confronting.  These puff pieces don’t manage interviewees’ expectations and make it sound like everything is so easy and wonderful. I worry about people entering the interview process without the right tools, as well as a mental and emotional toughness to endure the roadblocks, rudeness, dead-ends, and obstacles.

Also, what’s not discussed is that interviewing is sometimes a solitary pursuit. People tend to keep it low-key, as they don’t want to blow-up their spot and have their coworkers and company find out about it. When they face rejection (which always happens to everyone in the interviewing process), they don’t share it with others, as they feel it is unique to them. In a culture that prizes success and winning above all and looks down upon failures, it is natural for people who strike out not to tell anyone and become morose and despondent, believing that it is just happening to them personally.

Well, I can assure you, it’s not the case. Interviewing is stressful, difficult, and fraught with frustrations for almost everyone.  So you are prepared for what’s ahead, here are just some things to expect when you interview.

  • When you see “new” jobs pop-up on job aggregation sites (like Indeed.com), they are actually old.  Job aggregation sites use computer algorithms to scrape jobs from corporate job sections and other job boards.  It is impossible for the sites to find all the jobs as soon as they are posted. It takes time and when the job is found and re-posted on the aggregation site, the listing could be a couple of months old and the interview process has already been in high-gear. It will be listed as “new” on the aggregating site, but it actually a little stale.
  • Lately, job descriptions list an inordinate amount of requirements- running several pages long- that are ridiculously impossible to meet.
  • The compensation, if listed, is far beneath what needs to be offered to find a suitable and appropriate candidate.
  • Companies will give out the job to a large number of recruiters who will then post the positions on various sites, such as LinkedIn and job boards. As a job seeker, you may see all these job listings in your field posted by the hiring company, as well as six different recruiting agencies. Without knowing that they are the same job, it makes it seem like the area is robust and hot while it really isn’t.
  • Companies may post jobs, but already have an internal candidate selected. The job is listed by the company in an attempt to see if there is anyone else better than the person they already have. Therefore, the company is only interested in finding a superstar – at a cheap price. They won’t bother with anyone who does not exceed the bar set by the internal candidate, as it is not worth their time and effort.
  • Due to the proliferation of job boards and social media, it is easy for people to find job listings and email their resumes. While this is good news, the downside is that it overwhelms human resources and hiring mangers. The amount of resumes received by them is staggering. It’s like trying to have a sip of water from a firehouse compared to drinking from a water fountain.  With the volume of resumes, it almost impossible for hiring managers to read them all. They either just look for the ones that are perfect or use software to weed out applicants.
  • The ascension of recruiting software serves as a roadblock for many. If you don’t have the exact buzzwords, your resume won’t make it through the robotic screeners and a human may never see it.
  • If you make it past the robot gatekeepers, the trend is having a phone interview first. On one level, it is convenient to have an initial call, as you don’t have to schlep to an in-person meeting. However, the call could be cold and impersonal.  You lose the benefits of seeing the hiring manager, looking for verbal cues, searching for family pictures or office decorations that could offer you a feel for the hiring manger.
  • After the first call, it is not unusual to have a complete absence of communication for weeks.
  • Bring multiple IDs and arrive early, when going to the interview, as you will have to wait for what seems like an eternity while the burly, angry security guards eye you up and down. Then, they’ll call up to the hiring managers and, of course, nobody is there to answer the phone and tell the guards to allow you up.
  • It’s not unusual for an interviewer to ask you for a copy of your resume and then read it for the first time in front of you.
  • Nor is it uncommon for the interviewer to glance at his watch as you are talking or take a phone call.

            Let me take a little break so you don’t start thinking that this is whining, complaining, and bitching. Please note: these are somewhat exaggerated generalizations.  The aforementioned and following doesn’t always happen.  Sometimes candidates are in the right place at the right time and everything goes smoothly. If the process flows and everything falls into place, that is terrific! I want to prepare you for when things don’t go easily and you are faced with challenges.  Picture a bell curve; on one extreme you have candidates that  fly through the interview process and receive a generous offer and, on the other end of the curve, some applicants just can’t catch a break.  In the middle is the big bulge where most people fall. Here is where they have some luck and success, but also experience their share of headaches.

  • Interviewers will ask questions and then drift off with disinterest as you are answering.
  • Sometimes you will be informed that the hiring manager was called into an important meeting and a junior person is sent in her place. You are left wondering if this was the truth or someone sized you up and told the hiring manager not to waste their time.
  • They’ll offer you a business card and tell you to call if you have any questions. When you do, the hiring manager will come across surprised and annoyed that you took him up on the offer.
  • Don’t expect meaningful feedback or constructive criticism. If you do receive any, it will surely be vague and non-committal.
  • After three weeks from the last interview, with no communications in-between, the hiring manager demands that the candidate return for an interview tomorrow morning at 7:30 am.
  • You acquiesce to this demand; the hiring manager disappears and is never to be heard from again.
  • Wait two months later and you are contacted by someone in human resources to set-up another interview.  It looks like you are back in the running.
  • Oh no, it was a mistake! They didn’t want you back, it was for someone else. Sorry!
  • Later on, you hear through the grapevine that the hiring manager has hired and fired five people in this role already. He has been complaining to management that everyone sent to him have been unimpressive.  The manager never considered that maybe it could be him.
  • The hiring manager knows people at your firm and has made some surreptitious calls to inquire about you. This may account for the funny looks you are getting from your manager.
  • Salary offers are modest at best. There is not a lot of room for negotiating.
  • You will face questions and attitudes that smell of ageism and other prejudices.
  • Interviews will be canceled at the last minute without any apologies.
  • You will be required to meet with 6 to 10 people over the course of 6 months.
  • Although the interview process took over 6 months, management can’t wait for your two weeks’ notice period and exerts pressure to start right away.

If you noticed that the descriptions started getting less robust after number 10 or 11, it’s not your imagination. I’m writing this on a Friday afternoon and realized it is 3:30 pm and the newsletter needs to get out by 4:00 pm. So, I rushed through the last bunch of points. Hey, I’m only human and it’s the first nice, warm, and sunny Friday in a long time! Don’t tell anyone, but I’m out the door today as soon as the ComplianceX newsletter is sent out!

Have a great weekend!




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