Tag Archives: interviews

I’ll have to try this next time…

19 Sep

And all this time I’ve been stupidly hiding what my mamma gave me.  Shame, shame, shame on me!

(via PostSecret)

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Phone Interviews

16 Sep

To ease stress, interviews are best conducted on hamburger phones. Juno is clearly in control here.

Ugh.  Phone interviews.  What an unpleasant way for someone to get to know why you’re a great person.  You, the interviewer, are mildly interested at best, and are more concerned with logging in my responses into your laptop so you can properly review them later.  I, the interviewee, I have to clearly, concisely, and eloquently organize my 23 years of life experiences in an attractive manner that proves my workplace capabilities.  And I have to do it according to your whim, and sometimes over a shit-tastic phone connection.  If I stumble or succumb to nerves, you’ll count that against me–do you even realize how much I have to accomplish in a 30 minute conversation, and how stressful that is when I really want this job?

A week or so later, I may get invited to the next round, or you may send a formulaic rejection letter.  I hate those.  I’ve shown you all my best traits, and you’ve examined and dissected everything I’m proud of and said, “Ehhhhhh….nah.”  Ouch.

UPDATE: Man, re-reading my post later this afternoon exposed how whiny and emo I can be.  Was I goth kid in another life?

In case it wasn’t clear, I’m interviewing at a couple charter schools, and I don’t think the process is going as well as I’d like.  But really, it’s no one’s fault but my own.  Also, who knows how it’s going to turn out in the end?  There’s no point in jumping the shark–might as well wait for the shark to bite my leg off, or for the shark to offer me a spot as his “Executive Assistant Mauler.”  If I resign myself to failure just because I don’t like the system that all candidates need to pass through in order to become a mauler, I may never maul at all.  Resigning=stupid and unproductive.  Whining about it=annoying and unproductive.  Sharks=surprisingly picky about their assistants.

Interviews Ahoy, Pt. 3: The End

19 Aug

Interviews Ahoy, Part 1

Part 2: The Interview

After a week of computer breakdowns and family errands, it’s time for the much awaited conclusion to Interviews Ahoy. This job would have me working for a cause I believed in, and I had spent the past month interviewing with various people in the organization and completing work place scenario assignments (not to mention the countless hours of interview prep time).  I was invested in this job in more ways than one.

I didn’t get it.  But I got rejected a bit more ceremoniously than that.

I woke up on the final day of my Bostonian vacation, where I was visiting with Leslie and other amazing people, and found an email entitled “Recruitment Assistant” sitting in my inbox.  The title was so polite in its ambiguity, I had a feeling that I wasn’t about to receive good news.

My hunch proved correct. It was indeed a rejection email, but unlike the cut-and-paste dismissals of the past, this one was personalized.  The VP I

There's a small sign on top that reads "No Billys Allowed."

interviewed with showed genuine appreciation for my time, and called me warm, enthusiastic, and well-organized.  She even said she’d “definitely” keep me in mind if any other positions opened up in her team or elsewhere in the organization.  It was a rather pleasant experience, and would have been a confidence booster, had it not been for that fact that, you know, I was still jobless.  Apparently they’re going in a “different direction,” one that I guess does not include me.  Because that’s what that phrase really means, right?  It’s “exclusion” packaged in shiny, non-committal alliteration.  “Hey everyone, we’ve decided to go in a different direction–instead of the dentist, we’re going to Candy Mountain! Except for you, Billy.  Enjoy your root canal.”

When I read that I’d been rejected, I experienced a mix of disappointment and resignation that pin-pricked up and down my arms, and dropped out the bottom of my stomach.  Self-preservational instinct took over shortly afterward, and I sent an email to my friends that pretty much said, “Oh well.  Moving on.”  Whenever I told people the outcome, I’d follow up with, “But it’s okay.  I’m okay.  Honestly.”   It took Leslie’s mom to stop me and say, “No, it’s not okay.  It sucks, and it’s alright that it sucks.”  And I realized that she was absolutely right.  I had really wanted this job–I admired this organization, and wanted to work for them so badly.  I wanted to work for them the same way my impetuous sister wants to wear her princess fairy costume to school; this organization was special in the same way that stupid ugly frilly dress is, I suppose.  Why was I kidding myself into hiding my disappointment?

Yeah, that's totally what's happening.

