My assignment today: shoot “home.”

©Beret Olsen 2014
©2014 Beret Olsen

I was desperate to avoid a Hallmark moment, so I turned my camera lens toward the ugliest place I could think of–my sink full of dirty dishes.

I started photographing the surface bubbles in a pan full of oil and water, switching eventually to manual focus. Suddenly, it was possible to see the dying daisies in the window reflected and refracted in the bubbles. Despite my best efforts, then, I was overcome by my own homemade Hallmark moment. Taking a breath, looking slowly and deeply into the bottom of this messy life barrel, I found something of wonder.

Turning the Tables

Note to self: DON'T DO IT! from http://champperformance.com/the-art-of-behavioral-interviewing-and-why-it-works/
Note to self: DON’T YOU DARE! from http://champperformance.com/the-art-of-behavioral-interviewing-and-why-it-works/

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.