Tomorrow I am interviewing people for our most recent coop position. When talking about the whole process of interviewing with some friends led to a discussion of ‘worst interview stories’ (as the interviewee).
I must admit I don’t mind such a competition as I hold a pretty strong hand. Because you see, the tree in the picture above? Fell on my house and car in the wee hours before I had an early morning interview. BOOM.
Admittedly, being trapped in your house due to a tree blocking all exits, the cop on the bullhorn yelling to stay in your house because of live downed power lines, and my poor flattened car … all of those are pretty good reasons to be a complete ball of stress, and a good reason to miss an interview.
But I ended up still doing the interview, just virtually (on my rapidly dying cellphone, walking them through wireframes they couldn’t see, huddled near the brightest window I could find). She who gets it done, right?
And I got the job.
It’s a good story. In this type of competition it’s usually a winning story. It’s also a lie.
Not the fact that it happened, not at all. My house and my car and my wallet all wish it hadn’t, trust me.
But it’s not really my worst interview story. Because yes, it was a horrible and crappy day and I was a ball of stress … but I won in the end, and it makes me look good. It even gets trotted out when my boss likes to give stories of how she knew she wanted to hire me. Perseverance is a useful skill, after all.
No, my worst interview story comes when I was on vacation, and I got an email from a friend saying a job had come up with the perfect job title at a place that I had quite honestly wanted to work at for a long time. Glee! I had limited internet so only had time to skim the job posting & figure out how to update a resume & submit it from your ancient cellphone on crappy pub wifi.
And I got an interview, for just a few days after I made it back home. Success! I could enjoy the rest of my vacation in celebration.
The night before, I went back and actually read the job description. And … it didn’t match 100% what I thought it was. In fact it sounded eerily familiar. But surely that was just pre-interview jitters, right?
Wrong. Turned out that it was a new job title for an old position that had led me and the person who sent it to me astray – and one that was not actually what I wanted to do. Right place, wrong job. A fact that I only figured out when actually being interviewed.
BOOM. You think the tree falling on our house was loud? The one that fell in the back of my brain was in many ways worse.
I honestly cannot remember most of the rest of the interview. I do remember babbling something about the location of their office being great because of how close to home it was, and other things unrelated, as my brain tried to regroup and failed miserably.
My own fault – my excitement and my lack of preparation. I messed up, and ended up paying for it.
Trees are one thing. Physical barriers are things that suck, but they’re easier to explain away. They’re definitely easier to flip into a good story – even if I hadn’t made it to that interview, explaining ‘I can’t do it because there’s a tree on my house’ is easier and feels more acceptable than explaining ‘I can’t do it because I messed up’.
Internal is harder to deal with – and harder to let go of mentally. The lesson is understanding that it happens and letting go at the same time as learning from it.
Hopefully one those coop students are able to learn quickly.
Also published on Medium.