Monday, 26 March 2012

I don't interview well

I attended an interview today. It wasn't for a job. It was for a magazine which compiles a list of the UK's top 100 Black university students. I'm not one for these awards normally, except y'kno it is nice to know someone notices your hard work and at the mo, the way things are going I could really do with positive energy. I have a few friends who have been recognised in previous editions of the magazine and I've found the aim of being featured has kept me on my toes in terms of not settling into solely academic work. 

Problem is - as you may have guessed from the post title - I do not interview well, for a number of reasons. First, interviews require you to big yourself up. Basically the summary of your whole interview experience should be "I'm amazing because... I've done this, that, this, that and the other whilst also doing ABC, HIJ, LMNOP and inspiring little Jack XYZ to become this, oh and did I mention the Queen is now my best friend, following me saving one of her corgies during a conference in which I found world peace." That's not me. I've had many a person introduce me to many another person and say I've done great things in my life and then second person would ask for an elaboration on the appraisal and I would respond jokingly "I've paid them to say that, really, I'm not that impressive, I've not done much". Selling yourself short and being modest is separated by the thinnest and blurriest of lines. I think I often find myself on the side of the former. But the sole purpose of an interview is to ditch the modesty and convince someone that you're better than what you are. Hurdle number 1, ran into.

Second hurdle, when is an interview formal and when is it informal? I was worried about the interview today. I was preparing myself for a panel of people, each picking out things from my application form and asking more about it - choosing what they found interesting (or even what they didn't find interesting but wanted to ask me about to determine why I thought it would be interesting) and really establishing who I am in the context of what I've already told them. Then I met these guys downstairs on my way up and told them I was a bit nervous as to the atmosphere of the interview. They reassured me, "it's not bad, it's just a conversation about who you are." Phew! crack a few jokes, add in a few accomplishments = give you a nice well rounded opinion of Charlene Bello. Alas, no panel (just a single interviewer) - ok, probably better. I can build a rapport with my interviewer. 
"Think personality, think personality, think personality. Oh crap the interviewer has a stern face and didn't find that little joke thing funny, ok pull it back. Second question, do I try to make the interviewer chuckle? No. just impress her with your experience. Hmmm ok, she's noting everything but she doesn't look impressed, ok informal failed, formal looks to be failing, back to informal? Will that work?" 

In an interview I'm thinking just as much about the interviewer's face (posture, how many times they look at me, if they smile) as I am about my answers. I'm guessing that's standard with everyone, but I dunno, with me, it becomes a distraction. These two combined can spell disaster, as I believed it did today. I might not be able to articulate why I'd make a good leader in the future, but I'm pretty sure I will be no matter what.

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