“It’s a job interview, not a rocket science exam. All the best.”
Not one, BUT TWO job interviews!
Sometimes life does suprise us with the unexpected. This is a major breakthrough in my 4-month long jobhunt: to be called in for interviews twice in 25 days! Since this is wonderful news (and the experience still fresh in my memory), I decided to celebrate by writing a post about it.
In contrast to what most of you might expec,t this post will not tackle: neither the “Top 10 Questions Asked” in a job interview nor “What to wear to impress your interviewer”. I believe there are people more qualified than me to give advice on those areas.
What I will deal with however are two main lessons I’ve learned from this month’s job interviews:
- A good physical and mental rest is a much better preparation than any amount of reading, rehearsing and strategic planning (Eg: What will make them want me, projecting warmth or efficiency? See Sources).
- Even if the end goal is to get the job and selling oneself is the object of the interview, turn the table a different angle and make it a point to have fun at the same time.
The need for R ‘n’ R
In the first of the interviews, I had time to prepare and plan for the d-day. I decided what to wear in advance, coordinated with my husband and searched for a sitter to care for the baby, I researched the latest happenings in the company and most of all I rehearsed by answering the Top 50 Most Common Interview Questions (Forbes). I had one week to do so and I had a schedule laid out before me to answer a number of questions per day. I worked hard, read a lot and reviewed my professional history enough to write a memoir. I saved the day before the interview to take a rest. Wrong, because the day I intended to rest, an unexpected event forced me to redirect my attention to more pressing matters. I’m not talking about the public transportation strike; it was more of a sleep-depriving, concentration-demanding type of affair. That is to say: I was not able to sleep the night before and no amount of makeup or tropical-girl smile could hide that I was only a breath shy of looking like the Corpse Bride.
Nevertheless, the “show” went on. No matter how literally heavy my head felt, I struggled to make my interviewers see that I deserve the job. Adrenaline helped of course, but it can only last so much, because soon enough I started experiencing a lack of eloquence in any of the languages I swear I could speak.
This is very important because as the interview was closing, one of the senior researchers asked whether I think the European Union would withstand the crises it is currently going through. I thought, “This could be the type of question with no right or wrong answers- the one where the way I answer matters more.” So I geared up and took a deep breath… (wrong again!)
For the first time, I experienced flickers of mental blockage (you see, sudden intake of oxygen could make a person dizzy- oh, Bikram!). Extreme fatigue began overpowering me; only the cold temperature in the room held me up and prevented me from dropping fast asleep on the floor. What I answered then is not relevant for today’s topic, but I could have answered it better if only my mind was strong enough to formulate intelligent arguments. (Thinking back, perhaps the fact that my opinion is contradictory to that of my interviewer’s might have a tiny, little influence on their final decision… but I cannot deny that I didn’t exactly shine while trying to explain my part.)
Image courtesy of: http://www.thinkstockphotos.fr
Enjoying the moment
The second interview was the complete opposite of the first one: I had exactly 36 hours to prepare, the subject matter was something I had only studied back in college and the very name of the organization is even more intimidating. The only thing they had in common was I was still lacking sleep.
Unlike the earlier interview, I decided to read only what I could; and this means being content with just one or two good documents I could find about the job post. The rest of the time, I just tried to sleep or at least relax.
I met with my interviewers in the cafeteria and after a few courteous greetings, started recounting my skills, my educational background and why I applied for the job. They asked me whether I’ve had any experience on certain tasks and wanted to know if I was familiar with the subject to be treated by the hired candidate.
This was when the “fun” began… and what I meant was having the ability to genuinely take pleasure at the opportunity of being considered for a job.
Image courtesy of: http://blog.yapjobs.com/blog/pre-interview-checklist-for-job-seekers/
So when the supervisor inquired about my knowledge on the project to be managed, I was confident enough to admit that I have never worked in that field and everything that I knew, I learned in college. I proceeded to explain exactly what I learned back then. I was even asked to propose a recommendation! It felt right. I felt that I was really making a case for my candidacy to be considered.
Still, I noticed how the mind could play tricks if not given enough rest: one of the directors asked if I have ever done “X”. The truth is I have, but somehow I wasn’t able to find the precise memory in my mind. Then I realized that I have indeed executed “X”… in Spanish! and because we were speaking in English and the preparations I’ve done were also in English, my fatigued brain divided my professional history into: Spanish, English and French. It was a good thing I did not panic. I simply acknowledged that I don’t lack experience in “X”, but such experience is limited within a Spanish-speaking context.
It was a good interview: I was contented with what I have done because I was able to relax hours before, thus allowing for better predisposition (not to mention a more agreeable facade!). Most of all, I was very pleased with the inquiries, with my answers and how I delivered them… even my own curiosity was satisfied as to the details I wanted to know about the project.
For next time…
I suppose that the intention of this post is to serve as testimony that a job interview does not have to be a battlefield. Not among the different candidates- each one has his unique set of skills and competencies. Even if one does his best to outshine the rest… well, who among us mortals could really discern the criteria applied by a hiring team?
Definitely, it is not advisable to treat an interviewer as an adversary. Remember, you want them to want to work with you!
In my opinion, a job interview should be a time-space interval where talent and opportunity meet. This is why the talent has to show not just capacity, but also a palpable eagerness to do the job.
Lastly, having “fun” during a job interview will help you look back at that moment with more ease. Why would you want to look back? you ask. Summoning past experiences is important because it could help detect one’s strengths and weaknesses. Keep in mind that self evaluation is highly beneficial to everyone and who better to evaluate our past actions than our present (wiser and more matured) selves?
Author’s note: The author still has not found a paid employment as of this date (because believe me, taking care of a growing infant is a serious job!). To the skeptics- I understand your hesitation to consider my word as something to take note of, and good luck! To the optimists- thank you for your agreement, and good luck!
- “How to Ace the 50 Most Common Interview Questions”, available at: http://www.forbes.com/forbes/welcome/#5e7f111b4873
- “How Communicator and Audience Power Shape Persuasion”, available at: http://knowledge.insead.edu/strategy/how-communicator-and-audience-power-shape-persuasion-4554#XxwqmPlKhIGTkXrs.99