Having worked for a total of 5 companies in over 8 years, I had my share of judging and profiling applicants by the way they answer questions, as well as being in the opposite end of the table trying to impress a potential employer. Some of those interviews became defining moments in my career, and I have a few more added just recently.
Two months ago, I started entertaining job interviews again. Why I resigned from my previous job, and why a full-time, work-at-home setup didn’t work for me this time is a story for another post. For now let’s just say, I’m thankful for this recent set of job interviews, if only for the opportunity to poke into my heart again and surprise myself with my very own answers.
Applicants come to job interviews thinking that they’re at the mercy of the one asking them questions. The truth is, job interviews are both for the benefit of company hiring and the person applying. For applicants, it’s our glimpse into the company and the position we’re applying for, a chance to see for ourselves if the job is really for us.
In one of my recent job interviews, I was asked:
Q: “So what are you doing in this industry?”
The question came like an afterthought. We were already wrapping up an hour-long interview when the CEO of this company I was applying to noticed in my resume that I graduated with a degree in Communication Research. It’s not really an unusual question. In fact, it’s not the first time someone asked me to explain the connection between the course I took in college and the career path I chose.
It was how I answered this particular question that surprised me.
A: “Oh, I wanted to be a writer.”
For the next 30 seconds I blabbered about how, fresh out of college, I was really looking for a writing job, and I accidentally ended up in the online marketing industry as a Web Copywriter. I went on saying other unnecessary things, like how I love writing content for my clients’ websites more than anything, and how writing has always been what I’ve wanted to do. It’s probably in those last 30 seconds that I lost my shot at that job. Who in his right mind would hire someone who just professed she wanted to be a writer when she’s shortlisted for an “SEO Director” role? I figure they’re looking for someone who’s experienced in mobilizing people and coming up with solid marketing strategies. Or someone who loves looking at spreadsheets and counting costs.
And me, well, I was the applicant who wanted to be a writer.
The guy shook my hand, thanked me for my time, and sent me off right after that last question. I never got a follow up call nor a rejection letter from that company. I didn’t even follow up my application myself. But that’s okay. I came out of that building knowing that the job was not for me. How did I know it wasn’t for me? I knew it from the way the CEO asked questions. (Hey, companies are not the only ones who get to assess applicants, applicants assess them too!)
The whole time we were sitting across each other, he was implying to me that the job was demanding, the requirements toxic, the hours long, the schedule shifting. And, the ultimate turn off, that it didn’t involve any writing. Except maybe writing memos, or writing business proposals. The job just didn’t fit in this new life that I have. It didn’t.. excite me.
Still jobless, I spent the next couple of days trying to process the answer I blurted out in that job interview.
Like I said, I surprise myself sometimes. Sure, I’ve always wondered if writing was for me, or if I could really consider myself a writer. But I can’t remember a time I declared or even thought about wanting to be a writer.
I realized that to accidentally be something is different from actually wanting to be it.
Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks
I guess that’s one other thing I like about job interviews. You have to answer questions under pressure, and no matter how prepared you are (or how many times you’ve answered the very same questions), sometimes you still end up blabbering what’s really in your heart. Well, good for you! And good for the company you’re applying to. Because these days, it’s not enough that you just get a job, you’ve got to find that one job which makes your heart flutter. You’ve got to find that company who’s willing to hire you for your passion, your true calling.
Anything short of that is not good enough.
(To be continued.)