It has been over 25 years since I have had a job interview. I was one of the fortunate people who was hired right out of university into an organization and profession I was able to enjoy for over a quarter century. One of my main functions for many of those years was recruitment; it was also one of my favourite portfolios. I loved the opportunity to match talented individuals with just the right position. I always tried to make committee interviews as comfortable as possible so each person could demonstrate his or her best self and determine if this job was the right fit from their perspective as well as ours.
I consider myself a very seasoned interviewer; however, I can’t say the same about my experience as an interviewee. While I had the opportunity to work in different areas of Human Resources during my career, I evolved into those roles without ever having to be on the other side of the table in an interview situation. During the last year and a half, I have been focused full-time on completing my M.Ed. and so it has only been in the last few months, as I finish my final course, that the prospect of being an interviewee entered my thoughts.
Engaging in a job search after such a long time in one career at one organization has been a new challenge. Some days I a filled with the excitement of all the possibilities; others I wonder whether my age is an advantage or a drawback. Fortunately, I have had the opportunity to work with a wonderful job coach who has helped me to discover the type of work that gives me energy by playing to my strengths and passions. This exploration has allowed me to consider work that is outside what I would have previously considered myself qualified to undertake.
All this preparation did not make me any less nervous as I prepared for my very first interview. While I am generally a confident and outgoing person, I worried about how I would perform in the hot seat. Despite my years of experience in recruitment, I turned to the internet to see what the latest articles suggested regarding how to prepare for an interview. Interestingly, google completed my search with “how to prepare for an… earthquake”; I’m assuming both are equally as nerve-wracking.
Not surprisingly, the information contained in the various commentaries were mostly not new to me: research the organization; anticipate potential questions; review your resume; plan what to wear… Yikes, for the better part of the last 18 months I had lived in my jeans-and-tshirt student uniform. Fortunately for me, previously-working Susan had the foresight to buy suit pants with an elastic-waist that still fit present-day larger-sized Susan, saving me the agony of having to go shopping.
On the day of the interview, I arrived early, and waited in the reception area. Understandably anxious, I decided to use information from a TedTalk by Amy Cuddy to enhance my confidence with a two minute power pose while I waited. I used the “Wonder Woman” which has been shown to increase testosterone and decrease cortisol in stressful situations. I tried to disguise my posture by looking at the decorations on the wall as I stood feet apart, hands on my hips, not wanting to be “caught” in the moment.
The interview itself, I am relieved to say, was a very positive experience. The panel was friendly and we engaged in a conversation rather than The Spanish Inquisition that I had feared. I left the meeting feeling like I had been able to present my best self. As well, I felt I had learned enough about the organization know I would be comfortable in the environment should I be selected for the job.
In the end, another candidate was selected for this position. While I was disappointed, I did not have any regrets about the experience. I was thankful to have had such a positive return to the world of interviews, and confident that I will find the right opportunity for me in the not-too-distant future.
For those of you who may be also be engaging in a job search, I wanted to give you a few tips that I didn’t find in the hundreds of articles on how to prepare for an interview:
- Take the time to discover who you are and what you love before you strike out on your job search; we spend a lot of our lives at work and we are both happiest and most productive when we are able to play to our strengths and do something that gives us meaning and purpose;
- Think about not just what you have done before, but the transferable nature of your skills and experiences from all areas of your life: work, home, and community activities all count
- Remember that the interview is a two-way dialogue and that you want to learn enough to assess whether the job is a fit for you as much as the interviewers want to make their determinations;
- Be your authentic self in the interview; the person who is hired is the person who needs to show up every day to work and, while it may be easy to put on a different persona for an hour, it is draining to have to put on that mask every day to go to work;
- Let it go; second guessing your answers and beating yourself up about what you did or did not say after an interview is a recipe for unhappiness so, instead, give yourself credit for having the courage to put yourself out there and celebrate this accomplishment.
- Finally, check out social psychologist Amy Cuddy’s TedTalk about the impact of power poses(http://www.ted.com/talks/amy_cuddy_your_body_language_shapes_who_you_are); it costs absolutely nothing to try it and it may just help you get over the jitters and present your best self!
Next up: Trying my hand at facilitation