Leslie’s mom, fabulous beacon of guidance that she is, suggested that I send a follow-up email asking for feedback in order to better improve my future chances as a candidate.  “What have you got to lose?” she asked.  Certainly not my non-existent position at my imaginary cubicle, or a dock in my never-to-be-negotiated salary.  Off the email went, but I received no response.  And with that, my imagination went berserk, concocting reasons and excuses why my request went unanswered.  “She must be super busy.  I bet she’s on vacation.  Maybe King Kong has made a comeback, and has taken her hostage.”  And then as more time passed, my thoughts began to dissect the sincerity of the original email.  Will I ever be contacted if something opens up?  Did I really have a chance, or was I just being let down easy?

I left Boston a few hours after I got rejected.  I have to say, there some sort of poetic beauty in this whole thing: on my first day of vacation, I get invited to interview in New York, and immediately change all my plans, as well as start imagining what loft-style living would be like.  On my last day, my grandiose hopes and dreams were very neatly taken away from me, and I was free to board my homeward bound plane thinking, “Well, what’s next then?”

This show will teach you that fat people can be pretty on the outside, too.

What was next turned out to be a massive tw0-day marathon session of Drop Dead Diva (again, shut up).  I watched the full two seasons via dubious methods, meaning I gleefully enjoyed 74 minutes of video and had to wait 54 minutes before I could watch my next 74 minute session, and so on.  In other words, I watched 20 episodes in two days, spending almost as much time waiting for video as I did actually watching it.  Which is kind of sad.  I guess it was hitting me harder than I realized, and all I wanted to do was sit and contemplate the trials of being an attractive model who died and got sent back to life in a fat lawyer’s body (really).  It put my life in perspective.  And I thought I had problems.

I’ve yet to pick up my job hunt again.  It’s more that I’m busy being the de-facto nanny and personal assistant to my ridiculously large family.  But part of it is that I’m frustrated, exhausted, and a little resigned to my unhireablity (I think that’s the second word I’ve made up, meaning I’m the next ShakesPalin!), and have simply resigned myself to my fate of domesticity for the unforeseeable future.  Because I’m a right little ray of positivity like that.

One other thing:  If you’re going to get rejected, wouldn’t it be refreshing to have it done in spectacular fashion, Steven Slater style?  If you’re not going to hire me, I’d like to know starting from the subject of the email.  “Better Luck Next Time, Sucker” might be a good way to kick it off, or “Did You Honestly Think You Had A Chance?” or even just “HAHAHAHA!”  I’d also like to know why, because it at once eliminates any room for speculation while creating an opportunity for improvement.  Even if I had a craptastic interview and you hated me, lay out all my faults.  Consider it therapuetic.  I’ll be sure not to thank you.

Interviews Ahoy, Pt. 2: The Interview!

12 Aug

Last I left off in this story, I had just been invited come in for a two and a half hour interview with a non-profit that focuses on student achievement.  Four days, a couple traffic jams, and a half dozen interview outfit changes later, I was in Brooklyn, ready to take these Human Resources biyatches down in the most polite and professional way possible.

Let me cover what I took away from this interview experience:

1) When you’ve got a big ass interview coming up, you must prepare, prepare, prepare.  Knowing what you’ve written on your resume is not enough–you’ve got to practice for the questions HR is going to ask you.  I’d done the whole “run through practice interviews with your friends” bit–I even called up my alumni advisor at my college, and had her give me some tips as well.  However, I was worried because I knew I couldn’t articulate my organizational skills well, as evidenced by my failure to properly do so in previous phone calls.  Part of me thinks it’s a silly question: “Describe your organizational skills.” “Well, I do XY and Z.” “Tell me more.” “But I told you everything!” “Give me an example.” “…Um, I’m just super organized okay?” Regardless of how I feel, I still needed to answer it in a way that didn’t make me look like an incompetent mule.  I knew they were going to ask me this question, and I worried about my response.  So, I finally sat down and created an example of my project planning to bring in and show them. And when they asked about my organizational skills, all I had to do was say, “Well, I happen to have an example right here! Go on ahead and have a looksee.”  Check and mate.

