Why you should do throw-away interviews

Throw-away interviews are interviews that serve as a market- or company-probe, or as a mean to  conquer your stage-fright or keep yourself in shape.

However a few times people frowned when I mentioned this, which always led to a short discussion after which so far everybody was convinced about the practice’s merits. I’m detailing the arguments here. In a nutshell, failing to plan (here, practise) is planning to fail.

I’ll first detail two main reasons and then deal with usual counters I hear, Q&A style.

What is a job interview anyway?

It’s a two-way reconnaissance. On one hand, the company wants to assess your skills, atti- and aptitude and find out your reasons for changing jobs (perhaps you’ll change it again later, too soon for their liking?). On other… you should find out more about THEM. That’s the part people too often forget about.

 

  • how do you know “you want to work there”? There’s a limit how well you can research a company PRIOR to interview. A number of times I went to an interview and found out the job ad was simply wrong (outdated, wrong on purpose, honey trap, whatever). Number of times I learned facts that drastically changed my view of the company or of the role.
  • how much time average Joe or Jane spent on job advert? How detailed it is? How many times you’ve sifted through yet another offer for “dynamic team”, from “market leader” for “world-class engineer team” working in “global corporation” with “cutting-edge technologies”? How many times those shiny technologies turned to be past their EOL? And based on that you want to make a decision “that’s my future workplace”? Really?
  • what if they are willing to pay 10% more than the other company for the same job? Because they want you more, need you more or just pay more? And if it’s 20%?

 

Money

  1. How much do you know about pay ranges for your current job now? And for the desired one, that you are yet to work in? HR people have tools for that. They can access market rates, their companies sometimes even pay for outside intel like that. Most contracts veil who earns how much, to make it easier to govern employees and harder for employees to demand raises. Companies with open salaries are the exception, not the rule.
  2. How often do you negotiate your pay? Practice makes master. The other side most likely has more practice than you and has a number of tricks down their sleeve.
  3. Also… number of times they aren’t honest or on your side. This ranges from usual question how much you want to earn (despite them having more informations than you) through pressuring you into lowering your expectations even prior to asking (verbally or through other means), to outright lying or lies of omission (oh yes, you’ll earn X but with 30% as a per-month bonus dependent on your boss’ mood).
  4. Can you afford to botch pay negotiations? To NOT prepare/practice? Who will suffer if you do? Just you? Or perhaps your wife or children? When will you have next opportunity to re-negotiate? When will you KNOW you should have asked for more?

 

Usual counters

But it’s immoral to go to a job interview without wanting to work there

Really? Let me shake that a little bit.

  1. Many people do that all their life. But let’s say you’re “better” than them or “more moral” (pretty high moral ground you’re taking here, just narrowly saying “I’m better than that” or “my reasons are nobler than all those folks”, but hey, let’s say you’re right.
  2. It’s a reconnaissance! How do you know you want to work ANYWHERE if you don’t go to some places and collect intel?
  3. MONEY. Bad places sometimes offer nice sums.
  4. If they are interesting, you’ll want to work there once they’re finished. Some companies make it a policy that you should want to work there even if you failed to get there. If that’s the case, your initial attitude is irrelevant.

 

But, that makes those recruiters waste their time

  1. They may yet surprise you! Perhaps whatever you heard about this company is now in the past. Perhaps they no longer believe every programmer can be substituted with finite number of students (yeah right). Perhaps that project is different! It’s a reconnaissance.
  2. MONEY: how do you know their offer without trying?
  3. If you don’t conquer your stage fright, your next recruiter (whoever he will be) will waste at least some of his time. If that happens at your dream work place, that’s your loss and a really bad call on your part.
  4. No company worth their salt will let a recruitment be a waste of time. It’s a waste of time to hire a person that won’t fit, doesn’t have the skills or is unwilling to learn / adjust. Colossal, at that! Compared to that, asking you for third interview, or making you solve another problem, or making some employee loose an hour or a day just talking to you is completely cheap.
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