“So what was your first ever proper career-related interview like? I bet it was breeze for you, it’s much harder for us today, isn’t it?”
Heavy sigh, Kim. Let me tell you a story - I still remember the first ever 'real' job interview I attended. By that, I mean the first job I tried for, that was a crucial step along the road toward a career. It was for a six month work placement, part way through my four year thin-sandwich degree. It was a nightmare.
I still cringe with deep embarrassment every time I think about that interview. I tried my very best but every second was excruciating. I staggered blindly forward through the unexpected questions. I blundered from appalling answer to embarrassing mistake and back to appalling answer. Figuratively speaking, they tore up the furniture and beat me senseless with it. I was reamed, steamed and dry-cleaned. Needless to say, I didn't get the job.
What made it all considerably worse was that I was the only candidate. I had no competition. All I had to do was turn up and it should have been job done. Instead I was left thinking my career was over and wondering where the nearest A&E department was so that I could get treatment for my wounds.
It wasn't that I was stupid or had inappropriate skills for the job. It was simply that I had absolutely no idea what I was walking into. It was the first properly structured interview I had ever attended. No-one had prepared me for what to expect (why should they?) and so consequently, I'd made no preparations.
“Go and have a chat with these people,” my tutor said. “They’re quite nice.”
Were they hell. They were monsters.
I was slaughtered. I was cut to ribbons, one piece at a time. Dr Mengele, eat your heart out. By the end of the interview, you could have redecorated the inside of the Titanic with the amount of blood up the walls. It was the longest hour of my life and, just like the Titanic, I sank without trace. I distinctly remember wondering at one stage if I should just run for the door.
I finally staggered away, not at all sure I wasn’t going to throw up in the street. I somehow made it back to my flat and I confess, dear reader – I took to the bottle, like a man with a one way ticket to oblivion.
Through the haze of Guinness and Southern Comfort supplied by The General Wolfe, and with a complete lack of support from all of my friends who took the piss mercilessly, I swore that never again would I ever attend an interview, or even a meeting for that matter, without preparing myself totally beforehand.
I would research and I would plan and I would rehearse and I would do that until the bone showed through my fingertips and the smoke curled from my burned-out eye sockets. I would then be certain there was no question on earth that I could not slay.
It really cut that deep.
Looking back, it was probably the most valuable hour of my life. I just wish I could have watched some other poor wretch live through it instead of me.
Eventually, I rose from the dead – reborn into a different world. A world where I would be victorious. I pushed aside the empty cans and bottles and began the slow process of coughing up the thousand ciggies I’d just smoked. I finally plucked up the courage to face my tutor.
“I gather it didn’t go that well,” he said.
No shit, I thought, still nursing the cuts and bruises.
“Nah. Their interview technique was really poor. They jumped all over the place and never gave me a chance to show my best. I just couldn’t get a grip on it. Have you got another?”
And that was it. I dusted myself down, picked up a knife and slipped back into the jungle. The people I was up against next never knew what hit them and I landed a great job for my six months of work experience. Much better than the other one would have been, in fact, proving Nietzsche right in his assertion that what doesn’t kill you will make you stronger.
So what next for you? Well, if I can do it, you can do it. In fact, you can probably do it better than me. You’re younger, you’re fitter and you’re undoubtedly more together than I ever was but just don’t get in my way because, on the other hand, figuratively speaking, I do know how to kill people, very efficiently.
Whether you’ve got a first or a fail, you can do it. If all you’ve got is one GCSE in Home Ec and even that’s only an ‘E’, it doesn’t matter, you can do it. Whether you’re black, white, brown, yellow or ginger it makes no difference, you can still do it. Born with three nipples, a third eye or the mark of the beast – it makes absolutely no difference, you can still do it.
Do what? Well, learn to slay the opposition, of course. Silently, ruthlessly, remorselessly, until you win that job.
The above is an extract from my book – “Winning That Job: A kill or be-killed guide to job-search and interview preparation” and you can pick up a copy here on Amazon >>>
By telling the above story, I hope to save you the pain I had to suffer or at least give you the confidence to know that, no matter how bad your interview may have been “Tomorrow’s another day!”.
Good luck with it.
Keywords: job interview, career, skills, practice, mock interview, CV, application