Interview woes

I just need to moan about yet another bad interview. I am so depressed and feel like I’ll never work again.

This time, again a different problem. Although this is guess work, in all three cases, because I don’t get feedback, just the absence of an offer. Sigh. This time, I was determined to stay calm and in one piece. I did do that, and it was hard. I determined to do nothing that might trigger emotions the morning of the interview, so I skipped my dance/shake routine. I also didn’t listen to music, but read in the subway on the way there instead. As well, I gave myself plenty of time to get ready and left very early, so I was not rushed at any point. That also helps with staying in one piece. I spoke to myself kindly, and located parts and asked them to sit this out, telling them that all was safe.

I also had a good enough suit and had polished my shoes. So. It might have been good to have had a haircut, but I have an appointment for next week, so there was nothing I could do on short notice.

I also talked about having an interview at a small church group I sometimes go to, and several people wished me luck, so I had that bit of support also, and the interview wasn’t a secret.

Those are all good things I need to do, and I am proud of myself for doing them.

I think the problem is I need to go back to what I was doing years ago, namely reading lists of interview questions from a library book, reading sample answers, and making up answers ready to go. When I try to be honest, it doesn’t work. I need readily constructed stories that make me look like a corporate superhero. It seems unjust that I have to do this. It seems stupid to me. But I think that’s how it is.

I have noticed before that when I have this sense of being truthful in interviews, it doesn’t help me get the job. These managers are looking for smart, packaged answers. I guess having the answers available does show you know how to play the game. I don’t think they greatly care what really happened. They want you to fit neatly into a prepared slot in their minds, by saying things they think show you are ‘good’.

I didn’t immediately think of my answers to their questions as problematic. I did notice that the main manager did not seem at ease with me walking me out. I suspected maybe it was my personality, because I caught him saying something under his breath to the other interviewer, something about one of those quiet ones – presumably he had wanted me to talk more. The recruiter had actually told me the manager prefers answers that are to the point and not rambling, but as it turned out, he rambled himself, so perhaps was looking for the same from me.

I was asked about what I felt was my greatest accomplishment in the last six month. I thought about it, had nothing prepared for this, and said I felt I did well adapting to such varied circumstances, situations and requirements in my last few contracts. When what I should have done is said I accomplished something they are specifically looking for – maybe something like that I became such a valued team player so quickly on a very diverse team in my last role. Which is somewhat of a lie, but they are looking specifically for a good team player. I’m stupid. I got a lot of low ball questions like that and didn’t take advantage of them at all.

Tell me about a situation where you dealt with conflict – that one is trickier. I should have had a story ready about how I was a miracle worker with a difficult person I suppose. Instead I said I’d had to interact with a manager who was very emotional and jumped to conclusions. I’d dealt with her by slowing things right down and figuring out what the problem actually was. They asked if our relationship had improved, and I should have said tremendously, and instead I said a bit, over time, but that people have their personalities and don’t change much! Which is perfectly true, but not what they’re looking for to fill in on their pre-printed interview sheets.

I suspect if they really liked me, if I had a shining personality that charmed them to bits, they might overlook these answers and give me the contract anyway. Since that’s not the case (even though I remained calm, even though I was adult the whole time 😦  ) , I won’t get a call back.

Trying to tell myself that I’ll get it right at some point. This time though, so many things that could go wrong were fine. I wasn’t triggered by therapy or by exercise at the time. The location was easy and so getting there didn’t stress me out. Next time, I might have to go when triggered, so emotional regulation becomes beyond my reach.

All I can do is proceed. I’ll get out a book of questions and answers, I’ll make some stuff up and memorize it, and hope for the best.

And these aren’t even great jobs. They’re short contracts, six months, no benefits. It’s hard not to feel like a loser, when I can’t even land one of these, but I musn’t. I have to keep trying, keep on top of it, hard as it is.

  1. I completely agree that most job interviewers want to see the shiny pre-packaged version of you, and rehearsing answers is very helpful for this. And while you should never lie you do seem to get a lot further by putting a positive spin on everything about yourself and minimising any flaws. I’m sure I’ve been disadvantaged by being honest in both job interviews and in training course selection interviews.

