I had a job interview this morning.
It was my first interview for two years – in fact, since I got the job I’m in now – and I was determined to nail it.
The interview was for a job on the same level as my current job, but in another team, so a lot of what I do now would be transferable, but there would be enough new things there to keep me interested. Even the structure of how the team works sounds similar to my current team.
I did my research on the team and what they do. I put together clever answers to questions I expected them to ask. I did talk-out-loud preparation last night so I’d tested my ability to put sentences together under pressure. I listened to my upbeat and powerful playlist all morning.
Interview starts and everything’s fine. They start straight away with some general questions and I’m answering them competently. I’m good, I’m clever, I’ve got this.
Ten minutes in, I’m warmed up, I’m ready, now they will ask the questions I have prepared for.
They didn’t ask those questions.
They asked some other questions.
So instead of confidently putting forth the answers I had prepared, I had to scrabble to find an answer. And although it was probably only a few seconds, I felt sweat start creeping, I felt my heart rate increasing. I felt my neurons spinning around my brain to pull together an answer.
And in those few seconds, a little voice started up in the back of my mind, saying, “You haven’t prepared well enough.”
It’s amazing how fast that negative internal voice kicked in, as though it was just waiting there behind my ear for its opportunity to say “Aha! See? You can’t do this. Why try and change? Why not just stay where you are and not try anything new.”
So now I am answering the unexpected questions in a way that shows me to be clever and together and a desirable employee, but in another part of my brain I am telling this voice to shut up and trying to stop the feeling of “…and this is where you lost it,” that is creeping in from the margins.
It’s like I’m trying to fight a fire while eating dinner in a fancy restaurant.
I feel like a duck swimming against a current, maintaining (I hope) a calm appearance on top but legs paddling like mad underneath as I try to stay static against the waves of these unexpected questions that threaten to sweep me away.
In the last 10 minutes of the interview, I am feeling stretched tight and hoping I don’t seem hysterical or needy, while the little voice is now giving body language instructions: “Am I leaning too far forward? Stop that. Lean back. But sit up straight. EYE CONTACT! EYE CONTACT!”
I am convinced I am exuding a pheromone cloud of failure that is filling up the room.
One of the interviewers has to leave for another meeting and the one who remains is looking at his watch. It could be this person has a meeting to go to as well. I only had 30 minutes of their time. But now it’s my turn to ask questions.
I’m aware now the interviewer wants to leave but I want to ask my questions.
I had five or six on my list but I limit myself to three. The answers are short and now we’re standing up to leave.
I feel exhausted.
The interviewer then makes one last comment about the job status that makes me realise I may not want to take this job even if it’s offered.