I may be the world’s worst interviewee. This is not false modesty. I have always gotten good grades, good evaluations, and organized an attractive little resume. On paper I look pretty decent.
I manage to shower and dress professionally, too, but the moment I open my mouth, one would indeed be lucky to discover a point buried beneath my anxious blathering.
The single most detrimental piece of interviewing advice I ever received–unfortunately delivered on the eve of an interview for a ridiculously prestigious scholarship–was “just be yourself.”
Little did they know who I might be in the hot seat. Characteristics that might be beneficial or noteworthy in other circumstances–honesty, for example–are definitely a detriment for people like me during interviews.
The next day I heard myself confessing all kinds of unnecessary information, such as “I know I mentioned Pierre Bourdieu’s work in my essays, but I won’t pretend that I understood it–or even finished the book.” And, “I have no idea what I would do in your hypothetical scenario; I’ll just hope that situation never arises.” When I returned home from that train wreck, I must have cried on and off for a couple of weeks.
Despite the time that has elapsed since, other interview bombs continue to haunt, as well. “If your name were in the dictionary, what would the definition be?” I was asked once. I repressed most of what followed, but I’m pretty sure I kicked off my five minute answer with “occasionally loses things.” Honest people should never, ever answer a question like that. Take note, I now believe that interviewers should never, ever ask stupid questions like that, either.
Today, for the very first time, the tables were turned. I was so excited! There I was, asking the questions and evaluating the responses. I thought it would feel so empowering.
Nope. The woman was so eloquent and self-assured, so on-point and clear-headed, I found myself wondering how in the world I ever landed a job.