Interviewing should be approached as a conversation


Kyle Ferrer

I’ve just started to dip a toe in the job world — the one with interviews, resumes and implications.

The conversation is in the nascent stages of shifting. It is, and will be, a shift from getting into academic institutions to positioning an exodus out of them. Leveraging academics to launch into a nearer future. But as I meet those who are a few clicks ahead of me in the transition, I start to notice a vocabulary I don’t much like, trends in life-perspectives that feel like the start of a sort of tightening.

As interviews loom, there is a preoccupation with decorum and myopia that is limiting. Of course, it is essential to learn how to conduct oneself in a professional setting, whether it be interview, actual workplace or what have you, but I’m talking about something that is being forged at a more elemental level. It is like the extreme of business conduct, wiring that is put into place as a bulwark against digression.

It seems, when people talk to me about interviewing for jobs, they are bogged down in what I call conversational myopia. It is as if there is a script for interviewing, a laundry list of buzzwords that are supposed to make seemingly organic appearances in an interview for it to be successful. I have heard it accurately described by Guy Debord as “an integrated and diffuse apparatus of images and ideas that produces and regulates public opinion and discourse.” This is a bit verbose, but it does make a point. What is being described are words that show the perfect, calculated amount of naiveté and acumen, knowledge but also willingness. This is nice, to be armed with words you think people will want to hear, but it also puts a ceiling on potential. It prevents the possibility of a protean dialectic.

It is a symptom of our time to want to go all in on the new thing. But newness by the nanosecond means the last “new” thing hardly has time to leave any residue or have much resonance. Repeated expectation, and sometimes deliverance, of meaningful innovation fosters complete abandonment of anything remotely or relatively “old.”

This enfilade of newness marries itself to the idea of going all in, all the time, on these new things. Since there isn’t much time to process what was just here in relation to what has just come, we decide to go full-bore into the advent of the immediate.

My point is that it erases perspective, detracts from comprehending the “gesamtkunstwerk,” or total work of art, as it is called in Art History. So in relation to interview technique and business conduct, once someone claimed to have constructed an orthodoxy, we all bought in, because of both our technology-induced habits, and the fact that humans love a template. It’s easier. Memorize and employ, whereas real life value lies in a mixture of both conventional conduct and adaptable discussion. It’s sort of an amorphous architecture that has certain implacable facets (conduct), but it is an architecture that can evolve, generate, and communicate ideas in exemplary, as well as eloquent ways.

This method provides for an interview that is not so much driven by anticipating questions with scripted answers, but instead the ability to absorb and adapt within a greater conversation. In the long run, this mode of thinking is actually easier to use.

Trying to consistently draw up a catalogue of memorized equations is hard; it tightens the intellect and restricts improvisation, which may be doubly fruitful as a canned phrase. Adaptability relaxes the mind and allows it to think through reactionary lucidity, to make knee-jerk creative leaps that can provide even more productive and constructive answers. This is not, however, a call to show up unprepared. On the contrary, think, respond and you are prepared for anything.