I’ve heard that line what feels like countless times over the past month – both verbally or in a generic rejection email.
I lost my job recently, one that I’d held for the past five years. It happened quite suddenly, although I was planning on leaving anyway…just not until I had another gig lined up. That didn’t happen. Instead, I’ve applied for 36 different jobs and had eight interviews. Now, if you haven’t jobhunted for awhile, or have gotten lucky and been successfully able to jump straight from job to job, then you’re probably thinking “only eight interviews? So what?”. I probably would have thought the same thing six months ago.
I was so naive back then.
A job interview is mentally draining. Firstly, you get a phone interview (if you’re lucky). You spend twenty minutes trying to talk yourself up to some random on the other end of the phone, trying to sound confident but not arrogant, and trying to convince them (and usually, yourself) that you’d be fantastic at whatever job they’re calling about. Issue is, most of the time, you didn’t apply because it’s your dream job. You applied because, hey, they have money they might be willing to part with if you can play the part. Sometimes when they call you have to mentally track back as to why you even applied for the job at all (do I really want to sell DOORS? Is that even a job? How many people go door shopping?). Then you remember you were having a “low day” where you feel like you’ll never get a job again and applied for anything you believe you could remotely do, to hell with job enjoyment. Finally, the call is over and they tell you they’ll be in contact.
This is a good situation.
A bad situation is when they decide that phone interviews are soooo 1999, and decide instead to make you do a VIDEO INTERVIEW. Prior to this whole thing, I’d never even known this was a thing. What a wonderful happy place the world seemed when I didn’t know about these. Basically what they are is you, dressed up nicely, filming yourself, talking about yourself, in an empty room, addressing people you’ll never meet in the hope they’ll throw you a bone and call you in for an actual interview. They basically give you a link (usually to an app), a bunch of questions and a timeframe, and leave the rest up to you. It’s kind of like an audition tape for a role that will never pay you enough to warrant this nonsense. But even this isn’t the worst of it. There are two styles I’ve come across – the first is where you have time to answer the questions and redo your answers. Aka, they let you be professional in the video. Trust me, you need time to redo your answers. You stutter, you get tongue tied, you lose your train of thought, you say the wrong thing, you swear, you scratch your face. It happens. If you think filming yourself over and over for an hour trying to answer the same questions is bad, oh ho ho, you’d be wrong.
There are sickos out there who don’t allow for that.
I’ve only had to do it once this way (so far) but they basically fire a question at you, give you about 20 seconds to come up with an answer to it that doesn’t sound too pretentious, and then bam! you’re expected to look professional and jobworthy on camera while you answer and try not to get tongue tied. And just for good measure, they throw in a time limit on each answer too. Who doesn’t love a bit of pressure, right?!
Okay, so once one of those two scenarios play out, you then do some more waiting. Oh, the joy of checking your inbox 236 times a day in case an interview invitation might have crept it’s way in there without you noticing (you conveniently forget that your phone actually tells you when you get mail). No mail? Damn. Maybe I missed a call and my iPhone spazzed out. I’ll just check my call log. Nope. Domino’s is still the last call. (It was a “low day” – don’t judge me!).
Finally, you get a follow up call from one of the potential hirers. They always sound so optimistic, like you’re the top person on their list and they’re falling over themselves to hire you. Like the interview is just a formality that has to happen but if it were up to them, you’d get the job on the spot.
It’s a trap!
You probably aren’t top of their list. They’ve probably already made 10 phone calls exactly the same as this prior to you. Hell, they probably gave everyone a face-to-face interview that could string two words together. Or maybe they didn’t. Maybe they are actually falling over themselves to hire you. You just don’t know. The issue is, you’re so happy you’re finally getting a step closer to a job that you completely forget that you may not actually have a 99% chance at landing it if you put on a bit of make up and have a positive attitude.
This is the “high day”. The time after that phone call and before the interview. Especially if it’s for a job you actually may not want to bail on the second something better comes along. It’s the day you don’t order pizza, it’s the day you get off the couch and put on a bra and maybe even do some housework. Someone thinks I’m worthy of a face-to-face meeting! I’m one step away from employment! We’re on the home stretch!