2) There comes a point where you can only do so much preparing before it becomes counterproductive. The night before, my friend read out some interviewing tips, which were incredibly helpful, and I was scouring the web looking for relevant articles on education reform.  But once I thought about all the questions that could potentially be asked, all the articles I should probably read, I got overwhelmed.  Some say that brains can be like sponges; they soak up knowledge.  I like to think that is more like a teacup; perfectly functional, but you can’t overfill without making one big ol’ mess.  If I kept pouring info into my teacup brain, I was bound to spill some out in the process.  This was also my reason for why I very nearly failed high school chemistry.  Once I learned that a mole was a number and not an ass-ugly naked rat, I’d had my fill.  My point is, there’s only so much you can do, so you might as well stop worrying and be confident in your abilities.

3) That being said, you will be asked unexpected questions that you probably don’t have a ready answer for. I was asked “What’s the nicest thing you’ve ever done for a person?”  I blinked at my interviewer for a bit before I sputtered an answer.  Who dwells on their good deeds unless they’re a self-satisfied prick?  One of my interviewers was a major hardballer, and asked me questions that were couched in negativity.  He wanted to know what I was like when I was stressed, what part of this job didn’t excite me, what I considered to be my professional failures in my last job, and criticisms my last manager had about me.  Like, holy crap, right?  I know these are common, important questions to ask, but I’d been used to the happy-go-lucky “Why do you want to work here?” and “Describe a project that you lead.”  These other guys came out of a back alley, ready to shake me down and steal my lunch money.

I have a memory the size of Mischa Barton’s career, and tend to forget about tasks after I’ve completed them.  This was more than my teacup brain could handle.  What’s more, I’m a surprisingly laid back person.  When you’ve been vommed and crapped on as much as I have (I am the oldest of eight, you know), you tend to think that nothing could be more stressful than kids.  I honestly couldn’t answer those questions, and that’s the truth.  And when I did, I came up with a long-winded equivalent of a shrug and a “Beats me.”  And because I could tell he wasn’t satisfied, I volunteered one of my weaknesses.  I overcompensated by telling him what I thought was wrong with me.  *facepalm*

4) Caring about the field and the job you’re applying for allows you to show a genuine interest. This means you’ll ask well-informed questions.  There’s nothing more reassuring than hearing, “That’s a great question, I’m glad you asked.”  This will lead to a discussion about the organization and the field as a whole, which will make you feel warm and glowy and qualified for this position.  Hopefully the employer will be impressed by your rays of competency.

I left the interview feeling like it had gone okay.  There were some things I wish I had done better, like not make an embarrassing mistake on a task they assigned me, or think about my answers more before they tumbled out of me.  But overall, I learned three things: you’re nerves will get the best of you, you just have to deal; it’s not about what you say, but how you say it; and the interview is supposed to test mutual fit, so don’t change yourself or your personality in order to better fit the ideal candidate profile. (That last one may be in defense of the mini-argument I had with the hardballer regarding positivity and workplace attitude.  I stood my ground, respectfully.)

I couldn’t wait to share the dirty deets of this experience with my friends, who were supposed to meet me in Brooklyn.  But I couldn’t, because Leslie and Alicia ended up in the uber conservative Orthodox Jewish part of Brooklyn, wondering where all the hipsters had gone, and I was in Clinton Hill, needing pizza and a comfy chair. Two and a half hours is a long time to be grilled, you know.

Long story short, we didn’t meet in Brooklyn, and it took me two hours to get back to my friends and share my interview story.  (Imagine me, sweating through a borrowed button-up, a subway map crumpled in my fist, resigned to walk the four miles to Manhattan.  NOT pretty.)  When we reunited at a pizza parlor, I was too grumpy to give them much satisfaction beyond, “Meh, it went okay.  I don’t think I did too well on this part.”  So to them, I apologize for being such a Grumpy McFart Pants.  You guys were so much nicer to me than I was to you!

Now that I was off my feet and full of greasy yum yums, there was nothing left to do except lounge in the A/C and wait.  I’d be notified of my status within the week.

Coming up: the thrilling conclusion to Interviews Ahoy!  Did I or did I not land the job?  How much longer can I possibly draw this out?  Answer: A lot.

Interviews Ahoy, Pt. 1

5 Aug

July 22nd should have been the start of an eight day vacation.

July 22nd should have been a day of travel, marked by excitement at the prospect of seeing my friends.

July 22nd should have been a pretty unremarkable day.

Instead, July 22nd was a day that was at once nerve-wracking and thrilling, buzzing with uncontainable anxious energy.

