Confessions of a Graduate #1


I’m not sure if the interviewing system is flawed, or if I’m not doing it right.

As a recent graduate the next step is looking for a job, because that unemployed life just isn’t for me. Myself, along with hundreds of thousands of other graduates, are trolling the internet every day applying for any job that remotely resembles the career path we want to pursue. The application part is easy, it’s the interviewing part that is messing with my head.

I need to make a good first impression so I arrive early. I sit in a foreign reception area scoping out the potential work space without looking like I’m actually scoping it out. Half of the staff that walks by say hello with a smile, easing me into my seat with the kind gesture. The other half just pass by without acknowledging, it’s just another reminder that I’m not part the crew, yet.

I sit across from someone I have just met and try to focus on the questions that I am being asked.

“where do you see yourself in five years?”

“what are your hobbies besides reading and writing?”

“what is your writing style?”

“why should we hire you?”

I want to be honest and say that I can’t see into the future, people change and so do goals, who knows where I’ll be in five years. I want to confess to being a full-time nerd, hobbies beside reading and writing? Reading and writing are my hobbies. Fullstop. My writing style? How do I verbalize a written style? Is that not somehow asking me to answer the impossible? And why should the company hire me? Well, well, this question is either testing my sarcasm skills or the company is indirectly asking for an ego boost. I should be hired because I meet every requirement in the job ad? I have two degrees? I’m looking for a job and you’re hiring?

Of course I can’t say any of this. Instead I give professional answers. Ones that answers the questions in a way that the company accepts, but in no way showcases my wit and sarcasm and playful nature. Half of the answers don’t even reflect who I truly am. They sound almost generic. I know this, the interviewer knows this. But they still ask it.

Interviewing is a jarring process.

I now find myself in a mini existential crisis, do I decrease my quirkiness and sabotage the self for the sake of professionalism? Or do I let my quirkiness shine and let it possibly cost me a potential job?

If blogging has taught me anything, it’s that I am not alone in the opinions, thoughts and emotions I have.

Comment and let me know if you’ve ever felt this way? And how you resolved it?

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  1. Oh man! I dealt with this a lot when I graduated from university two summers ago. It was brutal. The worst part is when they’re like ‘we want you have to 2+ years experience, but our company doesn’t hire new graduates for them to gain the experience’. It’s like, what kind of double-edged sword is that?!

    But I get you. I really do. The best way to approach job interviews though, is practice. I started making a list of my positive and negative traits (because they love that question) and come up with some generic answer for the 5-year plan. Granted, you can always answer with the: ‘I hope to be at this company, furthering trait X, and helping the company grow and expand.’ They love that jazz. -.-

    If you can’t tell, I also hate interviews, but my interviews this winter/spring season deal with another part of life: graduate school. *headdesk*

    1. I knew I wasn’t alone! Thanks for sharing. Practice makes perfect right, sometimes when I practice I feel like I’m trying to rehearse my life and it’s an odd feeling, shouldn’t these answers come naturally.
      Yes to the generic answers about working at the company. Companies love that ego boost!
      Good luck with this season!

      1. BAHAHA! The answers don’t come naturally because a lot of the time they don’t want to hear you talk about yourself, but rather how you’d fit with the company. It’s a game, man. A giant, impossible game. *button smashes in a frenzy* :p

          1. HA! They’re more like: ‘This is nothing compared to university. They can handle this.’ *in a deep, burly voice* :p
            And yes! May the odds be ever in our favor! *exaggerates like Effie Trinket* :p

  2. I think you can find a middle ground between being yourself and yet be totally professional, especially if you’re looking for a job that involves some kind of imagination and individualism. you should make it clear that you’re totally adequate for what they want, even if you don’t fit into the mold. Good luck 🙂

  3. Hang in there and you are not alone for sure! Keep searching for your answers and don’t be discouraged just yet. I felt the same as you a few years back and sometimes i still do.

    1. Thanks! It’s a crazy experience but there is comfort in knowing that we are not alone. I’m learning a lot about myself through the interviewing process through. It’s productive in its viciousness.

  4. I go in and be myself, 100%. I do work to showcase the part of me they’re going to be paying for. My technical skills, my work ethic, and similar things are what they need to see. Otherwise, I work to remain relaxed and while I do dress nice I only wear comfortable clothes.

    The job market is really competitive right now. I wouldn’t consider not being hired a failed interview. You might have been a wonderful candidate, just not the best out of many they interviewed. Don’t forget, you’re amazing. You’re a competent writer who people enjoy reading. You have a portfolio in your blog if in no other place. They want you, NEED you, on their team. They just might think they need someone else more. 😉

  5. I definitely agree that it is a jarring process. I tend to view interviews through the glasses of a psychology student, in that it is more about the interviewer than the interviewee.

