One of the most awkward parts of my job is when it becomes necessary to hire a new employee for one of my programs. Combing through resumes, contacting applicants to see if they meant to apply for the job or are interested in it (I get a lot of people who don’t read the job description), and managing to get them to show up for an interview is challenging and often annoying. That is not the worst part. The worst part is the interview process – so uncomfortable for me (no doubt also uncomfortable for the poor soul that I’m interviewing).
Let’s all agree that interviews are awkward for all involved. Both sides are sizing up the other to try to figure out if they will be able to work together. I’m looking for red flags to indicate this person won’t be a good fit at the agency while they’re scrutinizing me to figure out if I’m going to be somebody they wouldn’t be miserable working for. It’s an odd dynamic. While I’m evaluating them I’m simultaneously trying to sell them on our agency and why they want to work for us. That’s a problem because I’m not a good salesperson. I tried to sell those Cutco knives one summer in my teens and it was a disaster! My parents and sisters were the only ones who bought anything, mostly out of pity.
So here’s what typically happens when I interview someone. First, setting up the interview can be really challenging for me. Picking up the phone to call someone who sent me a resume creates a lot of anxiety for me. It’s one of those things that I try to do right before lunch or at the end of the day so that I can leave work soon after – that way if I feel embarrassed about my phone performance I don’t have to sit in the office and analyze the conversation for several hours. If I’m lucky then the person will be tech savvy and I can set something up over email – I love those! However, some of our positions tend to attract applicants who don’t have a lot of experience with computers so I can’t always rely on email for communication.
The day of the interview I’m often anxious when I wake up. I try to look a little nicer than usual (actually wear makeup, not wear jeans, etc.) to give myself a confidence boost. Sometimes I wear red because I once heard it was a “power color.” Whatever that means? I figure it can’t hurt the situation.
I’m so anxious while interviewing a potential employee. My throat gets dry and I drink so much water that the poor person I’m interviewing likely thinks I have a medical condition. My words get stuck in my throat and sometimes my voice cracks or does weird level/pitch changes against my will. I tend to get hot and sweat a little. The more anxious I get the more my sentences start to go in circles or just trail off because I don’t know what to say next. I repeat myself A LOT. I know, what a lovely visual – red faced, sweating, unable to get words out of my mouth (don’t forget my essential tremor so my hands are shaking), and gulping down multiple bottles of water. Wouldn’t you want to work for me?!
I will say that my interviewing skills are better than they used to be (yes, if you can imagine, my interviews were once MORE awkward). Lots of practice has resulted in a slight lessening of the anxiety and more comfort with some of the questions I have to ask (i.e. Can you pass a background check? What about 3? Can you pass a drug screen? How is your driving record?) I’m hopeful that in the future, with much more practice, my anxiety level during interviews will continue to decrease. My goal is to, one day, interview a potential employee without sweating or stammering. It’s a lofty goal, but I think I can do it.