I was heading to Boston to visit with friends, and my mother drove me to Tampa International with plenty of time to spare.  Unless you want to visit the gift shop or eat at Quizno’s, there’s not much to do at airports, even if you do have time to kill.  Besides, the novelty key chain and the sandwich are both likely to be of questionable quality and covered in fecal matter, so you’re doing your immunity system a solid by avoiding them altogether.  I’ve learned to rely on my wireless devices for constant bombardment of stimulation amusement.  Since Tampa is one of those awesome airports that offers free wifi (seriously Philadelphia, it’s not 2004), I powered up my ancient IBM and got an email that changed the entire purpose of my trip to New England.

For the past few weeks, I’d been interviewing with a New York based non-profit.  10 minutes before I was due to board, an email to this effect popped up in my inbox.  “Dear Sarah,” it said, “Haaaay!  You know how you were planning on relaxing and hanging out with your besties?  Well, not anymore, because  WE’RE INVITING YOU TO AN INTERVIEW.  It’s not a real interview, just a phone interview.  But this time it’s with the VP of Recruitment, so you know it’s legit.  Are you free to talk, like, tomorrow, by the way?  Because that’d be cool.  Anyway, good luck trying to think about anything else besides this–go ahead and let the possibilities consume you! TTYL!”

"I CUT YOU."

This was great news, but I was determined to make it even greater.  I was going to supersize it.  As a character on a show I’m too ashamed to name here** once advised, I had to grab life by the disco balls.  So, with shiny disco balls in hand, I emailed back and said that I would be “in the area” (a distance of 190 miles qualifies as being in the area, right?) and would appreciate the chance to drop in and meet the team in person.  Bam, greatness supersized: whaddup, I just asked for an in-person interview.  Now all they had to do was email me back praising my incredible ingenious and take advantage of my thoughtful offer, or even better, hire me on the spot (shh, don’t strip me of my dreams).

With the email sent and myself safely herded into economy seating, there was nothing left to do but wait. And ohmahgahhh waiting is so hard!  I’m the kind of person who sends an email, and then refreshes her inbox immediately afterwards, “just in case.”  This OCD tick needed an outlet, so I decided to fill my time by creating fantasies of life in New York.  I tried drawing on my memories of the city when I went with my high school senior class.  We stayed in New Jersey and we didn’t do much in New York except ride a bus with a lady who pointed at things.  Then we saw the Medieval Knights show, which was also in New Jersey.  I don’t think this trip really counts, and I definitely don’t know anything about the Big Apple.  For all I know, New York is now teeming with rats and shank-happy hobos, or maybe even hobos who’ll shank you with rats.  Also, is it even cool to call it the Big Apple?  These strike me as important things to know.

Dreaming about life in the big city, shank-free or otherwise, was not enough to get me through 10 hours of travel.  There are only so many permutations of the murderous hobo/rat combination that one can imagine, and I had terrified myself with them all.  My inability to check my email made me edgy–had the VP accepted my thinly veiled plea for an in-person interview? Would I be spending the week in Boston, or New York?  LIFE EVENTS, WHAT WILL THEY BE??

When I landed in Philadelphia, I called my mother and had her check my email for me.  And because I don’t trust my mother’s technological prowess at all, I then called my friend Diana and had her do the same.  The results were the same in both cases; nothing!  However, Diana proved to be n suitable distraction, and happily coached me through potential questions that they were sure to ask me in my currently-nonexistent-but-sure-to-happen interview.  “Don’t say that, you kind of sound like an idiot.”  I didn’t mind hearing that, because that meant there are times when I don’t sound like an idiot.  This was surprising to me, but I learned how to speak to the smartiest of my smartness, which was good and killed two hours.  Thanks Diana!

When I finally landed in Boston, I went to bed thinking that I was probably going to be sleeping in the same lovely bed at my friend’s house.  Again, reality was shattered the next morning when I checked my mail and saw that the VP wanted to call me later that afternoon.  No mention had been made of my totally brillz proposal, but whatever, I wasn’t going to disagree, right?

I passed through the phone interview, and the VP immediately informed me that she would like to see me in New York on Wednesday morning. This was to be my fourth round interview for an assistant position.  Who knew it be so damn hard to land a job that pays shit?  (EDIT: That isn’t to say there’s anything wrong with being paid shit.  I want to be paid shit if it means I’d be working for a cause, and fully welcome a meager paycheck.  I just never imagined that it would need six interview stages to land that.)

Regardless, I was thrilled to be going to New York.  I was that much closer to my future, even if it did mean getting shanked by giant hobo-eating rats. If that’s what it takes, man.

