“Ugh, I got called in for an interview on Friday, but I don’t really want to go,” a friend moaned to me last week. In a moment of job search desperation, she had applied for a dozen or so jobs—some of which she was only mildly interested in—and had been called back by one of those companies. “I just don’t think it’s right for me.”
Sound familiar? Most of us have been there at some point. Maybe you were initially excited about the position, but after doing further research or finding other opportunities, you’re just not that into it anymore. Maybe a friend is pressuring you to “just go talk to the recruiter!” at the new company she’s joined. Or maybe you’d simply prefer to spend that precious half-day off work getting a massage instead of sitting in a windowless conference room.
I get it, and I’ve been there, too. But I’ll give you the same advice I gave my friend: Go anyway.
That’s right. Even if the mere thought of ironing your interview suit is making you feel ill, there are at least three good reasons why you should suck it up and go. (Besides the fact that, you know, you may run into the hiring manager down the road.)
A couple of years ago, a recruiter called me to interview at a small healthcare publication. Was it my dream job? Not even close—in fact, it sounded sort of boring. But I was qualified for it, and I was looking for a new job, so I decided to interview anyway. “This should be quick,” I commented to my husband as I walked out the door. “I’m pretty sure this place is going to suck.”
But you know what? It didn’t suck—not even a little bit. In fact, the office was gorgeous, the people who worked there were awesome, and the company had a fun, start-upy vibe that I loved. The position was right up my alley—and if I had blown the interview off, I would have missed out on the opportunity.
The truth is, you can’t judge a book by its cover—er, a position by its job description. That “boring” corporate gig might land you in the middle of a brilliant and fun-loving team, or that nonprofit position that “probably won’t pay much” just might surprise you. I’ve had plenty of friends who’ve gone through the motions of interviewing for positions they thought they weren’t thrilled about and ended up with amazing job offers they couldn’t refuse.
OK, so not every position will be a hidden gem. But a less-than-exciting interview can still be great practice for landing your dream job. After all, even if you’ve crafted flawless responses to “Tell me about yourself” and “What’s a recent challenge you’ve faced?” and recited them to your roommate more times than she’d like to count, nothing beats putting your skills into real-life practice.
What’s more, you might face interview situations you didn’t even think to prepare for. Especially if you haven’t been job searching in a while, you might not realize that writing tests are now the norm in your field or that many employers want you to meet with the people you’ll be managing, for example. The more interview settings, interviewer personalities, and interview questions you’re exposed to, the more prepared you’ll be when you finally land that awesome meeting with your dream company.
Finally, think about each interview as an opportunity to hone in on what hiring managers are really looking for. Paying attention to the specific questions the interviewer is asking about your background and the skills she’s most interested in will give you a good sense of how to shine in future interviews.
For example, if you’re interviewing for a marketing gig and the panel is super impressed by your tech skills—that might be something to focus on more next time. If the hiring manager is confused by a certain aspect of your resume, you can finesse that section before applying to other jobs. (I once had an interviewer point out a typo in my cover letter—definitely never made that mistake again!)
Also, at the risk of sounding like a stalker, an interview is a great chance to get a little inside info on how other companies do things. At almost every interview I’ve gone on, I’ve gleaned some interesting tidbit that I could take back to my current job by asking things like, “What types of systems does the team use here?” or, “How have you dealt with some of the recent changes in our field?” Free, easy industry advice—and you don’t have to tell your boss where you got it.
No, going to an interview you’re not totally stoked about is never going to be all that exciting. But, if you treat the hour (or two, or three) you’re there as a learning experience, it’s definitely worth your time. And—take it from me—you just might be surprised and find a gig you really love.