So the day of the interview comes. Time to get yo profesh on. Nice clothes, make up, perfume, uncomfortable shoes. What is it with dressing up and wearing uncomfortable shoes? Put some extra jewellery on, brush your teeth extra well. Pretend like you haven’t been channel surfing for a week straight. Positive thoughts Jessa, you are a hard worker. They’d be crazy not to hire you. Speak clearly. You’ve got this in the bag. Don’t ramble.
You leave early, even though it’s the middle of the day. There might be traffic! There’s not. So you wind up sitting in your car, 20 minutes early, scrolling mindlessly through Facebook wishing your friends posted more interesting things and trying not to think that most of them aren’t posting because they are at work and you are basically trying to convince the world you’re worthy of joining that league once more.
Finally the time comes when it’s time to go in. You feel overdressed. Should have worn something less attention seeking. Everyone is looking at me. (Nobody is). Should have worn comfortable shoes. Nobody is gonna hire me if I walk like my legs are asleep. You approach the nearest staff member and mumble awkwardly you’re here for an interview. The staff member looks you up and down, then says “well, wait around, they’ll grab you when they’re ready”. So you wait. You don’t want to just stand there like an idiot, so you walk a little. Not too much though, you don’t want to look like you’re pacing. Keep moving though, you don’t want to look bored. In the end you probably look like both at once.
Finally, the interviewer arrives. Cue awkward introduction. You try to sound confident but it doesn’t come out that way.
Oh well already blew it might as well go home.
But no. You follow the interviewer to the meeting area and sit down. Here comes the stupid, open ended question that seems mandatory in every interview ever.
“So, tell me a bit about yourself?”
You’d think after eight times I’d have this down pat, but I never really know if I do. Do they want to know about my work history? Do they want to know about my general interests? Do they want to know about my day and what I ate for breakfast? Or are they simply asking it as a polite formality? Every interviewer seems to have a different take on this, from what I can gather, so I never know how to answer. In the end, I usually just go down the job history path. It seems safest, albeit the most dull.
Once the conversation starts the interview generally starts to run it’s course smoothly. I have quite a bit of valuable experience (that much I know is true) and the interviewers seem to be interested in it. Keyword: seem. This is when my confidence picks up and I talk (ramble) about back stories and tasks I’ve done and why I’d love to work for…what company is this again?
Finally, after a final – more confident – handshake, the interview is over. You walk away with your head held high. You not only survived it, but it seemed to go very well. You start to pick it apart on the way home – the interviewer said “we’ll be in contact by Monday”, that’s gotta be a good sign, right? They talked a lot about that one story you shared about how you helped that guy out, that must mean I’ve won them over, surely? In your head, you’re picturing the next five years of your life at the company, and start planning your life now you have an income again. Even though a little voice is saying “Jessa, get a grip, they told you they have more people to interview” you’re already mentally partying.
So much waiting.
The day arrives that they promised you an answer. You stare at your phone. You want it to ring but think “if they don’t call til later, surely it means good news”. You hope one of your referees message you to say they just got called, but nothing comes through. “It’s okay, they probably got a call at an inconvenient time and didn’t have a chance to tell you”. Finally, the phone rings. Here it comes! Good news at last!
“Hi Jessa, how’s it going? I’m just calling to let you know you’ve been unsuccessful, sorry. Do you want us to keep your details on record in case something else opens up? You were great, we just found someone better”.
You feel like you’ve been kicked in the guts.
You knew this was going to happen, or at least, there was potential that it would. Despite that, you let yourself get excited about it.
Bring on another “low day” where you hate the world and all the shitty TV shows that are on. You hate you don’t have an income to go out and buy three boxes of Krispy Kremes and two pints of Ben and Jerry’s. Instead you make do with Nutella on toast because that’s the best comfort food you have in the house. You try not to look at your computer but can hear it calling “Jessa, time to do more job applications! Time to do it all over again!”. Eventually you give in and start applying, and because it’s a low day, you think selling blinds is a fantastic life choice.
And so the vicious cycle starts all over again.