Monday, October 15, 2012

[Unemployed Life]: An 'Interview' Worst Case Scenario

We all probably know what it's like to go on job interviews.  It's one giant nerve-wracking, anxiety-ridden, self-confidence killing some odd hours, no matter how often you're told to think of it "like you're interviewing them."  Because that bullshit?  It doesn't work.

In the best cases, you love the place you're interviewing with.  The people are phenomenal, the job sounds even better in person than it does on paper, and you're pretty sure you've got this one in the bag because, come on, you're super friggin' qualified for it.  If this has been your experience, leave now because I think I hate you.  (Okay, you don't have to leave, but you do have to go sit in the corner quietly where I can't see or hear you.)

In the worst cases (and hint hint, this post is really about the worst cases), you wonder why you even showed up -- to like, LIFE -- to begin with.  You get there, and you know right away that this wouldn't be your ideal working environment.  It's quiet, no chatter, not a whole lot of natural light.  And where the heck is everyone?  You can't help comparing it to other places that have seemed  But then you think, whatever, the work is amazing -- truly, truly amazing -- so you'll deal.  Plus, think of the income!  The health care!  The gym membership!  In your head, you've already pictured those things as yours.  You've gone down this dangerous road a million times in the last week and now it's too late to stop it.  Your hopes are up, and it's a long way down from here.

So there you are, sitting in an empty waiting room reading last years annual report while the previous interview wraps up, and you realize that that interview has gone over the allotted time.  In your now-rattled mind, this must mean that interview is going swimmingly.  They must love this person.  You picture the interviewers laughing and listening intently, inspired by what your competition is saying, thinking that all the rest of the interviews are pointless because this person is it.  This makes your hands sweat a little bit, which is gross.  No one wants to shake hands with sweaty girl.  You wipe them off on the pant legs of the partial suit you're wearing, and you're reminded of how much you don't want to work at a place that requires pant suits.  Ever.

And then you're up.  You walk in, and there are three people in the conference room you're interviewing in.  And while they're seated casually around a glossy wood table, you're not fooled, you recognize a firing squad when you see one.  So it begins.  Hi, how are you.  Why don't we tell you more about the position.  Their intelligence is intimidating.  Your youth -- or maybe just the fact that, for a 28 year old, you look 16 -- makes you feel at a disadvantage already.  They've done so much!  They're world-renowned, well-traveled, published, seasoned vets in an arena you've only started to dip your toes in!  Then they want to know more about you.  Why do you feel singularly qualified for this position?  What will you bring to this work?  What have you done in your [short, limited] career that has prepared you for the rigors of this job and field?  You answer, but the words don't sound right to your ears.  You sound unsure of yourself, like you're trying to persuade them.  You try to reign yourself in, to tell yourself to just be you.  But you're asked questions you didn't anticipate.  The job requires qualifications you don't have.  You find yourself stuttering over and over, "I'm sorry, I don't have any experience with that," and "No, I've never worked on this sort of thing before."  It's misstep after misstep until finally, one of the interviewers takes pity on you.  They look over your cover letter once more, then look up and smile.  They say some nice things, trying to either bolster your confidence or remind you of your own damn work experience.  And you realize that this, this hail Mary life raft, maybe worse than if they'd just let you flounder, because now you really know you're screwed.

At a certain point, it becomes funny.  You start picturing what it would look like if you ran screaming from the room, arms flailing, heels clapping over the linoleum floor, hair -- which was once perfectly coiffed -- in mad disarray.  You wonder briefly if the endless hour of questions you couldn't answer has made you hysterical, or if it's just a byproduct of your self-esteem bottoming out.

Eventually, it ends.  You shake hands with the firing squad, realizing dimly that this interview was significantly shorter than the last (the one that ran over as you waited in the lobby), and that they're trying to let you leave almost as quickly as you're trying to get out of there.  They were nice people, nicer still because of the warm smiles they give you as you're led out.  This makes you wonder if it's obvious how badly you want to laugh maniacally just to make sure you don't start crying.  You feel stupid.  You feel incompetent.  You feel embarrassed, which is probably worst of all.

But then you get out in the fresh air.  You take a deep breath, text your boyfriend to say that you've got one hell of a story for him, and check your watch to make sure you're not going to be late getting back to your part-time job.  You square your shoulders, tell yourself that you'll get one good cry later tonight with a bottle of wine, and smile.

It was probably the worst interview of your life.  But things can only go up from here, right?

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