An anxious senior recently needed my infamous interview pep talk. I offer this up gleefully because I happen to love interviews. I’d go on an interview every day if I could (especially if I didn’t need the resulting job …). Here’s why:
- You get to talk about yourself non-stop for a half an hour or more. Do you realize how rare this is? Try doing it with a friend and see how quickly they stop returning your texts. You can only get away with non-reciprocal self-talk with therapists and interviewers. You might even say that interviews = free therapy. Gorge on it, people!
- You have an excuse to buy a snazzy new outfit. Or at the very least you get to pull a dapper outfit out of the back of your closet and iron it. Alright, that doesn’t sound too exciting. But in any event, you get to pick out
attire you rarely if ever wear, which you should do, by the way, at least, say, two hours before the interview. Or else you could end up in a mall bathroom, ripping off tags and squeezing yourself into ill-fitting clothes while a cleaning lady asks you through the stall door if you’re all right. Not that that’s happened to me. And moving on.
- You have the opportunity to give your best Office Space impression. Take your pick of lines. My fave: when the interviewer asks you what you did at a previous job, pull a Tom Smykowski. “Well look, I already told you! I deal with the goddamn customers so the engineers don't have to! I have people skills! I am good at dealing with people! Can't you understand that? What the hell is wrong with you people?”
- You don’t ever have to see these people again if you don’t want to. This reason alone makes interviews the bomb. If the interviewer(s) weird you out – they don’t look you in the eye; or they ask you strange personal questions like how much time a day, on average, you spend in the bathroom; or they confess their plot to steal all of the stamps from a local post office – you get to walk out of there and never go back. Period.
- If you screw up, you never have to see these people again. The flipside of Reason #4: the interviewers might decide that you weird them out. This might seem like a real downer, especially if you're losing out on your dream position, but take heart – at least you don’t have to face the people you screwed up in front of ever again. Unlike, say, facing your parents, who you’ve done all sorts of wacko things in front of (try to deny it, but you were a toddler once.)
- You can use ridiculous fifty-cent words and no one will laugh at you. In fact, they’ll not only not laugh, they’ll nod thoughtfully and scribble little notes. Just try getting that reaction from your friends.
- For a phone interview, you get to gum on a pencil! It's true: one way to enunciate during phone interviews is to talk with a pencil in your mouth for about ten minutes in advance. You’ll look and sound like a real doofus, but when else since teething have you had the excuse to chew on things? Just be sure to take the pencil out before the phone rings. Not that I’ve done that, either…
- You can refer to your past positions using inflated, self-important language. For instance, you were a Courtesy Clerk, not the bagging boy at the local supermarket. Or an Ice Cream Artist, not a scooper of ice cream that caked the inner lengths of your arms such that you could never quite scrub the veneer off and that gave you a strange muscle where no muscle should grow.
- You have a socially acceptable reason to throw snide looks at someone. That tool sitting in the lobby who’s up next for the interview? Yup, that’s the guy to give the snide look to. He’ll return it in kind. You’ll both know it’s nothing personal. When else is this kind of thing OK? (Note: Just make sure the interviewer isn’t still watching. Again, not spoken from experience…)
- You get to talk about yourself non-stop for a half hour or more. This reason is simply too good to go on the list only once. Eat it up. Talk about yourself ad nauseum. Just be sure to do so in two to three minutes chunks. Or else the interviewers will either fall asleep or kick your butt out of there. Which, I suppose, may be possible if you take any of my advice above.
So now you know why I usually leave the nit-gritty job search stuff to the career coaching pros. But I do hope this Top Ten list reminds you to stay loose and relaxed when you’re about to have an interview. The more tense you are, the less likely it is to work out. And by “work out” I don’t necessarily mean “get the job.” I mean, get the job that suits you. Because believe me (this time from experience!), you don’t want to be somewhere where they fell in love with a fake version of you. The real you will hate you for it. So chill, enjoy and just be you. And then let the outcome fall where it may.
Next time, back to the big picture career avoidance hoopla. We’ll be diving into the deep-end, students: fears, in all their stripes and colors. Come prepared.
See Reason #3 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)