Friday, April 28, 2017

A Case of Opening Interview Jitters

The day finally arrives

If you’re a current reader of this blog, then you know that I’ve stated in the past that there aren’t really many long-term opportunities for people in my field (technical writing and graphic design) local to my area. This usually means that when I do have an interview, it is most likely remote (either by phone or via Skype). Imagine my surprise when a company within a reasonable driving distance scheduled me for an on-site interview!

Now, I need to note that this has only been my second face-to-face interview in almost five years. I was excited! I spent days researching the company, planning my questions, and preparing my portfolio. As per usual, despite this preparation, things did not go exactly in my favor. Despite putting together what I felt was a reasonable example of my output over the last seven years (six years of which was directly related to what I was applying for), I hit a few snags.

Confessions of a serial self-defamer

This might surprise a lot of you, but I'm not the most confident person in the world. Okay, not even nearly the most confident person in the world. Still, when it comes to the mechanics of the software I use I do know my stuff, and I'm usually pretty good about creating the effects that I want. The people who are interviewing me don't really know that, of course, and my lack of confidence always seems to seep through.

A funny thing didn't happen on the way to the interview (thank goodness!)

Still, I put on my pressed and tailored suit, tied my darkest red power tie, shined up my shoes and made the journey to the potential employer’s place of business. It should be noted, that despite every other day up to this point being a cool 50-60° Fahrenheit (10-15° Celsius) this day decided to be extra sunny and hot, so “sweaty suit for the win!” It wasn’t that long of a drive, and fortunately my car’s air conditioning works, so that was a plus.

I parked my car and made the walk to the building’s entrance. They were cutting grass, but fortunately, not in the vicinity of my only tailored suit; unfortunately, I am allergic to pollen (and the smell of freshly cut grass to me is a trigger), and that’s when I noticed that I had forgotten my handkerchief. I would spend the next hour and a half stifling back a sneeze, and trying not to let my nose close during the conversation.

I arrived early (but not egregiously so), and was sent to a room to wait. I spent my time mulling over what I wanted to ask and how I wanted to present myself, and used a sheet of paper to jot down my thoughts during the interview.

When the interviewer showed up, my immediate thought went to how sweaty and clammy my hands must have been. I won’t give away too many details about the actual interview, but I presented my portfolio to him (and made multiple apologies to him for the lack of color). He was very relaxed and cordial, and I was my usual nervous shy awkward self. I’m not used to meeting new people, and I’m even less used to trying to impress them.
Not long into the interview he called in another party to ask questions. I spent much of the time trying to explain to them why there were significant gaps in the years on my resume (in truth, though I have mostly worked steadily, it is not often very long for the same employers). I didn’t really like this part of the process for one main reason: When I begin weaving the tale of how I got to where I am today, it often sounds like I’m playing the victim. I don’t really see myself as a victim, but I have little doubt that it can sound that way (“I left work the week of 9/11 and lost my savings when the stock market crashed,” “I went to school, had to drop out in the final semesters because of financial reasons,” “I worked in the mortgage recording industry just before the housing bubble burst,” – which is all true, by the way). I try to chalk it up to learning experiences, but really there’s not a lot of positivity in my resume. The same could be said of my experience with my last employer, which I consider a mostly positive experience, but I still have no idea why they let me go (and they seem to be far more bitter about the separation than I am). Still, questions about this sort of activity are the reason one goes to interviews, and I answered them as honestly as I could. I had to stifle the more excessive bits of my personality, which was not helped by my scratchy throat and bits of sneeze that came out as snorts when I laughed.

Finishing up, I tried to ask questions during the interview that would have the duality of giving me some more insight into the company, and to show them that I have a genuine interest in what they do. They said that they needed to conduct a second round of interviews and that if they were interested they would get back to me within 3 weeks.

Did it work? I will let you know in three weeks.

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