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"Job Interviews" - Chico Enterprise Record #outonalimb

20 years ago, I had a weekly column in the local daily paper. Reading through a column I wrote in May of 2000, I found some of my job interview insights to still have relevance.

I'm in my car, stopped behind some older gentleman in a van at an intersection waiting for the light to change. Nervously grabbing my much needed double latte, I almost spill it all over my most business-like outfit and my mind races at the thought of walking through the door of my interview with a giant amoeba-shaped coffee stain on my thigh. 

As the imaginary spilled coffee percolates through my polyester slacks, I look through my windshield and see, like in an Ally McBeal hallucination, bubbles flying through the air. One smacks on my windshield. The older gent ahead of me, in an attempt to cheerfully pass the time at an interminably long stop light has a bubble wand in hand and is decorating the air with kiddy iridescence.

Momentarily awed by his audacity, I forget my coffee and do spill a little on my car's very cluttered console. The light changes and I have to find an upright place to stash the rest of my latte before fumbling around with the gearshift to find first. As my wimpy yet oddly dependable Tercel peels through the intersection I wonder if I'll even make it to my job interview.

For the most part, I seem to be blessed with the ability to have a good interview. But I do have some annoying "tells." Subtle hints like stuttering over words and ever-darkening rings developing under my arms give away my anxiety to most attentive individuals. When walking through an office with a potential employer I often have a hard time finding a gait that matches theirs which usually leads to a weird contrived pace similar to a nervous bride's march down the aisle.

I guess what saves me from losing a prospective job is the fact I can laugh at my body's awkward attempts at being cool, and usually in a way my potential employer can appreciate.

"You seem to handle stress well," said one and, "Good. You have a sense of humor," another.

I guess those are compliments?

I used to think job interviews were all about letting people get a look at you and what you can do. Only recently did I figure out this goes both ways and if you don't feel like you could get along with the interviewer, you probably should look elsewhere. Not that any of us usually has the luxury of being that choosy but if a first impression of a place is bad, you're probably not going to find the job much better.

There isn't a specific way any interview should be held. A recent one I went to was incredibly casual and held over lunch. Since I love food, I thought this was a great idea, thinking it would feel less formal and knowing it would last long enough for me to convince the interviewer his business couldn't survive without me. You can tell it's been a while since I've had a first date, huh?

I ordered egg salad but as soon as it was placed in front of me I found I couldn't eat a bit for fear of getting it all over my face. There's simply no dignity in eating a sandwich that plops large bits of mayo and boiled egg on your plate. But since we were eating the same thing I knew we'd both make a mess so I went ahead and ate. Through our talking and eating I had a pretty good idea about the company and what would be expected of me. That's my kind of interview.

Others haven't been so manageable. I've done the panel interview with several people sitting at a table taking blasé notes about what I had to say and kicking me out before enough time had passed for me to make any kind of impression. Those are the kinds of interviews that send me to the freezer for a carton of chocolate ice cream.

I've also had the kind where I'm introduced around an office to uninterested personnel and shown numerous duties I'll be expected to perform, each seeming more foreign and anxiety-inducing. Those are the kinds that send me to the car whereupon I slam my foot down on the accelerator and drive away as fast as any law-abiding citizen can.

Thankfully, I was offered a job with the first company. I took it because I figured any interviewer who would eat egg salad in front of a potential employee probably doesn't have too many hang-ups about appearance. Which will be handy when I come in for my first day with a big coffee stain on my pants.

Originally published in the Chico Enterprise-Record, May 25, 2000.

© 2020 by Stephanie Bird.

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