Interviews are like talent quests

To some people, getting a job seems like trying to win a beauty contest or a talent quest. Round by round, those deemed lesser performers are culled, until one is selected and awarded the prize: the job at the end of the rainbow.

For most job candidates that is far too romantic a description of the arduous process that new job aspirants endure.

Jobs can be awarded based on subjective judgment and arcane criteria. Maybe you have seen the right job go to the wrong person? The process can be deeply disappointing and frustrating.

Whatever you think about it — whether you are an optimist, pessimist or somewhere in between — at some stage or at several times in your professional career, you may have to walk the figurative job interview catwalk (or gangplank).

The usual suspects

The usual way of awarding competitive career positions involves multiple selection stages.

Worse, the process is designed to be stressful. Employers want to see you cope (or fall apart) under duress. After all, employers are, if they're smart, keen to have the best candidates vying for available positions.

First you write and send an application with cover letter and appropriate supporting materials, including most notably, your CV or resume.
Employers filter the written applications and feed only the ones they deem most promising through to the next stages, to several rounds of group and personal interview.

How to be a contender

If your application with CV or resume has been a good enough door-opener, you are a contender and will be invited to a job interview.

No matter how terrific your CV, if you cannot perform at interview, you may not win the prize. Your interview performance is likely what will cement you in the role, as the preferred, right, best person for the job. Either that, or your performance will be what lets you down.

Gary Westfahl is a British academic and renowned science fiction author. For his somewhat cynical take on academic job interview processes, read: "Unknown Menaces to Civilization #8: Job Interviews".