From the mind of Sarah...
Aim to Impress - But It's Okay If You Don't
April 07, 2019
One of the things about going through the interview process is that you spend a lot of time trying to impress people. When you go into an interview you know (or you should know!) that you're qualified for the job. But you not only have to convince your interviewer(s) of that, you also have to convince them that you're more qualified and a better fit than any other candidate they're interviewing. Sometimes it seems like the company really wants to bring you on and impressing them is easy, but other times its an uphill battle.
I know I'm good at what I do. I have the technical skills I need to be a great developer, and whatever technical skills I don't have, I can pick up fairly quickly. I'm a little shy and not super social, so I could see why personality-wise people might be hesitant about me, but I do genuinely love spending time with other people, and nothing gives me more joy than seeing the people around me happy (well, maybe baseball), and I am a good co-worker.
I know all these things about myself ... but the interviewer may not. So when I pick up the phone, load up Google Hangouts, or walk into the office, I have to start selling myself. And I'm not very good at that.
I had an onsite interview at a great company this week. I had an opportunity to meet with their entire tech team (it's a smaller company), answer some questions about me and my experience (and one really hard question about sandwiches), and show them my technical skills. I hope that they got a good sense of why I would be a great contributor to their company, but I walked out feeling like there were some people that I just did not impress - including someone higher up on the team.
At first, I was pretty upset. This job would be fairly different from my last position (and would probably require a greater time commitment from me, which can be tough), but I really liked the company and the work they do and I would love it if they offered me the position. I wanted to walk out of the interview feeling 100% confident that it went well, and instead I walked out feeling completely drained and uncertain.
After some thought, I realized it was okay. Maybe I did impress all my interviewers and I just didn't realize it. Maybe they were looking for something different than I thought - they might been looking to see how I responded when I didn't know something, not just if I knew everything they were looking for. Maybe I knew more than I thought that was able to articulate everything I knew. Or maybe they were surprised that I didn't have the answers they were looking for, but were still impressed by what I was able to show them and how I reasoned through things.
Even if I didn't impress everyone, I may have impressed enough people that they will convince the people I didn't impress to give me a chance and offer me the position. And if they don't offer me the position, I can still learn from the experience. I'm already planning to work with someone to fill in a gap in my knowledge that I discovered from this interview. I know some things I need to work on. And just the act of sitting (or standing) there answering questions was good practice for me, and hopefully I'll do even better at my next interview.
When going into an interview (at any stage of the job search), you really want to impress your interviewer(s). Everyone else should walk away from the conversation just as sure as you are that you're the best candidate for the job. But if you don't impress, that's okay. Pick yourself up, brush it off, hope for the best, and prepare for the interview. You may still move on in the process, and even if you don't, you now have more interview experience. And you'll do better next time.