The Anxiety-Inducing Meta Experience of Interviewing as an HR Person
When you interview for a job as an HR person, I imagine it’s how it would feel if you were a doctor about to undergo surgery. Or a hair stylist getting an adventurous dye job. Or my Italian Grandma ordering lasagna at a restaurant. If you’re the Supreme Expert, how can you possibly trust someone else to to guide your experience? It can be very uncomfortable, and it can make things harder than they need to be–if you let it.
As I’m about to start my new job Monday at tech startup RippleMatch, I’m reflecting on how traumatic the last four months have been for me. After being laid off from my Global Talent role at the Estee Lauder Companies due to Covid-19 budget restrictions, I’ve been interviewing nonstop–for many jobs that, after four interviews, decided they’d lost the funding for my role. Or that they’d laid off too many people to justify hiring. Every time I spoke to a new hiring manager, rather than feeling excitement or a healthy level of anxiety, I began to analyze that person’s behavior, and extrappalate the probability that I’d be hired:
“Did they mention next steps before I mentioned it? Or are they just trying to be nice?”
“I can’t tell if their facial expression meant they liked me, or that they didn’t take me seriously Did they expect me to be more serious?”
“Remember, it’s not necessarily what you say, but how you make the interviewer feel. So maybe you said the right things, but since you have a bad feeling, I’m sure they do too.”
To summarize–I was thinking WAY too much about the interviewer and about my previous rejections, many of which had nothing to do with me at all, but the economy and the high percentage of unemployment. As an HR person, when I interview for jobs, all of my friends and family try to hype me up about my expertise. Since interviewing is my job, I should never feel nervous about it! I should be able to predict exactly how each step will go, so I shouldn’t feel any apprehension whatsoever.
In reality, most of the time, my expertise has the opposite effect on my interview confidence. Yes, I know exactly what questions the interviewer will probably ask me at each stage of the process–so I write out the detailed answers beforehand. I have the uncanny ability to assess my interviewer based on their conversation style and appearance within the first few minutes, so I can tailor my own tone and experience to match theirs. Lastly (this is the real killer) I think I can tell whether I’m getting a job or not by how the team communicates with me–because I know how I treat candidates on each side of the process myself. All of these assumptions have served mostly as roadblocks rather than advantages when I’m meeting a new person, and trying to get them to like me.
When I attack each question with a well thought-out response, I am not highlighting my natural ability to problem solve on the spot, or to connect with people. Instead, I’m more concerned with listing every aspect of my resume that applies to the question. I can see the hiring manager nodding to keep from yawning, watch their eyes glaze over as they hear similar answers to a question they’ve already asked 5 candidates that day. No matter how good it is, no one wants to hear a canned answer.
When I see my interviewer and try to match my tone and style to theirs, I lose my interviewer on another level. They want to see if they are speaking to someone who will bring new perspectives to the workplace, and whether they’d enjoy working with that person. Without showing any authentic personality, I lose another chance to make my interviewer like me as a candidate.
The worst thing I do in the interview process, though, doesn’t happen in the interview itself. It happens after, and it happened with RippleMatch–the company that I start with tomorrow morning. I was interviewing with them over the course of 3 weeks for a Sales Account Executive position, and the process was incredibly extensive–anyone in sales knows how this can be. It involved 3 individual interviews, one group interview, and two separate presentations, each one of which involved preparation and materials to create beforehand. I was at the point where if they asked me to mail them a DNA sample, or film an original music video, I wouldn’t have been shocked at all. In fact, I would have done it, because that’s how badly I wanted the job. Actually, now that I bring it up, I am slightly nervous that my new management will see this post and decide they DO want a music video after all. But we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.
After my final interview, I received an email from the hiring manager on a Friday afternoon, letting me know that we could catch up on my candidacy status on Monday.
My recruiter brain exploded–I had been rejected. I know that I, and every recruiter I know, loves to give out acceptances on Friday, and will hold off on rejections until Monday to keep from ruining someone’s weekend. As a very unemployed person, I was perplexed that the hiring manager would try to keep my weekend from being ruined, since I definitely had no idea what day of the week it was anyway. But I was certain that I was being rejected, and I broke down. After 4 months of interviewing, I thought that this would finally be it–and now my unemployment money was running out. I resigned myself to the idea that I’d get a job at the Mexican restaurant across the street, and went there to get a margarita at 3PM to celebrate my fate.
After the three longest days of my life, I finally connected with the hiring manager on Monday–who offered me the job.
I had been forced to come to terms with the fact that maybe I can’t always be in control, but that some people do have my best interests at heart. And that putting our fate in the hands of others, while it’s hard right now, can be more rewarding than you expect.
So if you’re overthinking your interviews, STOP, shut your laptop, and enjoy the weekend–no matter what day it actually is, and no matter what the future may bring. Even though it’s 2020.
Liz graduated from University of Virginia in 2015, and has 5 years of experience spanning the communications and HR space. She moved to New York right after graduation and spent several years as a freelance writer, barista, and server at ABC Kitchen in Union Square. From there, Liz took a job in agency recruitment, then at a startup, and landed as the Internship Program Manager at the Estée Lauder Companies, where she led both the campus recruitment and internship program management teams. She extends her passion for Diversity & Inclusion recruitment and young talent mentorship outside of work, serving as a volunteer tutor for the Fresh Air Fund and on the Junior Board for America SCORES New York.
Liz lives and breathes in the talent space, and uses her editorial background and communications skills to build a portfolio and network that will be a resource for other recruiters and candidates. In her free time, she is a marathon runner, open mic poet, visual artist, and cat mom. Although she was just born in ’92, Liz has a real passion for all things 90’s and early 2000’s including The Wire, the Wu Tang Clan, and grunge attire.