Interviewing is a Two-Way Street

Early in my career, I likened an interview to a police interrogation. I memorized the perfect responses to potential questions. I kept waiting for them to pull out a light, shine it in my eyes, and hook me up to a lie detector. I always felt as if the potential employer held all the cards, and I'd be "lucky" to land a job. I focused on what I thought they needed and devoted zero thought to what I needed.

Maybe it's because I was a single mother for so long and totally dependant upon my paycheck. Or maybe it's because of the era (1980s and early- to mid-1990s), or even because I was in a field dominated by women who were nurturers conditioned to never raise a question, offer a solution, or do anything other than what the boss said to do.

During my 30+ year career (okay, 35+ years), I've had TWO bosses tell me to "shut up and type". One even told me he hadn't hired me to think - just to type and deliver. Wow. Seriously? I know some of you reading this can't comprehend NOT walking out immediately, but those were different times. About 20 years ago, I interviewed with several senior assistants at a Fortune 100 company that I really wanted to work for. The CEO's EA came in with a sour attitude from the start. As she asked me questions, I attempted to find commonality with her, asking questions about why she liked it there, and where she had come from, smiling and trying to show her I was friendly and wanted to partner with her. She ignored the first question I asked, and when I asked the second question, she said "Let me explain something to you. I ask the questions, and you answer them." I was so shocked that I continued with her, but when the HR lead came in after that interview, I told her I didn't think it was the environment for me and didn't want to waste their time or mine. That was a HUGE breakthrough for me. 

It took me a long time to understand that an interview is a two-way street, but ever since I fully embraced it, I've actually enjoyed interviewing. I love it! And I love coaching candidates on interviewing skills. It's a mindset based in reality - if you're unhappy working in a particular environment, your productivity and quality standards will eventually begin to slip. I don't know whether that's worse or equal to this truth - negative and toxic work environments will eat away at you as a human being. NO job or paycheck is worth that.