The 16th of February will be a special day in my personal history. I explained what was so special about this day in my blog Confessions of a virgin. After having had a few days to digest my experiences, I am ready to report them.
That wintry Thursday, I joined the club of nervous interviewees, who put their deodorant brands to the ultimate test. The cold winter day was not icy enough to cool down my heated nerves. I felt the excessive perspiration under my armpits soak through my blouse and I was glad that the checked pattern and not too dark colour did not giveaway my moist secret by creating a contrast to the dry areas of my blouse. But the dampness was extremely uncomfortable. Therefore I bought a heavy duty antiperspirant, although I am usually against using them. I only had a short time to visit Mr. M before taking the train to where I was going to be interviewed. Mr. M gave his thumbs up for my interview outfit. He also gave me a pep talk about why I had nothing to lose and that it was as much a test of the company as it was of me because I had to decide, if the company suits me as well.
While sitting on the train, I tried to refresh my memory of the main points in Project Management. I was informed that there would be an Assessment Centre as well but the HR head had not offered more details. Mr. M told me that in his company Assessment Centre usually means that the candidate has to perform some tasks of the role he applied for. Thus I wanted to be prepared for the eventuality I was given a project to plan as part of the assessment.
I tried to relax and told myself that Mr. M was right. I had no reason to be nervous. I had the experience and the competency they were looking for. I had not lied on my CV to increase my attractiveness as a candidate. Obviously I had passed the initial scrutiny; otherwise I would not have been invited to a face to face interview.
I arrived at my destination train station shortly after one in the afternoon. My interview was scheduled for 2 pm. As part of my preparation for the interview I visited numerous sites run by HR professionals where they provide tips to interviewees and highlight the dos and don’ts in an interview situation. One of the don’ts was: “Do not arrive too early for an interview. You do not want to look, as if you are desperate to get the job.” I ignored Mr. M’s well minded suggestion to take a taxi and risk looking desperate by arriving too early. Instead I decided to walk the 1.8 km to the company’s location. The online route planer I had used suggested I would need about 27 minutes to walk the distance. What my route planer and I did not take into account was the fact that I was wearing half boots with about 12 cm heels. At the beginning of the walk, I even enjoyed it. The sun was shining and the air was no longer biting at my nose and fingers. What better way to relax one’s nerves? But every time I looked at my watch, another 5 minutes seemed to have passed by and I had not gotten far in that time. Needless to say, about 10 minutes to 2 pm I was starting to freak out. I was ready to grab a taxi for the last few metres but taxis always seem to miraculously disappear when they are needed. Then a couple passed me by and I asked them, if they knew how far away building number 216 was. They replied that the building was about 4 minutes away. Thanking them I half jogged, half walked briskly to building number 216. I am not lying but I arrived with about a minute to spar and my pulse was racing. At least I got some oxygen to my brain as a result of my pre-interview exercise.
The interview started off on a very bad note for me. I mixed up the name of the founder of the company, who was the other interviewer too. But he smiled it away and I am hoping that it did not get me some major minus points. The atmosphere was very informal and even with my semi-formal attire I was way overdressed. If I am invited to a second interview, I would be going there in jeans. I found out in the course of a conversation with the HR head that it is fine with them.
After about an hour of tell me about yourself and your experiences, they left me to complete 2 tests. That was part of their assessment centre. The tests were very mathematical in nature and I had dropped Math after my GCE ‘O’ levels because I was terrible in that subject. There were questions, which reminded me of my last secondary school examination. For instance; there was one algebra question where I had to find out the value of X using a, b and Y. Most of the questions were easy that I was constantly looking for a catch or a trap. I wonder, if they would tell me how I well I did on the tests? After about an hour, I had finished the first of the 2 tests. The HR head stuck his head through the doorway and told me that he wanted to take me on a tour of their warehouse. I have to add that one of the company’s main businesses is the sale of street wear. They also publish books and magazines on the topic of graffiti.
After the tour, I was left alone for another 30 minutes to finish the second test. Then they both came back into the room. More questions and answers and I really felt I was doing a good job until the boss posed the brainteaser, “How many cats live in Germany?” I know the purpose of these kind of questions. It is to test the ability of the candidate to make decisions based on logical deductions and also use some common sense. Unfortunately no one in the circle of people I knew owned a cat and people do not take cats for walks so I had no idea how many people in my neighbourhood held cats behind closed doors. My first guestimate was way off the mark. I said something like 30 million cats. My only excuse is that after 4 hours, the oxygen level in my brain had dropped down to a dangerously low and thereby influencing my power of concentration. Seeing the ridiculous looks on their faces, I corrected it to 8 million, which was closer to the actual number of 6.9 million. Did you know that there are more cats than dogs in Germany? I always thought the opposite was true.
We finished the interview with the usual questions; why do you want to work for us and why should we decide for you. It was after the official office hours as we ended the interview session. The HR head was nice enough to offer me a ride to the next train station. In about 2 week’s time, I would know if I have a second chance or if the cats kicked me out of the race. 🙂
Here is my advice to others going to their first interview.
- Research the company background before hand. If possible, try not to mix up names.
- Buy a good antiperspirant. Believe me you will feel better, if you are dry under the arms.
- Make sure that the colour of your shirt or blouse does not show it, if you do perspire.
- Arrive about 15 minutes earlier. (It would allow you to powder your nose if necessary,)
- Have mints to freshen your breath before the interview.
- Bring along a piece of paper and pen to take notes.
- Maintain eye contact at all times and don’t forget to smile.
- Be totally focused at all times. (Do not mentally go through what you would post on Facebook after the interview!)
- Enjoy the experience. To say it in Mr. M’s words, “Nothing beats the first time!”