I hate job interviews.

Let me be very clear about this; I LOATHE JOB INTERVIEWS.

As some of my readers will remember, I’m looking for a job. I prefer to work contract for reasons that will become clear in a minute, but would work full-time with the right company. I know I’m capable of doing a wide-variety of writing jobs including webwriting, technical writing, business communications, public relations and more. However, the people hiring don’t know it.

I have a sound resume. I get interviews. I also have a CV which also brings interest to my work. My problem is with the damn interview.

A couple of days ago I had what I thought was a wonderful interview. The job was everything I wanted; working with someone well-established in their field that I could learn from and get along with, a company whose values and work principles matched mine and a challenge. I wanted this job and after talking with the person hiring for an hour and half, I didn’t get the job. Why? The interviewer was unaware that I had documentation experience (this was an editing job so I’m unsure why I’d need experience in writing documentation anyways). Okay, so why was he unaware? He didn’t ask. Instead, we talked about art and prior contract experiences we’d both had (good and bad). The interview was comfortable. Like going for coffee with an old friend. I was completely unaware he was even looking for documentation experience. When I found out I didn’t get the job my first instinct was to write an email to the interviewer explaining my confusion. My second was to send a snide email. My third, which I went with, was to do neither and burst into tears. I’d blown it again. I really needed this contract, too. I had to apply for Social Assistance to pay my rent. I’m quickly running out of money to buy food. I need clothes. When this fell through and I began crying, all my fears and anger over the situation came rushing out. Why do I keep blowing the interview?

First, I admit the problem is partially on my side. I have a learning disorder called Non-Verbal Learning Disorder (NLD). Until recently, I was undiagnosed and lived in social confusion. The problem is this; while I am an amazing writer and can present material in an engaging manner (both written and spoken), I have problems understanding social cues. NLD people like myself have a host of difficulties. NLD people are great at rote memorization (for me this is phone numbers. I can recite a list of them by memory) and have problems with abstract thinking. Unlike other NLD people, I am great at seeing the big picture and then breaking it down to its components. However, I am unable to think a problem through logically. That is, going to step one first, then step two, etc. I jump around a lot. When I first learned about mind-mapping software I was thrilled that someone finally made a program to do what I already do in my head. NLD people lack coordination so may appear clumsy or oafish. Sports are a nightmare for me, the only one I’m really comfortable with is swimming but water is it’s own element. I have been known to break my toes by stubbing them. My doctor once saw me three times in two months for broken toes. I have diabetes so this is a concern for me.

Let me see if I can paint a picture for you of what all this means. If you’ve ever seen the show “Big Bang Theory”, I’m Dr. Sheldon Cooper. As a matter of fact, I couldn’t understand what the humour of Sheldon was supposed to be for the longest time until someone finally explained it to me. My friends will, indeed, tell me when someone’s being sarcastic (I love that they do that for me) and when someone asks “how are you,” I really think they want to know my state of being. I prefer being solitary as being in a crowd is confusion and sometimes frightening me. Imagine yourself in a pack of wolves. The wolves may not wish you harm and may not even be interested in you, but you don’t know what they’re thinking or trying to communicate to you. The result is you being nervous and making the wolves nervous which leads to all sorts of misunderstandings.

I”ve learned a certain camouflage that gets me by most situations. I have a gift for talking and storytelling. I can keep the listener engaged and focused on the story rather than me and most people are happy with that. It makes me look smooth and eases the listener so they can be comfortable. However, if I have to have any kind of in-depth involvement with the listener, such as in an interview, my camouflage fails me and I look like a babbling buffoon. Worse, I get nervous and clumsy. You can imagine what kind of interview that makes.

What would be wonderful for me is to have the interviewer give me a test. Give me a 500 word piece I can write for them or some editing to be done. Let me show you what I can do. Oh, man, I’d outshine everyone there. That’s not the way things are done, though. For some reason these people want me to talk to them. Talking isn’t doing. I can talk about flying a plane, but I can’t do it. So, I go to the interview and think I’m answering their questions or responding to what they want but then I find out that there was someone better. Big surprise.

I’d like to say that I can learn the social cues and get past this, but not at age 44. You can imagine what working is like for me. Especially in “team” environments where you have to go to the barbecue or participate in the Secret Santa or do the golf tournament. It’s not fun. Three or four months down the road, I’m let go because I’m not “fitting in” or “it’s just not working out.” My work is extraordinary, but there’s something else going on and I leave frustrated and unemployed again.

I’m willing to bet that most offices have someone like me. The person who just seems socially inept or awkward, oafish and clumsy, the person people don’t hang out with or invite for coffee. At best people ignore them. At worst they become the object of office bullying. We’re the ones that don’t understand the office politics or can’t keep a secret or even blurt the wrong thing to the wrong person. Yes, that person is me.

So now you understand the reason I hate interviews. I chose to become a contract writer because of NLD. I know I’m not going to fit in but if I’m the contractor, I’m not expected to. However, there are still interviews. Yes, we could do without them, but it’s the established way things are done so that’s how we do them.

I’d like to give interviewers a few tips, though, to make both our lives easier.

  1. If you can give me a test to establish my abilities, please do. I prefer that. I’ll let you have all rights to whatever I produce and will keep all information confidential. Let me show you what I can do.
  2. Please say exactly what you mean. I cannot read your mind and I am likely to interpret your question in a way you never imagined. If you’d like to know about my skills in an area state clearly you want to know about those skills. Some interviewers even want to know something very specific. For example, if you’d like to know if I’ve ever compiled a media kit for a non-profit organization, ask that. If, further, you want to know if I include a company’s history in a media kit, ask. Don’t ask me about my theatre company and hope I mention media kits.
  3. Write down your questions beforehand. If you don’t know what information you’re looking for, how will I know? It’s unfair to ask me to read your mind and know what you want when you aren’t clear.
  4. If you have a meeting afterwards, please let me know at the start of the interview.  I will happily chat with you about your company, the job and life in general in my attempts to figure out what you want. I literally do not see you looking at your watch and tapping your foot.
  5. Be clear. I cannot stress this enough. If you haven’t defined a task or activity yet, explain that. I may have some ideas based on what you’ve told me already. I like new things. I like it when a company recognizes that they have a need but haven’t quite figured out what it is yet. It’s like a puzzle that I get to help build in order to make the company and the position more effective. There’s a certain amount of pride at looking at a job and saying, “I created that.” It’s what I do. Create things.
  6. Do not chew, drink or gnaw at the interview. I don’t chew gum or gnaw on my fingernails or pick my nose during an interview. I’d appreciate it if you didn’t, either. Yes, I did have one interviewer pick his nose. How on earth do you ignore that? If you have any kind of accent, it’s hard to understand you when you’ve got something in your mouth. Besides, it’s rude. Don’t do it. You can get your coffee fix after. Have lunch when you’re scheduled to. Don’t do lunch interviews, either. You may think it’s fun and relaxing, but for me it’s a nightmare. I’m nervous enough as it is without adding table manners into the mix. Oh, and if you have a nip of scotch in your coffee, offer me some (yes, I’ve had drunk interviewers).

For my part I will try to be clear and friendly. I guarantee you’ll like my work and if you don’t I’ll keep at it until you do. I work very hard and am very diligent. I’m not looking for a buddy or a place where “everybody knows your name.” I want to do the job I’m hired for as best as I’m able. I won’t ever get the chance to do that, though so long as I have to endure the interview.