THE interview

hello fellow employment challenged!

Today I want to talk about “THE INTERVIEW”- in particular, an interview gone SERIOUSLY awry.  Luckily it wasn’t mine, but I was there to witness it.  How, you may ask?  The dreaded group interview, a beast of its own.  I’ll confess, while it seems the majority of people loathe the group interview setting, I secretly love it.  Some combination of my ability to empathize and read people….actually, no, my love of the group interview stems almost entirely from the fact that I am a total SHOW OFF.  Can’t help myself.  I can reign it in in social situations, but when it comes to the working world, really job hunting in particular, watch out fellow job seekers, I am an expert at selling myself.

During this particular interview, the hiring manager asked all the usual questions: What is it you love about this company?  What previous experience have you had that translates to this position? Did you get along with your co-workers in the past? Did you have any complaints of management or your training? Describe a situation in which you went above and beyond your duties.  (Take note, these question almost ALWAYS come up in an interview, be prepared.)

I sized up my competition as I sat down on the only hard chair in the room.  **This is something I think is important: if there is a hard seat, choose it.  I feel like sitting on a cushioned chair or couch first of all makes you slouch, second of all, subconsciously communicates to an employer that you value your own comfort over professionalism.  Maybe I’m totally wrong here, but can it really hurt your chances to sit up straight and look bright eyed and bushy tailed?

Continuing on, my competition was almost non-existent, judging solely by the interview outfits they had chosen (one looked sloppy, the other looked totally out of place for the company).  My suspicions were confirmed when I tried to initiate small-chat with them: neither could maintain an informal conversation, or cared to.  If you’re in this situation, don’t get nervous, the only person you need to worry about is the person interviewing you.  On the same token, never bad mouth your fellow interviewees (the same goes for former employers), and always listen respectfully as they give their answers. 

The interview went relatively well for all three of us, until it came to the more creative questions, the first of which was, “Describe to me a situation in which you went above and beyond your job duties.”  After waiting a beat for another candidate to take the question, I answered first, and left the floor open.  The second candidate answered, leaving the third candidate to answer last.  She stared hard at the floor, clearly trying to recall a situation that might fit the question at hand.

So, in this candidates defense, her prior job did not require much of her, and it’s easy to see how she might have difficulty answering this question directly.  She stumbled, as she started to answer that she worked with Habitat for Humanity, which actually might not have been the worst example (if she highlighted how she thought going above and beyond, whether for humanity or a job, was something she felt strongly about).  Then, for some reason, she changed course.  The story that ensued was a horrifying example of what NOT to do in an interview. She told an elaborate and difficult to follow story of an encounter with a homeless woman, which in the end had very little to do with being a hard-worker or being committed to a job or company.  She took up at least five minutes of the interviewer’s time, and in the process most likely made the interviewer forget that all of her previous responses had been perfectly acceptable.

How to avoid a debacle such as this? Prepare prepare prepare.  There’s nothing else to be done.  Try to imagine every possible question you might be asked, and consider your answer.  Remember, job seeking IS your job at the moment, so dedicate all your skill and resources to being the best possible candidate.  ALWAYS play up your strong skills, and NEVER badmouth your former employers or job.  Be positive, be energetic, speak clearly and without “ums” or excessive pause, and you’ll always come off as your best self!  Good luck, job seekers!

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