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The Interview Calculator
by Glenn Mandelkern

What is the one thing employers constantly ask for in job interviews? "Experience." You'd think they have some sort of powerful calculator that would let them measure it. Maybe they do. Let's take a look at how such an "experience calculator" might work.

Calculating Experience
Think of someone who has been working for 10 years. At 260 days of working each year, that adds up to 2,600 days of experience. However, not all of those days were spent actually working. Some of that time had to be spent going on interviews, trying to get the work itself. To get a job nowadays, one must go through at least five interviews (on-the-spot offers are now more rare, and there is this feeling that all the adults on the team have to meet and approve of you before making a decision). Let's say the five interviews for a job do not happen in one day, but instead over five days. To be generous, and to allow for interview time wasted with the wrong employers, let's further say that an interview takes all day.

For our typical job changer who has a new job every two years, over the course of 10 years that would be five sets of five interview days. So we have 25 days of interviewing over 10 years. That works out to 2,600 - 25 = 2,575 days of actually doing the work. That's 2,575 days of "experience".

Counting On Interview Skills
Now that the employer has identified those 2,575 days of experience, what does he do? Does he "go on the job" with the candidate, to watch him perform? Does he carefully sample a few of those many days? Does he examine the candidate's work? Nope. He asks the candidate to do an interview so he can see what kind of interviewing skills our candidate developed during those other 25 days. When he's done, the employer hires the candidate who interviews best.

Employers proclaim that "experience" is the best predictor of a person's success on the job. Experience working, or experience interviewing? When there are 2,575 days of work to be evaluated, why do employers place so much emphasis on 25 days' worth of interviewing experience, which constitutes at most 1% of a person's career?

Calculating Naught
It looks like employers don't really have an experience calculator. All they've got is an interview calculator. Unfortunately, the candidate who wants to go in to an employer and explain the flaws and inconsistencies of that interview calculator may not be welcome, even if he has the best intentions.

So, what must a candidate do? Pursue jobs only with employers who can see the flaws in the traditional interview? Or risk his career by submitting to the interview calculator, and meeting with an employer who doesn't know the difference between working and talking?

I just find it hilarious that employers demand experience. Yet they make their hiring decisions based upon something that we do not have much experience in.

Overflow Error!
Want something even more hilarious? I've asked employers -- hiring managers -- how they feel about their own interviewing skills when they go out looking for a job. A number of them cite incidents when they felt they were great for a job, yet the interview was structured in such a way that they could never prove it. That's putting the calculator on the other foot.

Punching interview data into the interview calculator doesn't yield good hiring decisions, any more than sitting around talking gets a job done.


Glenn Mandelkern is an Interactive Software Developer who frequently writes about career topics.

Copyright 1997 Glenn Mandelkern. All rights reserved. Reproduction prohibited.

 

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