Recently, I had the privilege of chatting with three senior executives from different companies at some forum. Two of them are chief executive officers (CEOs) and the other is a senior functional leader at the top of his profession.
Suddenly, the topic of interviews came up. We talked about experiences we have observed when working in interviewing panels. One of the three executives has not attended any job interviews for the last two decades!
He said: “I doubt if I can pass job interviews today. I have lost my skill of answering interview questions. Even the type of interview questions has also changed over time. I would rather keep to the job I have as long as possible.”
This remark from the friend started a good discussion on the need to regularly attend job interviews. One of the members suggested that it is important to regularly test the waters out there. You cannot stay in your current job as if you have the guarantee that you will not have to leave the current job at some stage in the future. You need to refresh your interviewing skills regularly to remain competent, fresh and current in as far as interviewing is concerned.
I remember that when I was young, my uncles used to share the kind of questions they were asked in interviews. For example, there was one ‘weird’ question that kept coming up in interviews in the late 1980s until the early 1990s or thereabouts.
The panel could ask an interviewee how many buttons were on the interviewee’s shirt or how many holes for shoe races they had and even the shoe colour! Today that sounds weird. There was perhaps something important that the panel was testing at the time and that aspect might have been important for the competences needed then.
The world has changed and advanced quite a lot since the 1980s. The advent of technologies like Internet, mobile telephony as well as dependent applications like social media and so on has meant that interviewers expect the interviewees to easily search for information that in the old days may have been difficult to find. Even information about the employing companies can easily be accessed via Internet by browsing the company’s website. And so, today, many interviewing panels expect interviewees to demonstrate good knowledge of the employer.
We have shared what are just few of the many possible highlights of and insights into the differences between the context to interviews today and a couple of decades ago. This shows that with time, the way interviews are conducted keeps changing, in response to many changing parameters including culture, organisational practices, needed skills and competences, technology as well as expectations of the employers.
This is not a licence to go on a job application spree! You need to exercise some discipline and focus. If you keep applying for every job in your field, your boss will come to know about it given that Malawi is a small country.
If your employer knows that you keep looking for jobs, they will remove you from their plan for succession and from the core team of high potential staff for leading the organisation in the future. You need the right balance between continuously updating your interviewing skills and being focussed on your current job.
As you practice interviewing skills, you may end up getting a job offer. In that case, you have to make the decision to take the offer or not. By default, your objective was not necessarily to jump jobs. However, if the offer has significantly compelling advantage for you versus your present situation, you may consider taking it.
Remember, however, that such a decision cannot only be based on the pay package offered. There are many parameters to consider. You may even take an offer whose pay package is lower than your present situation and you might even decline an offer that has a bigger pay package.
Please refer to our recent column on the framework for making job change decisions based on the framework developed by Tom Botts, a former senior executive at Shell Oil.