Thursday, June 11, 2009

How many times do I repeat myself?

An interviewee writes:

“I’m in the process of a job change and have been interviewing with a few select companies that match my profile. During the interview process I’ve noticed a particular trend: different interviewers at various phases of the interview process are asking the same questions. Is there a reason for the interviewers to do this or is it just lack of questions to ask?”

It might look like I’m sitting on the fence with this one. But the answer has a bit of both yes and no. Yes, there is a reason for different interviewers to ask the same question. No, they don’t need to do it. Yes, one possible reason could be lack of questions to ask. No, the repeat question could be one that interviewers use to kick-off an interview or build onto an interview.

Why would different interviewers ask you the same question(s)? First thing that comes to mind, (if the interviewers are well coordinated among themselves) it’s primarily to ensure that you are consistent with your answers and authentic too. There are far too many candidates who jump the gun and answer questions without realizing that it’s the same question that was asked earlier. The interviewers are making a note of your answers. Later, they’ll convene in a small conference room to discuss your answers and if you’ve answered inconsistently; they’ll tell you something on the lines of, “Someone from HR will get in touch with you later.” 8 out of 10 times that means you didn’t make it. Move on to the next company. Take this as learning. That’s a best case scenario.

Second, we move to an adhoc interviewing process. The interviewers have no clue what their colleague asked you earlier. So they feel its ok to ask you again, “Tell me more about yourself”. Arrgghh…. you start your answer like a broken record. This type of process is noticed more during marathon interviews where you have 4-5 hours and have to meet 7 different people! Phew! That means both interviewers and you are racing against time. The interviewers don’t have the time to meet and discuss feedback. So they’ll ask away. Even if it’s the same question the other 5 of them had asked you.

So there you go. Also, I wouldn’t recommend you to tell them you have already answered the same questions earlier. They’ll read into as “candidate not flexible”! Really.

I understand it’s really dumb to waste time & efforts answering the same questions repeatedly. In case you are interviewing for a senior position which will require you to interview candidates later. You’ll know what to do. Till then, hang on, drink some coffee or chug on that Red Bull or just bite into that candy bar, whatever it takes, to recharge your energy. The next interviewer will meet you in 5 minutes.

Good luck with your interviews!