How to Land the Job of Your Dreams: The Arbitrary Interview Process

interview_blogI have been working at Beyond Spots & Dots for two full months. It feels like a lifetime. How did I get so lucky, when some people struggle to find a job they love?

I have been thinking  lately that the whole job search process is a blend of luck and strategy and wit and formula–therefore it is entirely and completely random. There is no “process.” No one is right or wrong, no one has the advantage. It’s everyone for themselves. Yet we try to help each other out by doling out these rules and say that they will work if you follow them to a T.

Like little robots, college students come out of graduation with resumes and cover letters in hand, and carefully practiced answers to interview questions. With a degree, some activities and an internship, they all look the same on paper. What it comes down to must be the interview.

I am certainly no expert. I must first claim that I (luckily) have not had the opportunity to go on many job interviews. Perhaps I should have prepared better in college. Perhaps I should have attended the career fairs and mock interviews and prep classes. Maybe then I would have gotten more experience speaking to the person on the other side of the table who alone holds my fate in their relentless questioning.

Or maybe it all worked out for the best. Because I didn’t go to the career fairs and mock interviews. I bombed a few phone interviews during the months before graduation, learning quickly that it is difficult to gauge anything by voice alone. I had an interview for a part-time job at a place where I had interned. I thought I had that one in the bag. When I interviewed for my Steeltown internship, it was brief and to the point. They needed some help in the office and weren’t going to pay me, so they couldn’t be too particular. After a few months, they offered me a full-time position, so I didn’t have the pleasure of partaking in an interview for my first real job.

The next time I was in the hot seat was with Beyond Spots & Dots. Clearly that worked out. Exactly how, I’m not sure. Sometimes when I am sitting in my office at work, I try to think about what I possibly could have said that got me here. What were the magical circumstances that aligned? I don’t feel that I did anything differently or anything particularly extraordinary.

It had started to rain as I walked from my car and I hadn’t brought an umbrella. During the interview, I was actually so nervous, I was sweating through my clothes. I felt like I talked too much, too fast. Did that come across as eager and enthusiastic? Did I look charismatic? I wore a simple, polished suit–was that the tipping point? Did I simply have the right words on the resume and talk about them vaguely enough that it seemed I knew what I was doing? Was it that last off-hand comment I made as the interviewer walked out the door that made him crack up? It certainly can’t hurt to make someone laugh, right?

But during the second interview, I felt I had failed the test. My previous work was scrutinized, my reasons for my work were analyzed, my efforts were carefully evaluated and I thought surely I had fallen short. I didn’t have enough experience, I was flying by by the seat of my pants, learning on the go, and that couldn’t be good enough. But somehow it was. Somehow I got the last call.

The job search continues to puzzle me, even now as I am not actively searching for a job. I am watching my boyfriend sort through the process–the online job boards, the LinkedIn networking, the researching of companies, the resume-building, the cover letter-writing, the who-knows-who, to finally arrive at the much-anticipated and dreaded interview.

With the economy and the unemployment rate such as they are, it is hard not to come across dozens of articles a day about how to get a job. Tips for putting keywords on your resume, best practices for networking, how to meet the person who knows the person who can get you in. Everyone thinks they have the answer. Like there is some magical formula where if you do X, Y, and Z in the correct order, the job is yours. But someone else did A, B, and C and got the job, so who is correct?

I’ve heard so many times that getting a job is all about who you know. I want to say that this isn’t true. I can’t say it’s false either. But after getting a job at Beyond Spots & Dots, without knowing anyone at the agency or even in the industry, I like to have a little faith in the traditional process.

On the other hand, we see people like Alf Zapata, who simply shipped his pants to Kmart and landed an internship. Or Bennet Olson, who put “Hire Me” on a billboard and was offered a job as a sales and marketing associate.

I wonder how they fared in interviews…

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