Interviews are the worst. Not even just for jobs—client interviews, relationship interviews (i.e. dates), I think the only kind of interview I would like to do is be a guest on Jimmy Fallon, but I would insist on playing Catchphrase or Pictionary afterwards. (Note to self: plan game night…)
I’ve never been good at interviews. In design school, we did mock interviews with a real-life interior designer. The critique I received? Don’t interrupt your interviewer. I talk more when I’m nervous (occasionally, I retreat into complete silence). When I do talk very fast, I realize I haven’t been breathing, so I stop to talk a deep breath which gives me a chance to notice how they all stare… I do this at presentations too, it’s probably fascinating to watch me.
I read an article the other day that had a headline like, “The 5 Most Important Interview Questions EVER!!!” I had to read it because I assume everyone will ask me the most clichéd questions (What’s your worst quality? “I work TOO hard!”). I heard of a designer being asked if she was a “Roark” or a “Keating.” (This does not correlate to being a “Betty” or a “Veronica”) It was really a trick question to see if you read Ayn Rand’s “The Fountainhead.” So I read it out of fear that I would ever be asked that question (it was a good book, but let me save you some time—you want to be a “Roark”).
The article posed that a terrifying question someone may ask you is, “Describe yourself in one word.” I could only think of negative things—jerk, impatient, uptight. We should date! I was obsessed with the question for the rest of the day. Here’s where I’m at now: the word I have chosen is “casual.” One of my project managers told me that I may be the most laid-back person he’s ever met. I was shocked. I think of myself as an impatient, uptight jerk (not my best Stuart Smalley moment), but it goes to show how differently you can be perceived by others.
Here’s what I think it is–I like to level the playing field. If I’m presenting a design, I make it clear I want you to interrupt me, this is a conversation, let’s talk about it, etc. If we can all sit at a table great, if we’re all standing—let’s do that, let’s all be doing the same thing. Let’s work together! I crack jokes. I don’t stop for anyone; this is not something I consciously do, my nerves get the best of me. I self-deprecate, I point out how we’re not rocket scientists—we’re picking colors here people! I will do anything to make you smile at me. I need it! I will not stop (again, not something I do consciously) until I do! Have you heard that you’re supposed to film yourself giving a presentation and then watch it to improve your presentation skills? I know this, I’ve heard it from many different resources, yet I cannot bring myself to do it. I know I should.
Casual—I want everyone to be at ease. I want us to be friends. I desperately want you to like me! (Don’t we all feel that way?)