    Of course, the interviewee is the one being assessed, but not for their qualities as they pertain to the job. Rather, the interviewee is being assessed in their ability to state the obvious so as to regurgitate that they are competent for the job in question, and to make the interviewer feel ‘good.’

    I once had one of the most successful people I know (in the business world, at least) state that an interview is more of a dance than it is an assessment. They want to see if you know how to play the system a little bit; give them the answer they ‘need’ to hear, and then go a bit further to tell the interviewer what they want to hear. This congruence landed them countless job opportunities, regardless of their competence.

    The entire process, in my opinion, has been stripped of genuinity, and has instead landed itself into the hands of systematic processes.

    That being said, some companies are simply looking for someone who works hard at ‘preparing’ for the interview (in that they have all their responses and shameless allegories rehearsed like an audition for Macbeth). I tend to just be myself; let my quirks show, and make the interviewer aware that I am human and so are they.

    But that’s just my experience.

    1. Interviews are much like auditions, you come prepared and hope for the best! It bothers me that companies want ‘unique talent’ but expect you to deliver a standard interview. It’s a dance that we’ve all rehearsed, know by heart, perform with a smile but deep down we all know it’s a joke.

  6. Hi! I’m a new graduate too, who got a job recently. I completely understand the frustration. It’s so hard trying to interpret what an interviewer wants. When interviewers asked me to “tell me about yourself”, I’d tell them that I like the outdoors and I’m really good at cooking Indian food. One interviewer finally helped me out by responding “that has nothing to do with the position”, but all my interviewing resources said this question meant hobbies. While I’m a graphic designer and you’re a writer, I think there’s enough common ground that my advice might help.

    To be honest, I gave up on showing my personality in interviews. It was too much to try to show who I am only to lose out despite “interviewing strong”. Instead, I worked out before going to an interview what my work tends to try achieving. I have a dream I want to achieve with my career, I know what styles and ideals I want to be reflected. In that sense, it’s much like writing.

    Do you write like Hemingway or Faulkner? Do you value depth in your writing, or write purely for the sake of writing with nothing to take away? The answers to these sorts of questions might help you give what the interviewers want to hear. I think personality is great in interviews, however interviewers play games like people in the dating scene. You’ll definitely have a chance to show who you are in the position, but you’ve got to get there first! Don’t give up!

  7. Although I am retired now, I remember some of my interviews. I still think it is good to be yourself but be a professional version of you. You do need some discretion. You might smile when you think of something sarcastic and apologize saying, my mind is very active. I couldn’t help but think of a funny answer to your question. If they want someone with no sense of humor, I doubt you would enjoy working there. Couch your responses in ways that show off your assets. Creative minds are a definite plus unless they are looking for “yes” men. Good luck!!

  8. One bit of advice that helped me is knowing that the interviewers aren’t there to judge you, or to find reasons not to hire you. They’re there to find the best candidate, and they want to do so as quickly as possible, so they can get back to their day-to-day job.

    So if you go in with the mindset that you’re going to make their job easy, and show them that you’re clearly the best candidate, it takes away a lot of pressure. You suddenly don’t feel like you’re under the microscope being analyzed. Instead, you feel like you’re doing them a favor because you’re helping them to solve a problem. They need a good employee, and you’re the one who’s there to help them.

    It’s just a matter of changing the perspective of them judging you to you helping them fill a need.

    Hope that helps, and best of luck!

  9. I believe it is important to be yourself, research the company ahead of time and see how you fit there, what you personally can contribute to them.

    I have moved a lot and worked often as a massage therapist. I found interviews so annoying. I’d walk in with 30 something years experience, be interviewed by a 20 something year old receptionist that had no clue about massage therapy, a chiropractor who was much younger than me and much less experienced and be told I wasn’t what they were looking for? Mmmm…someone with a ton of experience as a therapist and working for chiropractors…wonder what they were looking for….often someone young they could exploit.

    I feel it is important to interview the company, too, to see if they are who you want to work for? Many employers make promises they don’t intend to keep.

    You might try visualization before had and visualize the kind of experience you’d like…in the interview, in the job and it actually can help you find and attract that match.

    Best wishes!

  10. I learned a very valuable lesson recently. When in situations like this, answer the question, with a question of your own, then answer that question…

    “where do you see yourself in five years?”
    Answer: Do i see myself as a *insert job* in five years? Hopefully, but i am a person that is tenacious in following the right path for me and make it lead where i want to go.

    Thank you Zootopia for this valuable life lesson!

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