You can tell unemployment ain’t fun, from the beginning of my second post. I may not have bills to pay because I pulled the “move back into the nest” trick, very popular among the twenty-somethings of today. But after loafing around for so long, I really miss the excitement of getting a pay check and spending most of my waking hours couped up in a windowless place that is not my home.
The first month after I quit my job, I enjoyed my freedom and even looked forward to the idea of an extended vacation.
Fast forward to the third month post-resignation…the anxiety set in as my résumé failed to spur the interest of any decent employer. All of a sudden my old job didn’t look so horrible.
It had been almost five months since I left my previous job and waded into a job- scarce market. Suddenly with the help of a few kindhearted people within Company X, my résumé was passed up to the corporate headquarters with the note, “highly recommended candidate”.
From the sound of the manager’s voice on the phone when scheduling the interview, I had a feeling I would be dealing with a no-nonsense individual who valued facts and figures over clichéd assertions of character. I prepared for the interview accordingly.
I wasn’t going to let this opportunity slip by. Not only did I type 6 pages of my intended responses to the typical interview questions – Tell me about yourself. What are your strengths? What are your weaknesses? etc. – I retrieved my pharmacoeconomics notes and performed a thorough analysis of workflow and policies at my former places of employment.
Typed up another 3 pages and I felt ready to defend each bullet point on my résumé, support each personal quality with a touching anecdote, and justify my arguments with practice guidelines and census data from 2010. I must have spent at least 10 hours preparing for the interview.
Believe me, this was way too much prep work for the position I was applying for!
I researched the details of the company, their marketing style, names of executive officers and their employment history. I even tried to dig up an online résumé for my interviewer/hiring manager on LinkedIn, but he had a name so common that it is shared by hundreds if not a thousand of people. I gave up.
They say hindsight is 20/20, so here’s my post-interview perspective of the most traumatic hour of my life…
I walked into the interview with my “brand,” as career websites advise. In theory, my brand was going to be enthusiastic Type A personality with unfiltered honesty. However, in reality, it ended up being naïve new graduate who talks like an overcaffeinated heretic defending herself against the Spanish Inquisition.
My interviewer looked like a jolly fellow, though he was a seasoned veteran of the profession with a heartwarming smile and a straighforward style of speech that some describe as brusque. All I can say is that the manager was a flesh-and-blood human being and my pre-written interview responses were designed to feed a corporate robot.
He prefaced the interview with the statement that the recommendation letter and my mere presence at the interview did not guarantee employment. He also said the job market is competitive (no kidding!) and the company holds candidates at a higher standard nowadays. He even informed me that he interviewed [x number] of candidates the previous week and decided against hiring them because he didn’t see a “spark”.
I was so nervous that my anxiety had disabled my bull-shit alert.
I nodded. And then, the adrenaline or caffeine must have kicked in because I launched into my “Here’s what I have to offer your company…” speech.
I look demure, sort of like an overgrown sheep, so it may have shocked him (pleasantly, I hope) that I initiated the conversation by presenting my first argument in favor of hiring me, rather than allowing myself to be led through a series of company-designed interview questions. Little did I know, we would not be walking through anyone’s pre-made series of questions and answers.
Throughout the interview, I felt we were completely out of sync with our questions and answers. The context was right in tune, but the way I presented my answers didn’t suit his taste buds nor did the phrasing of his questions put me at ease.
I wanted to regale him with stories to prove my point because I spent so much time writing them out; he wanted short and sweet generalizations because time was limited. If he wanted proof, he would’ve asked for an example. At the time, I was afraid of losing control of the conversation. In the beginning, I kept babbling awkwardly. As long as I kept talking, he wouldn’t throw in any curveballs, or so I thought.
We’re dealing with a guy who has seen it all. He was the hiring manager, so he felt perfectly comfortable with calling time-out when my responses sounded too “prepared” and toss in a fun little challenge. In retrospect, I felt a bit of compassion for him. If he hadn’t steered certain parts of the interview, I would’ve been talking for 10 hours straight!
As I thought about the curveballs while driving home, I didn’t feel any anger or resentment towards the guy. Oddly enough, I felt honored that he believed me capable of handling challenging questions. Hey, I thought, I must have answered the previous ones correctly if the subsequent questions were getting more difficult.
I was also glad he snatched my notes away when I sounded too scripted. By taking away my security blanket, it showed he wanted to know the real me. That was when I realized that the purpose of the interview is becoming acquainted with me as a person which translates into me as a worker.
When he shook my hand and told me I was hired, he didn’t tell me I had the “spark”. With the job offer and my performance during the interview, I doubt my new boss saw a spark of potential in me.
Maybe he sensed desperation and thought I was going to jump off of a bridge if I didn’t get the job. Never planned on jumping, but I would most certainly have a good cry session.
Most likely, he was bound by company policy to go through the motions of the hiring process even though he had his mind set on hiring me, out of respect for his fellow colleagues.
If for this reason, it must have been very entertaining for him to see me pulling rabbits out of hats, metaphorically speaking, and doing mental gymnastics as part of my desperate plea for employment. Although I never played the sympathy card or the brown-nosing card by keeping the focus on “What I can bring to the company…”, my hyper-specific examples intended to silence any sort of skepticism from him before they even arose and my unconventional way of tackling certain questions would have looked desperate to any spectator.
What I learned from my interview…
1. For anyone who is despairing, you should do your best to dig yourself out. Once that’s done or if you have no control over the situation, start having some hope because crazy deus ex machina shit can happen in your life too! Maybe you’ve accrued some good karma from your current or one of your past lives.
2. People with completely different personalities can get along nicely at work. I think my new boss is awesome, until I declare him otherwise, in which case you will not see any evidence on this blog reflecting my change in opinion.
In my new boss, I see an extrovert with tons of wisdom within all that street-smart, not to mention many years of experience in the profession.
We shared the same business goals and methods of accomplishment. We both valued honesty and hard work. He was very polite and civil to me, but he probably would have preferred talking to or hiring someone more like him. But a good team needs all sorts of people, even crazy ones like me.
3. Be honest with a filter. The parts of the interview I enjoyed the most were the ones in which I fought my nerves and improvised my way to genuine answers or offered my uncensored opinions, which surprisingly fell directly in line with the company’s mission. Actually, it’s not so surprising because I am really dedicated and my work ethic is great.
I guess honesty really is my “brand” but installing a filter between my brain and mouth is also advisable, considering how much trouble I get myself into for not doing so.
4. Bosses are good at reading people. No matter how hard I tried to work my answers back to script, my boss saw right through me. No matter how hard I tried to hide my insecurities, they surfaced during the interview.
I’m bad at lying so I wasn’t even going to try. I openly admitted to my flaws but assured him my weaknesses would not impair my work performance. But fortunately, my good qualities shined through to convince him I wouldn’t sabotage the company, at least not willingly.
Readers, my quarter-life crisis is officially over! I have a day job now. I don’t mean to rub it in your face, just thought you cared to know why I’m tapering down my blogging schedule to once per week.