I have a few questions about the interview process and what to expect for in future job interviews based on an unpleasant interview experience I had last month. I am a US citizen, but, I currently live abroad in my country of origin. I graduated from an American university just last year, and am residing overseas in order to spend time with my family and relatives before moving back to the US to attend graduate school(recently accepted to one) and find employment.
I gave an interview with a European inspection & certification company in my native country. After the interview, I felt annoyed because I was asked a bunch of confidential questions that hardly related to the company’s purpose. This is how it all started. I received a phone call from an HR manager of the company mentioned. She told me, “I looked at your resume, and I need to schedule an interview with you.” Later in the day, I found out that I was introduced to the company via a referral. The HR manager specifically told me to apply for the inspection administrator position at the company. I agreed and decided to apply because foreign companies in my native country are valued by job seekers due to their supposedly better working conditions than those of other domestic companies. Additionally, I did some research on the company, and it seemed like a decent multinational company to work for.
On the day of the interview, I went to their branch location. At the time of my interview, another applicant was interviewed simultaneously. An interviewer and the HR manager interviewed both of us. However, before the interview, I overheard the HR manager asking the other interviewee, “You plan to move to this neighborhood when you get hired, right?”
We both started out by introducing ourselves and I mentioned that I was currently teaching English. In the course of the interview, the interview panel found out that I was a naturalized US citizen. I told them that I had lived in the US for eleven years as a child and for four years as an undergrad. Then the HR manager said, “Well, I know a lot of people who lived in the US much longer than you did and who have not become US citizens. That is so strange.”
Then moving on, the male interviewer said, “You have such a unique background among the applicants we are interviewing today. All of our other candidates have engineering backgrounds. What made you want to apply to our company as a social sciences major? What do you know about engineering and certification?” I did not know what to say, so I just said based on my background, I was interested in working for a foreign company. That is when I brought up the fact that I was contacted first by HR. He said to me, “Why didn’t you apply to translating companies? Also, if we wanted someone who speaks fluent English, we would be hiring a person with a foreign appearance.” Later, he asked me, “How do you get along with your current coworkers?” I said, “I get along well with them. I cooperate with them.” Then he asked me, “I mean, what do you do with your coworkers OUTSIDE OF work? At our company, everyone’s lives revolve around work.” In relation to my experience as an English instructor, the HR lady asked me, “Do you pay taxes? Are you allowed to live here?” I told them that I have a heritage visa. She asked me, “Are you even allowed to work in this country?”
My identity as a foreign citizen of heritage influenced how the interview panel treated me. As I was listening attentively to their questions, the interviewer would stop in the middle of his questions or statements and ask, “Do you understand the language I am speaking in?” The HR manager joined him, saying,” Do you have problems understanding?” I guess, to them, being a foreign national automatically equated to inability in understanding their language.
In the middle of the interview, there was an English "debate" section. The HR lady asked us in accented English a question related to a topic. I said something related to the topic, however, she said, “No, that is not what I asked” in broken English as she gave me a pathetic look. She looked for every turn to discount me, so I assertively answered, “I like to give room for possibility, so…” The other applicant received a free pass on the question. The male interviewer specifically said to me, “We don’t do any of our work in English. Everything is done in the native language.” Okay, then why was there even an English portion in the interview?
Finally, the HR lady asked me, “How many companies did you apply to?” I gave my answer. She further asked, “And, where else? Tell me specifically about those companies.” She demanded clarification. At the end of the interview, the HR lady remarked, “Don’t feel so bad about being asked confidential questions. We were trying to get a taste of your personality.” I felt bitter about being asked confidential questions, especially in front of another job applicant. If I were alone, I wouldn’t have minded as much. I wasn’t the candidate that they wanted, nor did I want to work for them. However, I could not understand why they even bothered to ask questions that deal with private matters to someone they were not interested in hiring.
Are job interviews in the US or any other western country conducted on an individual basis or in a small group of 2~5 applicants each?
Do interviewers normally ask such personal questions to applicants, especially if there are other applicants at the same time? Is my interview experience the type of experience that I would have to get used to?