[WHILE I'M AWAY] Interviews: The professional confessional

"While I'm Away" could also be called my "I'm in Peru and can't blog" series. Enjoy the trip down memory lane!

Today's post: my take on the interview process, with some tips on how to sail through them and go straight to employment heaven.

Interviews: The professional confessional

You enter a small room. You feel nervous, self-conscious. You sit face-to-face with the person in charge. You share personal information about yourself and your deeds. And in the end, you hope to receive acceptance and absolution.

No, I am not talking about Confession. I'm referring to Interview, a necessary and nervewracking stage in any job search process.

Believe me, I'm not complaining about interviews. They validate all the hard work you've done at your previous jobs and in your search efforts. They prove your cover letters, resumes, and contacts are effective. And they mean that if you smile enough, speak clearly, and don't wet your pants, you might end up on payroll.

I was in one of these coveted meet-ups yesterday when I experienced an out-of-body experience -- the sense that I was indeed confessing. For those of you unfamiliar with the Catholic Sacrament of Reconciliation, here's a brief lay person's primer:

1. You sit in a booth or a room opposite a priest. Screen optional.

2. You fudge tell him how long it's been since your last visit.

3. You detail all your sins while wiping your sweaty palms on your jeans and trying not to think about that one time, at that bar ...

4. You listen to comforting words of counsel and understanding.

5. You say the Act of Contrition or completely make it up if you're me and have a huge mental block with this particular prayer, receive absolution, say Amen, and leave to go back to that bar.

And no, people do not enjoy artistic cinematography with light through the screen or hide in there for sanctuary or pose as priests to gain access to secrets. That's just in the movies.

It's still intimidating, though. Even the Church's semantic crusade to emphasize the kinder, gentler phrase "reconciliation" -- rather than the harsher, more accusing "confession" -- doesn't diminish the fact that it's tough to be on display.

Interviews are the same way. Despite the understanding that you're scoping out the organization too -- a mutual grilling, if you will -- the fact remains you are under a microscope.

No wonder people get nervous. You become acutely aware of your image and responses. You feel your faults pricking right beneath your skin, begging for a misstep or tongue slip, a chance to reveal themselves. You learn anew how intense it is to answer probing questions about your decisions and actions for two hours.

At least in Confession, you know God's going to accept you at the end, because, well, that's His job. But the same guarantee doesn't exist in an interview. You can only prepare and pray and try your hardest, and hope in the end that it's enough to get you into employment heaven.

I think we need a professional variation on the Guide for Examination of Conscience (the questions that help people ready their hearts for Reconciliation) to help alleviate some of the stress. It could go like this:

* Am I committed to the quality and integrity of my work?

* Did I represent myself honestly and accurately in my resume, cover letter, and interviews?

* Can I admit my shortcomings, and take steps to address them?

* Can I recognize my strengths, and make full use of them?

* Do I believe in my own dignity and worth, and understand that others' hiring decisions do not necessarily confirm or negate my value?

* Do I know what I'm talking about?

* Is my fly zipped?

... and so on.

If we are prepared to be transparent and authentic in interviews, then chances for acceptance skyrocket. And if all else fails, and your interview is a disaster, then pull this out:

Bless me, employer, for I have applied ... it's been three weeks since my last interview ...

Photo by xmascarol