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How Failing Interviews Landed Me at the White House, Fulbright, and HubSpot

Source | LinkedIn : By Caroline Cotto

I sat across the table from four pairs of eyes with nervous excitement, trying to hide the cold sweat I could feel building up under my arms. I’d prepared for this. I was ready.

            “Caroline, tell us. What is your song of the moment?”

Nope, jokes, totally not ready for this. I froze. 

I encountered this ice-breaker-esque question during an interview for a position in an exclusive on-campus organization at my university called The Corp. As a freshman student desperately hoping to find my on-campus niche, stakes were high. I wanted this. Badly.  

“So, what is it? What’s your song of the moment?,” asked a male student interviewer.

             “I’d Lie,” I squeaked.
             “I’d Lie?” He raised his eyebrows. “Why?”

To which I responded with some B.S. answer about how this random Taylor Swift love song, with an ironically unfortunate title about perjury, did in fact embody who I was and why I would make a good candidate for the job.

Initiative facepalm please.

The Corpies wrapped up the interview, gave me a cookie consolation prize, and escorted me, head hung low, out of the room. Besides the few short interviews I’d done for college applications, this was my first real job interview. My big debut. And I’d failed. Miserably.

So, I dusted myself off, went home, and applied to more jobs. Lots more. Positions that seemed to have nothing in common except for one thing: I failed interviews for them all.

Because I am, and always will be, a science nerd at heart (science fair was my main sport in high school, just so you know who you’re dealing with), I decided I needed to take a more analytic approach to my predicament. Rather than getting discouraged about the fact that I was facing what felt like constant rejection, I decided to reframe failed interviews as invaluable opportunities for experimentation and apply the scientific method:

Hypotheses:
            A) I wasn’t confident enough in my own abilities.

            B) I wasn’t preparing properly.
            C) I was applying for all the wrong things.

I was fairly confident that confidence was not my primary problem. I knew that I loved talking to people. I knew that I was a hard worker. I knew that my background qualified me for the majority of positions I was applying to. So, turning to my second hypothesis, I thought, perhaps therein lay the rub.

What really moved the needle for me when it came to interviewing was the realization that interviewing was just about telling a compelling narrative. And not just “a” narrative, but “my” narrative. People like hearing those weird stories of experiences that pushed you to the edge and made you a grow. And boy, do I have plenty.

Read On…

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