By Katalin Tarjan • August 28, 2020•Ms. JD, Writers in Residence
Over the course of my career I have been through countless job interviews. Some were pretty regular and normal, but I feel I could fill a whole book with some wild examples too.
You know those articles that promise to prepare you for the typical job interview and list the most typical interview questions? I am not saying they aren’t helpful, just that there are so many factors in your job application process that you cannot prepare for. As far as interviews go, I’ve seen so many things over the years, from the interviewer falling asleep while listening to me, through prying in my most personal financial background on the first interview, to finding out that the company and the job itself is something completely different than what they advertised. Just a few examples. I now share three of them with my takeaway, but save the rest. Who knows, I might want to write that book one day!
Shortly after I got my law degree, I was looking for my first legal job. I was interviewing for an in-house position for a pretty well-known furniture manufacturer. I went through two interviews, first with an HR person, second with the same HR person and the head of legal. When it came to my salary expectations, I said a well-researched amount that was suitable for a starter position. They nodded without any comment. I was happy when they called me that I got the job, only to find out when I went in to do the paperwork that they were offering it with a significantly smaller (minimum-wage!) remuneration, with the promise of some unauthorized supplement if I stayed long enough. I said no.
Towards the end of my term in my previous position, when I started looking elsewhere I applied for a position at a semi-governmental organization, similar to where I have been working at the time. The first interview was pretty normal, I got the typical questions, personal and professional, I liked what they shared and I left hopeful. They must have liked what I shared, because they asked me to come in second time. They said they have pretty much decided already, but wanted to check a couple of other topics before the final word. We talked about further details, cleared a couple of things on both sides and mutually agreed that we want to work together. They said it was decided, they only needed a final approval, and once they get it, they’ll email me the offer in writing. I was waiting and waiting for days, then weeks, I was enquiring via e-mail, via telephone, and they kept shaking me off. One and a half years passed and I’ve never got a final decision from them to this day. (Epilogue to this story: I‘ve been dealing with this organization in my current position and this seems to be their style of doing business, so I’m now kind of relieved I’ve never actually gone working for them.)
Also the last time I was looking for a job, before settling with my current position, I went to interview for a huge government organization. It didn’t feel like any typical recruitment process at all. The interview itself was more like an enrollment, they barely asked anything about me, they were talking about the organization in a way that felt like they wanted to sell me something. After thoroughly introducing themselves and the nature of the job with the remuneration package, they insisted on scheduling a date by which I can think through whether I am interested, so they can call me then. We did schedule a date, I was waiting for the call, then I tried to call them with no luck. I got a rejection letter from them months after, when I already settled elsewhere.
If I were to draw a lesson from these experiences, I guess the bottom line is that you should really research and get to know the company/organization you want to work for. HR professionals advise you to reach out to people working there already if you have the chance, for a reason. Things can happen even after you’ve applied. How they handle the recruitment process, how they conduct the interview, how they communicate with you before, throughout and after can all be signs to look out for. You just have to prepare for everything.
When it is about a position you think you would really like and they get your hopes up only to disappoint you later, it can be very annoying. But even then it’s better to find out whom you’re dealing with before you actually start working together. You'll find something better, and like me, you’ll have some hilarious stories to tell.