Whenever I've been in the audience of a faculty interview presentation, I left impressed but demoralised. It appears the bar of making it as far as the interview is very high indeed, and I don't know if I'll ever be able to reach a similar level. On the other hand, I know quite some people employed as researchers at national/supernational scientific research laboratories, or at research divisions of operational government institutes. I don't get the same impression there. It seems to me that people who obtain faculty positions are more outstanding than those who obtain scientist positions for governments.
Is my impression correct? Is it less competitive to get employed at research laboratories or government institute research divisions, than it is to get employed as faculty at a university? If yes, why is this so? At a university, faculty spend their time writing grants, teaching, doing administration, and hopefully still a little bit of science. At research labs, the exact division of work probably varies, but involves doing research, developing products, writing reports and papers, perhaps doing consultancy or other work. Unless one loves teaching (I suppose nobody loves grant writing), I'm not sure why a position at a university would be more desirable/competitive than one at a laboratory. Is my impression wrong, or am I missing something?
(I have this impression for at least Sweden, United Kingdom, United States, and Canada.)