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By Marilyn Heywood Paige
After four rounds of interviews totaling roughly eight hours, I didn’t get the job.
Not because I’m not qualified.
Because I overshared.
I was asked questions about who I am close to and what challenges have shaped my character and I answered them honestly. One of that company’s values is radical truth and transparency. I served up too much of both.
I should have glossed over details. I should have kept the truth buttoned up.
And once the floodgates were open, it was like I couldn't stop telling the truth. Oooooph. Major fail.
How could I be so unprofessional?
Because no one ever asks me about myself. And because I was in social lockdown for over two years and forgot how to self-edit. I told the truth about who I am, where I’ve been, and what matters to me. I said waaaaay too much.
I felt over-exposed. And I blame myself for it. I should have given them tidy HR-approved answers. Surface answers = employable.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, when the interviewers asked did I have questions for them, I asked them what current business challenges are keeping them up at night. One out of five people gave me a genuine answer. The others gave me polite bull.
It made me mad. I just told you who I really am and you’re not willing to tell me what's really going on in your business? I asked the CEO, what happens if you don’t get this hire correct? He offered, “We waste time.” I disagreed with him because their brand has a lot more at stake than just time lost.
I asked, "When are you looking to fill this role?" He said, "We're really looking for the right person." That's code for, we're shopping to see what's out there and we may not hire anyone.
My post-interview thank you note to the CEO sealed my fate because I pointed out the three critical challenges he’s facing right now and my concern over his apparent lack of urgency.
No surprise he didn’t hire me. Nobody likes a smartass over-sharer.
Because I didn’t get the job, I once again realize that the only way to survive in the work world is to not be yourself. Don’t bring the truth, don’t bring your real self. This idea that we can bring our true selves to work is rubbish. Nobody wants that. Humans are messy. Our lives aren't what our Instagram stories purport.
Showing your feelings at work makes people uncomfortable.
Years ago, during a four-person staff meeting, one woman recounted some terrible thing that happened to her the night before. She got very emotional and was visibly shaken. The other two people said nothing and were obviously uncomfortable. I put my arm around her and told her that was an awful thing to go through and that she was safe now and to stay mentally in the present time. It was all I could think to do, but I sure as hell would not ignore what she said, make her wrong, or shame her.
How are we supposed to work together as humans while hiding our humanity?
Here's the truth about the human workforce.
One in five adults in the US experience a mental illness. That’s 20% of everyone you see walking around your office or in your zoom meeting. Since the pandemic, the World Health Organization says the COVID-19 pandemic triggered a 25% increase in the prevalence of anxiety and depression worldwide. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 61% of men and 51% of women report at least one traumatic event in their lifetimes.
Personally, I had a breakup, moved to a new city, navigated a health issue, lost my job, had a parent move in with me, and that same parent got cancer–all in the last year and a half. So, yeah, I’m stressed, anxious, and sometimes missing an edit button.
I’m also incredibly resourceful, a kick-azz marketer, and a loving daughter. It is precisely because of all those setbacks that I am a great hire. I have managed all those challenges and still get up every day and bring my best.
In future job interviews, if someone says, “We want to get to know who you are and your character,” I may ignore it and give them the Instagram version of myself. Or I may just ask them, “Are you sure you can handle that?”
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