Tag Archives: faux pas

Tell Me About Yourself….and other invitations to shoot yourself in the head

This post is unashamedly about myself. In a way none of the others have been.

It started on Monday evening, when I checked my inbox and saw a magical subject line:

Phone Interview with Company X.

Wow, how incredible. Finally, someone had taken the time to open my resume and read my cover letter. Someone had decided that,

Hmm…this one seems interesting, I would like to know more.

I tripped. I was all like, ‘Oh my God, Oh my God, Oh my God!’

Internship/Job hunting is a lonely business.  I knew from past experience that asking for advice on how to make myself pop on paper would yield little result- I got glowing reviews after sending my package for a critical analysis, only to discover grammatical errors, uneccessary statements and a host of resume no-nos.

Despite this, I still started by consulting on the axis of evil: ‘tell me about yourself, strengths &weaknesses,  5 year plan?’

After some uninspired advice, me and my friend Google spent long nights discussing the best way to answer ‘what are your professional goals’ and ‘do you consider yourself a team player’.

Gradually, I crafted (and I do mean crafted, like lovingly molding each word as though my life depended on it) my answers. I wrote about all the teams I had been involved in- from the Chinese group members who at best had a rudimentary grasp of English, to the Morrocan no-shows, to the AIESEC teams with their all consuming energy . Yep, I had been there, and I knew my sh*t.

I read about the company’s products, asking myself which ones in specific I would be involved in, and how I could contribute. I even analysed them using a business model we learnt the other day just to have it all together.

I was ready. I drank coffee like a fiend and did some yoga stretches.

What could possibly go wrong? We began.

Here are some excerpts from my session:

HR from X: Tell me about yourself

At this moment, I looked down at my prepared answer. And I asked myself, who is this person I have described? Can I really convince HR that she exists?

And then my descent into interview nightmare began. I could hear myself rambling on about my education, my school activities. All that about slipping in your achievements and talents? Gone. Instead, a stream of words colliding into each other. I remember I mentioned leadership. And something about challenge and learning quickly. And a lot of uuuums. I mean a lot.

Then I remembered to ask, ‘Anything else you would like to know?’

HR from X: You studied at USIU, why did you not go to the States instead?

Saaaaaay, whaaaaa? It had never ever occured to me to study in the USA. Especially after I saw the school fees. Now, I could simply have said, ‘My goal was always to study in France so as to improve my french. Also, France has excellent business schools’

Nice, simple, clear.

But noo….

After uuuming for a couple of minutes I said:

‘Well, there was the recession. And to be honest I do not like US business theories. I do not like US business models. I think they are right on the line of criminality and extreme greed and generally unsustainable. I think European businesses are a lot more balanced. Oh, and I wanted to study in France because they have good schools and to learn French’

There you have it- the birth of Comrade Wairish.

Somwhere in the middle of my ramblings, I mentioned I blog. She honed in on that and asked, ‘Is the address on your CV?’

I told her that I have one on my cv, but it contains the ‘professional’ stuff I did when I was in Kenya. (because apparently people sometimes google you before an interview, and I thought it would be nice to have something other than my tweets and FB profile out there)

She asked if I could send her the link and I told her it’s personal. (Then why did I bring it up? *Facepalm*)

HR from X: You know it is easy to find things online!

Was that a threat? 

Then came: What are you planning to do after you graduate?

Me:I want to stay in France for at least a year.

HR X: But you know this internship is only for six months?

Me: Yes I know, ideally I would like to be here for a year, but I need a minimum of six months to graduate. But I really like the JD.

HR X: So what do you want? Do you want to stay for a year or not?

Me: Look, I can see that your internship is for six months. I applied because I like the JD. It is fine, I am flexible

Can you hear the nails in the coffin yet?

My enthusiasm cooled down after she gave me the ‘stipend’ figures. Bonus included, living in one of the most expensive cities in the world, I would have to live on bread and water. And not buy any new clothes ever. And probably try to ride the buses for free.

Despite everything I still feel euphoric. I don’t know if it’s the after effects of a liter of coffee, or the excitement that I finally had an interview. Anyway, I’m going to send my thank you letter, and really mean it- the practice was invaluable.

And as, we say, the game ain’t over until this fat lady sings.

Aluta continua!