Friday, 26 July 2013

Tell me about yourself.

So, job interviews.

I’ve had a couple of these recently, because I’ve been sending out my CV left right and centre looking for internships. I’ve always had mixed feelings about interviews. On the one hand, I feel I interview quite well. On the other, I sometimes get a bit nervous, causing me to ramble a bit until I realise what I’m saying and dear god, did I really just say that? If I was going to say that, I shouldn’t have bothered turning up.

Saying that, I’ve seen bad interview etiquette on the other side. For example, after I sent my CV to a small company for a work experience or internship opportunity, I was invited to have ‘a chat’ recently. Let’s remember that internships and work experience come under the more relaxed end of employment opportunities, and ‘chat’ just screams casual. The way I saw it, they may as well have asked me to ‘hang out’. Message received: this is definitely not a job interview.  So I turn up to the offices in a fairly smart dress but sans blazer because a) I was melting and b) this wasn’t a job interview, to a proper job interview for a proper job, across a huge desk in a meeting room and with not one but TWO people, making notes and everything. Didn’t know what I was interviewing for. Still don’t know really.

The lead interviewer just wasn’t the friendliest chap really, although he did compliment my writing. He did seem like he was trying to be a bit intimidating. It was his company (a very small outfit, only four of them working there) and he was both fiercely protective over who he threw his hard earned money at (rightly so), and a little bit defensive about the size of the company. It was like short man syndrome.

We did disagree a bit when discussing social media, however, the conversation did start with him leaning forwards over the desk towards me slightly, widening his eyes, to tell me very emphatically ‘we do check people’s Twitters, you know.’ Great! I don’t hide my Twitter because there’s nothing to be ashamed of on there. Later on we had a bit of a debate about swearing on social media. Basically he hates it, I’ve got nothing against it. I asked him if he uses Twitter. ‘No, can’t stand it. Don’t really get it.’ Oh.

We’d obviously both decided before the interview was through that I wasn’t going to be working there. If they’d asked me back I would have had to say no. I’ve never felt good about being rejected before, I didn’t know it was possible, so at least I got something out of the experience.

Good interviews are great though. I had a couple of cracking interviews recently with a multi-national advertising agency. I knew exactly what I was interviewing for, who with, what I needed to prepare. The interviewers were lovely. They wanted us to get to know each other, instead of just firing questions at me across a table. In my telephone interview the lead interviewer offered me some advice after discussing salaries.

‘Okay, off the record and away from the interview for a moment, I’m going to tell you that you should never undersell yourself, Emma. Now again, what salary are you looking for?’

In my final interview the Managing Partner again offered me some advice.

‘You don’t need to talk yourself down. I shouldn’t tell you this – please remember this in no way reflects on the outcome of the interview – but you are very very good. You know what you are talking about and you are our kind of person.’

In terms of my performance though, I always prepare but nervousness can be an issue (if I have a genuine interest in the job). I either talk myself down or say something ridiculous. Last year I had a group interview for an IT sales company (ugh) Down South. We had to present to the group (all twenty-odd of them, plus the three interviewers), talking for 2 minutes about why we’d be good at the role. My suspicions had already been confirmed that I didn’t want the job but even so, presenting to the group wasn’t something I fancied. As we moved around the room to me I gradually got more and more nervous. My palms were sweaty and my mouth was dry and reading over my notes just wasn’t helping.

When I stood up, my legs were shaking. I hoped they didn’t notice. When I spoke, my voice was a little hurried, but it was okay. I sounded good!

‘Hello! I’m Emma, I’m from Manchester, and I just graduated from Lancaster University with a 2:1 in English Literature. I don’t know how I managed it really, ‘cause I pretty much spent the entirety of the three years partying…’

Oh, fuck.

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