I used to get very stressed before going to a job interview. I’d try to learn everything about the company. I’d cram like a freshman desperate to learn a term’s worth of physics formulas in one short day. The night before, I never slept but would lie awake in bed trying to come up with all possible questions I was going to be asked and worry about what answers the interviewers would want to hear. Walking into the interview room I most likely looked like a deer in headlights, complete with big bags under my eyes from lack of sleep.
“Are they going to like me?” It was like going back to the awkward years of junior high. What if they didn’t like my outfit, my jokes, me? The butterflies in my stomach had metamorphosed into pterodactyls and the fear of shaking hands with sweaty, wet palms left my entire body shaking like a poorly balanced washer. And that was before I entered the building.
During the interview, my over-preparation most likely resulted in me giving off a creepy stocker vibe. “I see that the company’s CEO enjoys chess, volunteering with the food bank, and has a tendency to wear Armani suits with sky blue coloured ties that enhance the colour of his eyes.” I was so focused on giving the answers I thought they wanted to hear that they ended up sounded over-rehearsed (they were) and full of more crap than the only litter box in the crazy cat lady’s house. Suffice to say the impression I made stank as bad as the above mentioned kitty washroom.
Now, the miracle of all miracles, I did manage to land a few jobs over the years. Some of the jobs were great opportunities… others, not so much. In fact one job I landed ended up as two years of the most stressful, agonizing hell I have ever endured. Now having the ability to look back on it, I want to smack my younger self on the head for not seeing the warning signs clearly given off during the interview. I was so focused on making them like me I forgot how important it was that I like them. I ignored the fact that the HR Manager and the Communications Manager refused to make eye contact with each other and my future boss had the warmth of an iceberg, in the middle of Antarctica, during a blizzard, in the dead of the night. Ya, she wasn’t the warm and fuzzy type. Riding up the elevator on my first morning a new co-worker asked me what department I was going to be working in. I kid you not, she said “Oh my gosh, I’m so sorry.” I should have pushed the down button and exited the building in a quick and efficient manner, never to return. But return I did, for twenty-four long, long months. Finally I decided going through a few rounds of interviews had to be less stressful then punching in my time card day after day working for one of Satan’s minions. (I still strongly believe this woman took her management training with agents for the KGB and while I have no hard proof of this I do think she has waterboarding listed on her skills section of her resume.)
Now every opportunity is a chance to learn and boy did I learn from that job and manager. I learned what it was I valued in a workplace and what type of manager best suit my needs as an employee. I learned an entirely new vocabulary of four-letter words from my coworkers. I found out how important it is for me to have a job that allows me to be part of a team with a common goal. (Other than how to get away with murdering your supervisor – although we did have an elaborate and creative plan for hiding the body that required several large jars of peanut butter.) I refuse to work in an environment where kissing arse is not only expected but rewarded and that following orders is more important than giving your best effort. I also learned to change my mindset when it comes down to interviews.
Interviews no longer make nervous at all. I still prepare for them, but not with the same level of desperation that I did in the past. I still make a list of questions I think I will be asked and prepare my answers ahead of time, but now I put more energy coming up with a list of questions I want to ask. “What is your management style?” “Do you encourage your staff members to develop new skills outside of the limits of their job descriptions?” “How would you describe the energy in your department?” “Have you ever worked for a Russian enforcement agency?” I don’t worry if they will like me, I worry will I like them. Can I see myself working with these people 40 hours a week? I’m going to be spending more time with them then my husband so I better be able to be myself at work.
For me, the litmus test of how well an interview went was how often everyone laughed. Trust me when I say you need a sense of humour to be able to put up with me Monday to Friday, week after week. I never expect my co-workers to become my bff’s, but it sure is wonderful when that happens.
So, my advice, for what it’s worth, is never to forget that interviews go both ways. Take the time to evaluate the people across the table from you. Had I done that, I would have been saved two years filled with, yelling and anger (from the manager) and ulcers and gray hair for me.
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