Job interviews – and indeed, the whole job-hunting process – must be the most evil of all necessary evils. There’s no getting round it; it’s horrendous, and there’s no getting away from it – we all have to go through it at some point. The jury’s still out on whether interviews are actually any good at helping employers select the right people; but in the absence of a better system, we just have to battle through the nerves and the rejection emails and awkward state of trying to ‘sell’ ourselves while being incurably British (in my case, anyway).
You fill out application after application, and reading back over each one before you hit “send” makes you want to cringe yourself inside out. Sometimes you get a “thank you for submitting your application” message, sometimes you don’t. If you’re lucky, you get a rejection email, but more often than not, you don’t hear anything, and have to take radio silence as a “thanks but no thanks”.
Sometimes, you get an interview. And then the real agony starts. You prep, you fret, you worry; you know – because every recruitment website in existence tells you – that everything about you will be scrutinised. You might have to do a phone interview first, which is both better and worse, because if it goes horribly, it’s easier to pretend it never happened, but because you can’t see your interviewer, you’re missing out on a whole load of visual cues. (I once had to do a phone interview in the stairwell of a shopping centre, as there was simply nowhere else I could do it. I got asked to meet them in person as a result of it, though.)
Sometimes you sail through the first interview, get asked to do a second and cock that right up. I will now never been in any doubt that there are two Costa Coffee shops at London Victoria station.
Sometimes you think an interview’s gone pretty well, you’ve practically fallen in love with your interviewers, and the “sorry, you don’t quite have the right experience” email sends you bawling, in a muted fashion, to the nearest ladies’. You hiccup to your boyfriend down the phone, “I – totally – would – have – aced – that – job,” sobbing after every word.
But then another interview comes up, taking you by surprise – you didn’t really expect to be asked – and you don’t know a huge amount about the role, but you’re an internal candidate so you decide to give it a go. They send you a pre-interview task, and you stumble through it, with no clue if you’re along the right lines. “I’m not an idiot“, you say out loud in an attempt to reassure yourself. “I might be doing OK.”
You spend the evening before the interview fretting about what to wear. You want to be smart, but it’s freezing. You iron a skirt, then nix it. You decide to leave it, and hope that the morning rush will clarify your thoughts a little and make the choosing easier. In the end, you go casual. Jeans and a shirt – because that’s what you normally wear to the office, and you still don’t know how you feel about the job.
The interview itself is… OK. You hear yourself rambling a couple of times, it’s not your best performance – not like the time you were borderline-flirting with the interviewer about semi-colons – but you don’t crash and burn and fumble for words like a dithering fool. You’re shown out after 20 minutes, and call your long-suffering boyfriend as you walk back to the station – you have no idea how it went, except quickly, and that can’t be good. You have no idea how you feel about it. You spend the next 24 hours telling yourself it doesn’t matter if you get it or not. You put that armour on so that another rejection can’t hurt. There’ll be something else. Eventually.
And then you get a call, and even though ‘no caller ID’ is flashing on your phone screen, something deep down just knows. And you dash into the corridor, have the conversation you’ve been thinking about for a while now, and try not to laugh out loud. And you return to your desk, fully aware that your poker face is absymal, and try to catch your manager to break the news. You get more than a bit emotional at the thought of leaving the funny, friendly, supportive team who’ve seen you change from being a useless temp, paralysed by shyness, to one third of a comms team who are all opinionated, obsessed with food and prone to complaining, sometimes louder than is wise. But also very witty, which makes up for a lot.
But you know you need a change, you need a new chapter, you need to learn something new, and be somewhere else.