The art of the interview
The confusion and pain of the job search
I went down to New Orleans this past week to embark on a rite of passage every college student must eventually face: job interviews.
Sidenote — I like to think of myself as a personable, friendly individual who can easily get along and converse with most people. But when it comes to talking about myself I am awkward. Bumbling, stuttering, flustered, uncomfortable — awkward.
Someone can ask me a simple question about my résumé — “Tell me more about your internship in New York last summer” — and I begin to ramble incoherently in sentences without any apparent beginning or end.
I wave my hands around, hesitate for pauses far too long as I search for the right words and refuse to look the employer in the eye. Quite often, this results in me looking up to see my interviewer in shellshock. He or she walks me out the door with a sympathetic pat on the back and a half-hearted, “We’ll be in touch.”
My worst experience was my interview with an especially gruff man who was a veteran in the advertising industry. “An English major, huh?” he asked, looking down at my résumé. “Well, how are you with numbers?”
For anyone who doesn’t know me, this is an immediate red flag. I was the only kid in my third grade class who failed the zeros multiplication test and I am stressed out by processes as simple as counting. Also, this dude saw I was an English major, what was he thinking asking me about numbers?
“Um, they’re not my strong suit but I’m a hard worker?” I had to reply, my voice rising up at the end of the sentence in indication of my uncertainty. Needless to say, he hasn’t been in touch.
The other part about interviews that is almost as awful as talking about yourself is the anxiety caused by proper interview attire. Some of my friends have told me how confident and assertive they feel while wearing business clothes, but for me, it’s the exact opposite. I feel uncomfortable and unlike myself, like a 2-year-old playing dress-up in her mom’s closet.
Before I left, my mom took me to Ann Taylor to find some sensible, business-appropriate clothing. My mother, a retired vice president of a company, was like a pig in mud as she grabbed sweater sets and blazers and waxed poetic about the importance of finding a comfortable black heel.
I, on the other hand, stood in my own special circle of hell under the awful fluorescent light of the dressing room and tried on another pencil skirt, only to have my mother tell me it was too short. If it was any longer, I would have been wearing a maxi dress.
Above all else, the uncertainty of the interview process bothers me the most. You go in time after time again and wonder if these people will actually like you, if you’ll prove yourself worthy enough to them or if they’ll just kick you to the curb with all the other less impressive résumés.
It’s like a more corporate version of “The Bachelor,” with applicants trying to establish some sort of significant connection with their interviewer in an extremely finite amount of time so they will stand out among the others. Needless to say, it’s a lot of pressure.
I know this is just a fact of life I am going to have to accept and handle, an initiation process everyone in their 20s must go through. I feel like this time in my life is akin to a late adolescence, feeling overly self-conscious and confused in clothes that don’t exactly fit me right.
But, the good thing about adolescence is it came and went, leaving behind only minimally scarring memories and experiences. I think this time in my life will be a little like that, too — done before I know it and leaving me only slightly embarrassed.
In the meantime, you can find me pounding the pavement in my overly-concealing Ann Taylor cardigan. Just don’t ask me about numbers.
Mimi’s column runs biweekly Wednesdays. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.