I've been on both sides of the interview. Here's what I've learned

I've been on both sides of the interview. Here's what I've learned

The interviewer guided me to a round table and pointed to a chair. The sunshine streamed from the skylight above; a spotlight on the victim. I sat where instructed but the glare forced me to squint.

“Do you mind if I move? The sun’s in my eyes,” I said.

The interviewer smiled. “No problem.”

As I changed seats she admitted it was a test. “We like to see if people have the confidence to initiate a change of seat.”

She was pretty chuffed with herself. I, however, was stunned.

Pro tip: Don't let the sun shine in your eyes.

Pro tip: Don't let the sun shine in your eyes.

Making an interviewee uncomfortable before the questions had even started seemed counterintuitive. I completed the interview but retracted my application the following day. I reasoned that, if their approach to staff development was based upon a torture trial, I’d be better off jobless.

That was the beginning of a career full of colourful job interviews.

Aged 23, I returned from working abroad and applied for a position with a travel agent. It was my way of getting close enough to overseas travel until I had the money to get back on a plane. A well-known chain scheduled an interview where I was passed a brochure and told to “sell the destination”.

It was Kyrgyzstan. I’d never heard of the place, couldn't pronounce it let alone sell its benefits to the imaginary customer sitting in front of me.

I bumbled through, using the brochure as my guide, but I was as unconvinced about Kyrgyzstan as my interviewer was about me. He then required me to complete an hour of data entry (read: free labour) to assess my administrative abilities.

A week later, he advised me my negative attitude was to blame for the lack of job offer. I thanked him for his feedback and silently imagined him on a one-way trip to Kyrgyzstan.


As I crawled my way through the corporate jungle, I was drawn to recruitment. Sitting on the other side of the table, I regarded the interview process as a two-way street. A welcoming environment was more conducive to choosing the best candidate while offering the applicant the opportunity to decide if the job was the right fit for them.

The first interview I ever conducted was unintentionally poorly planned. The HR director was scheduled to attend but had to deal with an emergency.

(The IT manager had been caught downloading pornography onto the company server and was being escorted out of the building. I'd like to state upfront: I had no part in hiring that guy.)

Meanwhile, the applicant and I sat nervously in the meeting room. I pretended to know what I was doing, assuring myself he’d be far more anxious than I was. I continued through the standard questions, making notes as I went. When my manager returned post-interview (and post-dramatic escort), I confirmed the applicant would be excellent as a tour guide. We offered him the job and sent him north where he expertly guided tourists around Uluru.


I cringed when I discovered two months later he’d hooked up with a Japanese guide who was now pregnant. Maybe my intuition wasn’t fit for this staffing caper after all.

Plenty of incident-free interviews and great candidates followed until one particular interviewee made herself impossible to ignore. The applicant arrived in a blue dress, her nails were long, blue talons. Her hair was inspired by Morticia Addams, only blue. The sapphire rings she wore on every finger clinked and clunked through the interview. When asked why she thought she’d be the best person for the administrative job in the finance department, she said, “Fate has brought me here.”

According to a recent Glassdoor report on recruiting statistics, only 2 per cent of applicants will be called for an interview for the average job opening. May I recommend that channelling your inner enchantress for that hard-won interview is not the most persuasive approach.

Ultimately, whichever side of the table you sit in an interview, aim to be warm and genuine, unless that involves off-putting attire or crazy strategies to test candidates.

And – one final tip – if you get asked where you plan to be in five years, don’t say “your manager”.