Are you most interesting on paper, or in person? A few days ago, I struggled with this question when I exited a job interview. If the employer really and truly knew me, would they want the real person I am, or my one page, black-and-white history?
I fastened the final button on my peacoat and stepped out into the morning air of downtown Albany. I looked at the clock, 11:40. A forty minute interview seems like more than enough time to share who you are, but the fact is, it never ever is.
Before arriving at the interview, I thought this job would be a simple, easy resume builder and an excuse to leave my comfortable retail life. This changed when I realized I was too incompetent to use the intercom system to enter the quaint residence turned office building. A middle-aged secretary led me upstairs, and offered me water, coffee, or tea. Once they offer you coffee, you know it’s an adult job.
After several painstaking minutes of looking busy without using my iPhone, another woman greeted me and directed me down the stairs and into the conference room. Out of politeness, I chose to situate myself three seats down on the left side, despite every inclination to sit at the head of the table. Had they been watching for leadership qualities, I may have unfortunately misrepresented myself.
The chairs were all adorned with the non-profit company’s emblem. A gold, circular image that I couldn’t make out against the black matte paint. As three other interviewers filled in on the other side of the long, narrow black table of the unofficial state building across from the Capitol building, I realized the gravity of this position. All I could think was, good call on the black blazer.
I’ve never had a traumatic interview experience. In fact, most of my interviews go quite well, though I am very mild-mannered and shy around new people. Especially if I don’t know exactly what they are looking for in me. For me (and most other people in their early 20’s), selling myself professionally is difficult because I am fresh in the working scene. There’s something fundamentally artificial about the job interview process, on both sides of the table. My interviewers probably wanted to know if I’m competent, independent, can arrive on time, etc. Instead, of answering these questions, I’m subject to handling the inevitable, “What is the quality you need to improve?” question.
One of the interviewers read my cover letter and resume in front of me as another described the company and their mission to improve education and society. I uneasily crossed my right leg over my leg to ensure that no one could see my 1-inch tattoo. There are many aspects of myself that are taboo in job interviews, but have little to no effect on my talents, success, and ambition. Things you can’t include on a resume: Tattoos, exciting trips you’ve went on, your connections to other professionals and visionaries, your title as an official whiskey taste tester, or how much of an asset you are to your friends and family…. The older I get, the more easily I can write on an index card the features of strangers that I meet and admire. It’s only my oldest and longest friends that I will meet up with, spend hours and days with, and have absolutely no idea or interest in what they do professionally. This whole sell-yourself idea is what makes many people avoid the whole thing. “Why don’t you grow up?” Suddenly, I can come up with a few great reasons.
At the close of the interview, I was handed a business card to contact them in case I came up with any questions other than the minuscule one I had posed earlier. It was only then that I felt I let a bit of my true personality show. I commented on the beauty of the architecture of the building, specifically that I didn’t expect it to be as cozy. The interviewer proceeded to show me exactly how cozy the working quarters are by giving me a brief tour of the office. After some friendly banter, she walked me to the door and I felt that I made a better impression than I did during the initial Q&A.
But despite all of this interview awkwardness, I still want the job. Crossing my fingers for a call tomorrow!