This post, written by me, was originally posted on Fiscal Phoenix. The content is reposted with permission.
When I began my career with my
current former employer, I was a juvenile probation officer. I was good at my job, too. Sure, my clients never really stopped committing crimes but my notes were always up to date, I saw all my clients every week, made my contacts and had good relationships with all parties involved in the kids’ care (except one mom. We didn’t get along too well). I was respected among my coworkers and I had a ton of potential. I was even employee of the year one year. Yeah. I was good.
But I wasn’t happy. I was frustrated with the system and many of the rules governing our authority as probation officers. The crimes the kids were committing were getting worse and the system was getting softer on them. It was hard to continue to care. So, I got another job. I was still working in the same juvenile justice system but in a capacity that was easier for me to handle. Until a supervisor position opened up in the same office I had just left. I decided that I could put up with a lot of the frustrations for more money. I took the time, filled out the application and was called for an interview.
That’s when everything went sour.
When I entered the interview room, I knew the odds were stacked against me. To begin with, the Regional Manager who would supervise me in the new capacity was…unhappy that I had left. The next person on my panel was a trainer who really, really didn’t like me (to this day, I still don’t know why). I can’t remember who the third person on my interview panel was but I do remember that it was not a friendly face. I began the interview nervous. And it only got worse.
Because the interview panel was visibly not pleased with having to interview me, I got a very lukewarm reception when I sat down. They then proceeded to ask me questions that were not on the script (I work for a government agency and not following the script is definitely frowned upon), which made me even more nervous. I started becoming defensive and copping a bit of an attitude. I would have much preferred that they said to me “Jana, there is no way on Earth we’re hiring you. You deserted us, we’re pissed, and we’re not giving you the position that clearly belongs to someone else. Let’s just sit here in an awkward silence until the interview is over” but we had to go through the formalities of finishing the interview.
I walked out of the interview knowing I didn’t get the job. I tried to tell myself that I was fine with it, but really, I was upset. However, looking back, there were a few lessons I learned from that debacle:
- Never let them know you’re nervous. The fact that I was visibly shaken meant that the interview panel could pounce on my weaknesses. My nervousness meant I couldn’t concretely answer questions or think logically. This allowed them to score me lower in certain capacities.
- Don’t think that your prior reputation means anything. Even though I had a stellar reputation as a probation officer, in that interview room, it meant nothing. I had to prove to them why I had that reputation. But I let my ego get the best of me and actually told the trainer who hated me “I’m not going to sit here and defend my work ethic to you”. Don’t do that. Interview panels don’t like that kind of reputation.
- Always smile. I was not happy with the interview panel. In fact, I was downright angry. And I’m pretty sure, since I have the worst poker face on the planet, they could tell. By showing that side of my personality, I didn’t exactly impress them and didn’t convince them that I could handle contentious situations.
- Dress appropriately. Oh, right. I was about 10 weeks pregnant during my interview. I gained a lot of weight very quickly and most of my clothes didn’t fit. I had no time—and no money—to buy clothes for the interview so I had to do the best I could do. But I looked like a slob. I’m pretty sure this put them off as well.
I’ve made a ton of mistakes during interviews, but the mistakes I made during this one have haunted me for the last 6 years. It was a position I really, really wanted and I knew I would have been great at. But letting my attitude and personal feelings get in the way, prevented that from happening.
Have you ever screwed up an interview for a job you wanted? What did you learn from the mistakes?