Happy Halloween! In celebration of this fun holiday, I want to share with you one of my own frightening job interview stories. I shared it this time last year with Monster.com.
A number of years ago, I was interviewing for a job in Pittsburgh. The company flew me to Pittsburgh to interview in person.
I flew in relatively late at night and was taken by taxi to my hotel, with the interview scheduled first thing the next morning.
As I unpacked my suitcase, I realized I had forgotten the pants to my suit at home. Uh oh.
My mind was racing as I went through the options of what to do:
Could I wear the pants I’d flown to Pittsburgh in? No, they were sweatpants—and I was interviewing at a large corporation.
Could I call a cab to take me to a mall to shop for a new suit? No, it was around 10 p.m. and everything was closed.
Could I go into a nearby 24-hour store and look for pants? No, the only store nearby was a drugstore and they didn’t carry pants.
Could I have a pair of pants shipped to me from home? No, all the shippers were closed for the day.
This brainstorming went on for about an hour. I tried to calmly think of a creative solution to this big problem.
Eventually, I found the answer online.
It turned out, packages could be dropped off directly at the airport until around midnight for FedEx, and could be delivered as early as 6 a.m. the next morning. The only catch was getting them to the airport.
So, then began the task of figuring out how to get pants from my apartment to FedEx in a short period of time. The building manager was the only one with a key to my apartment, but I didn’t have her phone number. So I called a female neighbor who was friends with another male neighbor who had a dog that the building manager walked every day—I knew he would have the building manager’s personal contact information, and I knew my female neighbor had the dog owner’s phone number.
After a few calls, I got the building manager’s phone number. Then, I called the building manager and asked her to give my backup key to a friend who was willing to drive the pants to the airport. Fortunately, the building manager was willing to do this and the friend got my key.
Then, the friend entered my apartment and called me in order to locate the correct pair of pants that matched the suit. After locating the pants, the friend drove them to FedEx, which was at the airport, and set them to be delivered at the earliest possible time.
Then, I alerted the hotel to contact me the moment the pants arrived at 6 a.m.—which they did. The interview went smoothly and nobody noticed anything unusual.
The funny thing was that one of the questions they asked was, “Tell us about a time you encountered a problem and were able to find a creative way to solve it.”
It was the perfect opportunity to share my story. The interviewers were both surprised and very impressed. What started as a potential nightmare turned out to be a big win.
I honestly don’t remember if I got that job, but I do remember that the interview went really well.
The lesson here: When it comes to job interviews, don’t expect everything to go perfectly. In fact, there’s often one thing that will go wrong. If you can plan on that one thing, it’s much easier to roll with the punches and have an overall positive experience.
Interviewing is not about answering every question exactly right, either. The hiring manager is much more likely to remember how they felt about you than how you answered each specific question. It’s much like the experience of going to a live comedy show. You don’t remember each joke that was performed, but you remember whether you laughed and had a good time.
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