People are so, so much less likely to believe a positive story than they are a negative story. I could tell you that someone stole my husband’s bike (true) and you’d nod your head. Yeah, that kind of thing happens all the time. What do you expect? I could tell you a similarly true story about a fun job interview I just had, which, don’t worry, I am about to do, yet I suspect that you won’t believe the details. That’s why I’ll start with the hopeless part.
I hadn’t been on a job interview since... let me think... I believe it was fall of 2008.
I haven’t had a day job since 2010.
Haven’t had a boss, either.
Sure, I work for myself, earn and invest money, and pay taxes. All of that happens under wildly different job descriptions, though, and I’m often at a loss to explain just what it is that I do. I sometimes stress out about what would happen if I had to apply for a standard office job again, and what I’d put on my resume.
Why? Because the purpose of most job interviews is to unsettle you, to put you in a position where you’ll happily take the lowest possible offer. You’re meant to come in early, stay late, be on call as close to 100% of the time as possible, avoid using your vacation time, never ask for a bonus or a raise, and submit to paranoid levels of supervision.
For a natural 10x-er, all of this is stultifying and annoying.
Don’t you realize the forces you could unleash if you let me work under my own terms and direct my own projects?
I walked away from all of that, as people of an artistic or entrepreneurial bent nearly always do. How, though, does a free elf handle a traditional job interview?
This is the way I look at it. There’s a need and I can easily fill it. I’m a good-natured, cheerful, and fun person. If this organization is doing interesting things, if the culture is such that anyone would be glad to work there, then I’ll consider a respectful offer.
I’m not going to work in the salt mines under a rude manager. I don’t have to, because there are tons of jobs and I only need one. Or, I might one day. Really there are unlimited ways to bring in money outside of a traditional day job. I’m not stuck and I won’t be trapped or forced. I have options.
I’m going to your interview because I’m curious about what you do. By the time I walk out, I’m going to have a pretty good idea of whether I want to come back or whether any sane person would run screaming for the hills.
None of this bears any resemblance to how I used to feel when I would go in for job interviews. I remember one a few months after my divorce. I had lost 30 pounds (involuntarily) and the only clothes I had that were suitable for a job interview were hanging off me. I was so nervous about how high the stakes were that my whole body would shake. I probably looked like I had a substance abuse problem! I told one interviewer: “I really, really need this job.” (That doesn’t work, by the way; or at least it didn’t for that job).
The last time I interviewed for a job that I got, they asked if I had any final statements. I said, “It would be a good idea for you to hire me.” They called ten minutes after I left to offer me the job; I hadn’t even gotten back to my car yet.
That’s the difference between coming from a place of scarcity and fear versus coming from a place of strength and confidence.
Look, I’m doing you a favor by coming in for this interview. You should be so lucky as to get a candidate like me. I’m only going to be available for a quick minute. If you hesitate, if you can’t make up your mind, if it takes you two months to make a hire, you’re going to get stuck with your eighteenth choice because the rest of us are now working for your competitors.
I promised a story, an unbelievable story about my fun interview.
It was a panel interview; I knew that going in. I enjoy panel interviews! (Keep telling yourself that). I told a friend, “Don’t worry, if it’s a panel interview I WILL be the obvious choice.”
I met another candidate in the hallway before the interview, someone I knew. I smiled inside because while this person might be perfectly competent, I am more so and I can prove it.
They were half an hour behind schedule, which was great because it gave me plenty of time to center myself and go over my material. (I spent a couple of weeks researching the organization and the competencies for the position, and then an hour with my husband troubleshooting responses to questions that might come up).
I went in smiling, thinking, JUST WAIT, YOUR MINDS WILL SOON BE BLOWN.
I was given the opportunity to make either an opening or closing statement. In my opinion, this is always an option at an interview! If you walk in fully prepared, having researched the company and the position, and you have ideas to share, just announce that you’re going to do that and start pitching. This tells the interviewers a lot more about you than their list of canned questions.
I did it. I blew their minds. I stood up and pitched and mouths physically dropped open. They laughed, they cheered.
I walked out with a marriage proposal and a business card.
I got the call later that evening, while I was making a pot of soup. “Congratulations!” It was unanimous.
I share this wild and reckless story because it’s so far from the usual vibe of the desperate, broke, and unconfident job seeker. I know that feeling because I’ve been desperately broke! I’ve had colossally bad interviews and fumbled easy questions. It’s the awkward, wretched feeling of neediness that causes those problems. Coming from a place of “I need, oh please oh please” is off-putting.
On the other hand, coming in the door like the Queen of Sheba, ready to delight everyone, now that’s something different. You’re bored, you’re having a long day, you’re worried that none of the candidates will be able to fill your needs. Suddenly this totally different energy comes in, and instead you’re entertained. You imagine that this person is your new coworker, your new colleague. Maybe you could even sit near each other!
They want to hire you. They want someone who will work hard and do a great job. They want someone who is easy to get along with. They want someone who will become a source of solutions and insight and fresh new energy. They want to feel relieved and excited that you’ll be coming to work with them soon.
You’re the best candidate because you’re trustworthy and loyal and hardworking, and you have the best ideas. They’re going to fall in love with you.
Now get out there, bring your bubble wand, and start wowing those interviewers!
I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.
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