By Brenda Bernstein
The Essay Expert
A cartoon image that had me laughing out loud was an “IKEA (a company that produces ready-to-assemble furniture) Job Interview.” The interviewer sits behind a desk in a sparsely furnished room and points to a bunch of pieces of a disassembled chair, which lie neatly on the floor. “Please have a seat,” says the interviewer.
While this image is hilarious, if the job interview were for a mechanic or an assembler of chairs at IKEA, the scene would not be so far fetched. And in fact, it is not unusual for an interviewer to test an interviewee with a task to perform on the spot. A good interviewer might test your practical skills in an interview, or your ability to respond to criticism, by asking you to perform a task or adjust your demeanor mid-interview.
I once interviewed a young man for a social worker position at the non-profit where I worked in Brooklyn, NY. There were two of us interviewing him, and I really liked him. He answered questions well and I was considering hiring him. My frustration was that he never made eye contact with me. It seemed as if he were gazing off into space and not fully connecting with me. And I knew there was no way I would actually hire him if he couldn’t make eye contact.
I did something perhaps unconventional. I stopped the interview, told him what I was experiencing, and asked him why he wasn’t making eye contact. He gave a reasonable response that he was struggling with having two interviewers and didn’t want either of us to get all his focus. From that moment in the interview, he made full eye contact with either me or my associate.
I hired him.
Why? Because I knew beyond doubt from that interview that this man took criticism and coaching well, and could implement a suggestion quickly and effectively. He also had all the other qualifications we were looking for.
He is still working at the organization today, and is appreciated for his work ethic and great attitude, as well as for the results he produces.
So this IKEA cartoon, while humorous, might not be that far off the mark for something you might be called upon to perform on the spot in a job interview. Luckily, all the tools you need are already in your possession. You just need to be good at following directions.