Interviews Make Me Uncomfortable, but I Guess It’s Good to be Self-Aware

Graduating from college and becoming an “adult” is really just one big lesson in self-awareness.

This week I interviewed for a job (spoiler alert: this is something I am very bad at), and in my conversation with the interviewer he brought up something that I’ve been hearing a lot lately. It was in response to me saying, “I’m really still in a big in-between stage of my life. Right now my biggest goal is to figure out where I’m going.” Perhaps I shouldn’t have even said that, but thankfully, he didn’t seem too freaked out by the prospect. Instead he responded, “Me too. I’d like to figure all that out, too.” He said it half-jokingly, and half through a more sincere solidarity.

What struck me about his response most was that I’ve been hearing it a lot lately. I heard it from my mom when we were discussing jobs and school over dinner. I heard it from one of my managers after she asked me about future plans. And now, I was hearing it from the man sitting across from me, interviewing me for a job in his organization. Whether it was and intentional move to make me more comfortable, or merely a slip of the tongue, something he didn’t mean to reveal about himself, in that moment, it had a calming effect.

All of these voices together — voices of all supposedly “established adults,” ones who have lived in the real world for years — have been reverberating like a chorus in my head, both harmonious and dissonant at the same time. They’re still figuring it out, too.

That calming effect comes from solidarity. The discomfort comes from the knowledge that this unsettled feeling is fated to be my perpetual state of being.

Interviews make me think very dramatically about my life. I haven’t been able to shake the idea that simply meeting for an interview is the make or break of my career. I haven’t quite grasped how to simultaneously convince an interviewer that I want this job so badly, while trying to stay aloof in my own head about the whole thing, so as not to be crushed if I don’t get it.

Plus, there is nothing quite like an interview to make me overly self-aware of all my faults. For example, my inability to hold eye contact, how I say “um” too many times when taking part in impromptu speaking, how much small talk makes me absolutely cringe with discomfort.

And because I am bad at all of these things, I equate that with a self-given identity of “bad interviewer,” innate and unchanging.

This is obviously a mistake, bound to set me up for failure, of course. Because I’m not necessarily a “bad interviewer,” like I’ve always thought. The man that interviewed me this time around even said it was a really good interview, that I was making his decision really difficult. He also told me I had a great application and he could see me working well with the organization. I can tell you one thing – no one has every said that to me after an interview before. And I believed him.

We had a good conversation. I knew a lot about the organization and he could see I was interested and had done my research. We were able to talk about other creative companies and organizations in the area, and even found out we had some mutual acquaintances within the community. He bought me tea.

It was a good interview.

I may not get the position. It sounds like a lot of qualified people applied for it. I’ll be bummed if I don’t get it, surely. But being able to say, “It was a good interview,” is extremely encouraging.

And maybe it’s not about being a good or bad interviewer at all. It’s about applying for jobs you care about, doing your research, and going in there to see how you fit. Like a first date, I suppose. A lot of times, the decision won’t even be about you. You can have the exact same qualifications as someone else, answer all of the questions adequately and succinctly, but maybe you just don’t jive with the person interviewing you. It’s disappointing, but with some perspective, a hell of a lot more reassuring.

I am not a “bad interviewer.” I am simply someone who hasn’t found the right fit yet. But chances are, if I keep persisting, I’ll find my groove.

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