Next up: July 28th–The Interview

**Drop Dead Diva, on Lifetime.  Shut up.

Bad Interviews: We’ve All Had One

28 Apr

As I was gearing up for a phone interview this morning,  I took a moment to reflect on my past interview mistakes.  When you’re applying to a competitive job, employers can afford to be choosy, and one wrong question or a couple too many “ummms” can rule you out as a prime candidate.  These missteps have definitely cost me at least a second round interview, if not a job offer.

  • I have the weirdest nervous twitch. I like to rip things into a million tiny symmetrical squares, and then play with the confetti I just made, like I’m in my own little birthday party.  I have enough sense to know that I can’t tear up my interviewer’s office, but this twitch morphs into me playing incessantly with my pen. I’ll doodle, I’ll click, I may tap the manic rhythm of Everytime We Touch.  All these things help hone my focus, but I’m fairly certain it makes my interviewer want to commit a gruesome, bloody homicide.
  • I can’t shut up.  I’ll get asked a question, and my mouth goes like a runaway train.  My brain, through its anxious side commentary, tries to temper my response, but it rarely works.  “You’ve said that already.  You can probably shut up now, I think you answered the question, although I don’t think you know what it is anymore.  Oh look, rhinos just went extinct.  I think that’s a sign you can stop.”
  • I’ve never understood that you’re supposed to ask questions too. It shows that you’re genuinely interested in the job as a career choice, and not as something to do for eight hours a day.  My interviewers were constantly asking me if I had any questions, and I thought it was impressive that I understood everything they just explained the first time.  One time though, I was interviewed by an alum, and she kept pressing it, probably because she had my best interests at heart.  So I asked about the one thing I really I wanted answered: salary and benefits.  During the first screening interview.  Facepalm.

I have a couple more, but with every blog post, I seem to lose a couple shreds of precious dignity.  Please, let me be a cautionary tale, so I at least know I’m not sharing my failures for nothing.

I do take solace in the fact that at one time or another, everyone has committed some kind of interview faux-pax.  For example, I’m sure someone has gone to an interview wearing only underpants.  Find yours at The Oatmeal’s 10 Types of Crappy Interviewees.

Out of state interviews: why I may never get a job

21 Mar

This plane is bigger than New Jersey

I had to pull out of two interviews in New York City yesterday.  Why?  Because I don’ have $400 to blow on a plane ticket so I could sit through 90 minutes of “How do you work under pressure?” and “Describe yourself in three words” just to receive a “Thanks, but no thanks.”

Let’s break this down even further: A) It’s money I just don’t have B) Why would I spend nonexistent money on a job that has no guarantee of hiring me?  C)  If I’m so hellbent on spending imaginary money, I could play online poker.  Or the stock market. Whatever.  D) These jobs weren’t toe-curling exciting.  If jobs were pastries, these two were more of a bran muffin, and I’m looking for a chocolate eclair.  If I’m going to travel 1200 miles, why shouldn’t I aim for the eclair from the start, rather than settle for boring bran?

Being broke blows harder than watching daytime TV, like the View (Elizabeth, no one cares about your stupid fashion line, so STFU; Sherri, you somehow think the world is flat but they let you on TV anyway; Joy…we cool).  Being broke blows harder than watching commercials that air during daytime TV, because they know that you’re unemployed and that you’re either doing one of three things 1) looking for new ways to clean your house 2) dying, so you need new prescription meds 3) looking for a cheap degree so you can get a job (No thanks, University of Phoenix, I’m all set. But I’ll call you in a couple months if this Religion degree is really as useless as the skeptical masses are telling me.)

But really, being flatout broke just flatout blows.  Because on top of this crap economy and the increased competition new graduates face, opportunities become increasingly inaccessible to you if you can’t fulfill basic requirements like an in-person interview.  The key to getting a job is to cast a wide net and see what you reel back in.  When you have money concerns, your fishing net shrinks exponentially.

So, what should a person like me do?  Should I only apply to local jobs until I can afford to interview out of state?  Should I only apply to those jobs that I would definitely take if granted an interview?  My parents said they could spring me the money for the ticket, but they couldn’t do it every single time, which is why I feel compelled to spend this “gift” on a sure thing.  These are all questions that have to be answered before I can effectively move forward in my search, proving that there are more tough choices than I thought when it comes to landing that perfect first job, though I’m starting to think that it may not exist (huzzah wisdom!).