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Cover image for Magnificent Ballet of  Interview Failure
Lisa Maskovich
Lisa Maskovich

Posted on

Magnificent Ballet of Interview Failure

Seems like a lifetime ago, but as I step back into interview life I am reminded of a hilariously horrid interview from my past.

The year was 2009, the Bitcoin network had just been created, Barack Obama began his first term as president of the USA, the swine flu (H1N1) was declared a world pandemic, Sully Sullenberger landed a plane on the Hudson river...and Lisa Maskovich walks into a small conference room and begins her magnificent ballet of interview failure!

Background:

I had been working as an unpaid intern for the Planning and Development division of a local City Government. I had one semester left and was walking into an interview for a very promising job. A job that was NOT unpaid, in fact, the job’s pay range was 58K to 64K! (not an insignificant amount) I was excited, and the pressure was high.

Back to the day of the interview:

I spent way too much time picking out an outfit that was probably too formal. (The wrist corsage and tiara might have been a bad choice, just kidding) I wore a knee length skirt, blouse and a well fitting blazer. (I looked like a defense attorney.) I had also read somewhere that you should include some sort of memorable detail to your outfit, so I wore this gaudy/sparkly broach. What was I thinking?!?!?!

I walked into the office and was greeted by the receptionist. She was very nice and showed me to an area where I could sit and wait for my interviewer. I was already quite nervous and could feel the sweat soaking through the fabric of my blouse. Luckily, my middle-aged woman blazer was a good cover. I was mentally rolling through the typical interview questions and thinking over my answers.

  • Tell me a little about yourself?
  • Tell me about a conflict you had with a coworker, and how you dealt with it?
  • What do you feel is your greatest weakness?
  • What is your greatest strength?
  • Why should we hire you over other candidates? … and others.

I had my answers queued up and ready to go!

My interviewer approached. A pleasant man around 50 years old with red hair and a nice smile. He greeted me with a handshake and invited me to follow him. We traversed a few hallways, past cubicles, walked through a narrow room where they kept blueprints from past jobs and then swung by the breakroom where I was offered coffee or water. I accepted a small bottle of cold water.

We entered the small conference room, which had a large window, but the view was obstructed by a dense shrub. I sat opposite the window and my interviewer sat with his back to the shrubby window.

The interview began…
β€œTell me about yourself?” he asked. I was expecting that. I responded with β€œWell, my name is Lisa. I am about to finish my degree and I am enthusiastic to take the knowledge I’ve gained and apply it to my first post-university job. I am a happy person, I like to work with other people, and I enjoy a challenge. I like to ride my bike, bake bread, read good books and watch anything that will make me laugh.”

I found that I was nervously clutching the water bottle, it had become a sort of security object. I decided to open the bottle and take a drink. Upon unscrewing the bottle, water over-flowed and landed in a nice puddle on my skirt. My skirt was light gray and the water created a visible dark gray wet spot, right in the middle of my skirt. It was just water - no biggy.

The questions went on and I answered them without too many, ahhh’s, Ummm’s, and Like, you know…'s. It was going okay, but my confidence was plummeting for some reason. (I blame it on the big water mark on my skirt) I fumbled along through the interview questions that I had anticipated. Then came a question I had not expected, β€œHave you ever received an award, something that you are proud of?”

An award… I was actively searching my rolodex of past memories… I had no acclaims. I had been perfectly mediocre all my life and I guess they don’t give out awards to mediocrity. Then something popped into my head. Someway to answer the question...

β€œI was given the Golden School bus Award!”

My interviewer looked dumbfounded and I immediately regretted the words that came out of my mouth. I tried to explain it in a way that would sound interesting. β€œWell, my high school would give an award to one student (a senior) each year that rode the school bus for the most miles. It was a plaque with a toy school bus superglued above my name. You see, I lived far away and up in the mountains and the route to school was about 42 miles each way. Approximately 84 miles per day, times an average of 180 school days per year (15,120 miles) for all 4 years of highschool. A total 60,480 miles on the school bus.”

I smiled.

There was an awkward silence.

I began to fill the awkward silence with words that did not improve the situation. I continued, β€œI would get car sick if I tried to do my homework on the bus. (another awkward smile) I actually rode that same school bus route for all of 8th grade too!” *
My interviewer said, *β€œWell…”
I could tell he was trying to keep me from discussing my award any further. β€œ... I’ve never heard that answer before” That was nice of him to say. I am sure that wasn’t his first thought.

I honestly don’t remember much beyond that point.

I walked away from that interview downtrodden. Feeling upset with myself for blabbing on and on about something so silly. As you can probably gather, I did not get that job.

Luckily for me, about 8 weeks later my unpaid internship became a paid position and I ended up working there for almost 3 years.

Fast forward though many years or life, jobs, maturity, and more education. I now stand once again looking through the doorway that leads towards interviews and eventual employment.

I feel like a completely different person than the Lisa of 2009. I am not a little girl looking for her first β€˜real’ job anymore. I am not trying to be anything other than myself. I know now that nothing can be worse than putting on a fake version of who you are to try and impress an employer. I want to be hired for who I am, and for the skills that I currently possess. I want an employer to know that I don’t know everything, but I will do my best to learn. That I want to be a reliable teammate and contributor.

Yesterday, I had the great opportunity to interview for a company that I respect and I’d be happy to work for. I spent many days preparing for that interview. Going over possible questions, reviewing data structures and working through coding challenges. I practiced my answers with a seasoned software engineer and got advice from him on how to present myself in the best possible way. He reminded me that having the skills is one thing, but being a person that people want to work with is more important, and that I needed to just be myself. :)

I feel like the interview went well and I am cautiously optimistic.

Now, why did I write this particular blog post???

A few days before my interview, I texted my mom and two sisters to let them know that I had an upcoming interview that I was equally excited and nervous for. Their responses were:

From mom:
β€œYeah, that’s progress!”

From sister Robyn:
β€œAwesome!! Congratulations!”

From sister Julie:
β€œRemember, they don’t care about the Golden School Bus Award”

Top comments (2)

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moopet profile image
Ben Sinclair

That's a perfectly acceptable answer. Especially from a programmer. My immediate thought was a medal I got at school for being enthusiastic despite being terrible at sports. If they're not at least entertained by the chat, then they sound like a boring place to work!

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leesahmasko profile image
Lisa Maskovich Author

A medal for being enthusiastic! I love that!

Thanks for sharing Ben, and congratulations on the medal. I hope you still find opportunities to wear it. :)

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