    That “image management” might go against the grain of self-exploration and honesty which is a big part of therapy, but as you say it’s a kind of game and right now it sounds like the important thing for you is to get any work you can.

    • Ellen said:

      Exactly what I’m trying to say. An interview is like a play, with everyone saying their lines. If I wing it, I tend to put a depressive, introspective spin on everything, even though I don’t mean to do that. I’m trying to be positive, but what to me is positive, to them is not at all. I need to work on the shiny and sparkly version of myself. 🙂

      Thanks Dangerous

  2. leb105 said:

    Hi E, I can’t ad lib at all, and just being able to remember _anything_ relevant about your experience in order to give a thoughtful,honest response, impresses me greatly! It seemed like your strategy worked, too, to marshall your team.
    You’re there to be judged! It’s inherently triggering.
    I get the impression though, that your effort is all about gaining acceptance, and not about finding out whether it’s an environment and work that you would enjoy. Maybe you don’t want a manager who isnt comfortable with a thoughtful honest you. What could you have asked at the interview for your last job, that would have raised the red flags that would have warned you?

    • Ellen said:

      Yes, it’s true some things worked OK. It is true it’s more about me trying to win the job, and not so much about me trying to suss out the situation. That is a valid point. I think at this point, when I’ve been off for several months already with no income whatsoever, I do need to land something as quickly as I can. I did ask what they consider good documentation, however, didn’t get much of a clear answer. If they valued something I don’t, and were able to articulate that (most wouldn’t be able to) then that would be a red flag.

      Maybe for a permanent job it would be more vital to have a manager comfortable with the honest me. I really have no idea how to weed out a bad manager or situation though. I don’t know what I could have raised to warn me in the previous job. The warning sign was really the dishonesty of the posting, how they made an offer then lowered it, posted full time then turned it into a contract. That was a red flag which I didn’t heed because I so much wanted the job. But I was quite real in the interview, and the manager seemed fine.

      I did have a previous contract boss who was a bully, and would have liked to have avoided that contract. But there was no real way of knowing that ahead of time – he was not a bully in the interview.

      Anyway, it’s a good point and I don’t know the answer. I do know my funds are going out with nothing coming in though. Not comfortable.

      Thanks Laura.

  3. Rachel said:

    Oh Ellen, I read the title of this post and just wanted to give you a hug. Sorry this process is shit right now. I can just hear how hard it is for you to “play the game” or fill in some pre-formed mold that somehow you are supposed to know how to fit into. I’d love to think that these recent experiences simply mean those jobs weren’t the right fit, so of course it didn’t go well. And when something comes along that is a good fit, it will flow better. Of course I can’t predict the future, and I understand concerns around finances so wanting something ASAP. This is not comfortable right now, and I wish it could be.

    • Ellen said:

      I hope it means they were not the right fit. Unfortunately, I am not good at ‘putting on a professional face’. I read bloggers who have this despite huge difficulties in their personal lives. Somehow, I am not able to do this well. Anyhow. It is worrying. Thanks Rachel.

  4. I don’t do well in interviews either. Fortunately, I haven’t changed jobs very much. I tend to freeze up with that deer in the headlights look. I had one time that they wouldn’t even take my application. I don’t know what I did wrong but wow. Hoping you find something soon that will meet your needs. Hugs.

    • Ellen said:

      I have a tendency to freeze and panic also Ruth. Ugh. I hope I can find full time eventually so I don’t have to keep doing this. Thanks. Hugs to you.

  5. i was recently part of an interview panel. I can tell you that it could have been th einterviewers, not you. when I was on the panel I liked one person, while the others liked another, majority vote won out in the end, so the person I had wanted to hire didn’t get hired. there were four of us on the panel though. I’m sorry it went so badly but maybe it isn’t you at all. Hope something turns up soon. xxx

    • Ellen said:

      Thanks for sharing your experience Many. I do think I did not do well with the questions. I’ve now written out some examples so I’ll have some answers ready to go next time. If there’s more than one interviewer, I do often feel much more positive about one of the interviewers than the other, and that happened this time also.

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