It will be a miracle of sorts if I even get to the point where I am called for a job interview. Because the whole job application process is self-advertisement. The job selection process is never designed to look at ‘who’ you are – rather what qualifies and disqualifies you for the job is based on how well-designed your self-advertisement package is (CV, reference letters, corporate antiquates like your dress code, the way to sit on the chair, your eye contact, smile and a look of confidence even if you’re unhappy).
The modern-day job selection process is designed for you to objectify yourself. You prepare to submit yourself to the company/organisation/institution as an asset. They may offer you some modicum of freedom and creativity. That too is designed to enhance the possibility of you becoming a better asset to the company. Your true freedom and creativity will be taken away if you ever get selected.
I have reached the stage of an actual job interview twice in my life. I was recommended to apply to these jobs by friends who were insiders and who thought that I met the qualifications. But I failed miserably on both occasions. I didn’t even get any feedback from either of the organisations who interviewed me.
Let’s look at the commonly asked questions in job interviews. I will elaborate why I think I will never know how to answer them in a way that pleases the interviewer and also why I think several questions are quite wrong for people who grew up in Asian and other non-western cultures.
1. What is your strength?
This is a question commonly asked in most interviews. You are expected to speak about your best qualities and abilities. I find this question hugely uncomfortable because I was taught not to engage in self-praise. I was taught to believe that praising one’s own abilities and strengths is the job of egotistic and ignorant people. I felt stupid trying to answer this question. An inflated ego is not something I was taught to appreciate. We are taught to appear humble and become humble. I already failed from the first question.
2. Why did you choose this field?
The interviewers actually wish to hear what qualifies you for the field you have chosen. When they ask you this question, you are expected to explain to them your special inclination for the field you have selected. You need to enumerate your skills and abilities that make you ideal for the field. This is when I find myself in an awkward situation. I am uncomfortable with this kind of ‘self-advertisement’ and trying to do a ‘sales pitch’ of myself. This idea is so diminishing – to reduce myself through self-objectification is something I can never do. And answering something like: “I chose this field because I enjoy doing ‘this’ or ‘that’ which is closer to the job I will be doing if I get selected and I hope to find the ‘meaning of life’ here,” will automatically disqualify you.
3. What are your skills and hobbies?
The interviewers will not be impressed with reading, painting, singing, dancing or listening to and telling stories as skills and hobbies. They prefer that you speak of hobbies that are relevant to the job. If you are applying for jobs that apply logic, you may reveal your special interest in solving puzzles. This is where you must prepare to give up your innate skills and hobbies that qualify you as a happy person, creative person. You must prepare to take on new hobbies and skills that fit the job if you get selected. This is the start of submitting your genuine freedom and creativity.
4. Where do you see yourself in five years?
The modern-day employers (with their corporate mindset, no matter which company, organisation or institution the employer represents) seek candidates who have a vision for themselves and this vision must be in line with company/organisation/institution’s vision which is tangible material growth. They like to hear that you set the highest achievable position as your goal. You are considered qualified if you are able to tell the interviewers that you wish to hold a particular senior position at the end of five years. But a person believing in karma might say: “I believe in doing good now and don’t have expectations for the future.” This will lead to instant disqualification. By this question, you are told that you must always focus on the future, and not to enjoy and live the present moment. I feel this is a wrong question to ask a candidate who grew up in a culture which values the concept of karma and not in achievement-driven cultures.
5. Are you a good leader?
The modern-day company, institution or organisation desperately wants people with leadership qualities. Those with good leadership qualities are expected to excel in their field. They expect to hear from you about some sort of ‘plan’ in life to ascend the ladder of success (ultimately more tangible material achievements). You are expected to have the ability to lead a team and get work done from other candidates (basically means ‘be in-control of the job environment’). What happens if you don’t value much of this tangible material achievement? What if you would rather value more of the intangible intellectual and emotional achievements? And what happens if you don’t like to be a leader, rather you prefer to be a ‘coach’ or a ‘facilitator’ and create a job-environment that is not obsessed with vision but enjoys the here and now? Will you still be selected?
6. What is your salary expectation and why?
This is again a hugely uncomfortable question for me as in the process of answering this question, I am putting a ‘monetary label, a ‘price tag’ on myself. It means I am ready to become an asset and I am okay with self-objectification. I am allowing the company/organisation/institution to objectify also my intellectual and emotional side and not only the physical side of myself. And you will be thoroughly assessed by the company, whether the price tag is actually lucrative enough for them or not, during your probation period if you ever get selected.
So the job selection process is just a preparation for the submission of your genuine freedom and creativity. As a person who cherishes freedom and creativity and refuses to sell their soul to these companies, I will never pass any modern-day job interviews.
Thank you and Namaste!