Job Interview Epiphany

The other day I got an unexpected phone call from a law firm I applied to about a month ago. I was totally unprepared for the mini-interview session they were expecting.

First of all, isn’t this kind of unprofessional? Who just calls out of the blue anymore? I have always been kind of old-school, and unless I’m good friends with a person I’m not going to just call them up randomly and expect them to be prepared for a conversation about how they’re doing–let alone a job interview…

But, I really need a second job–so, I totally winged it. And it was an epic fail, but I learned a great lesson and came up with a cool way to answer a question I’ve always hummed and hawed over in the interview process.

The lesson? When a company puts the words “Customer Service Representative” I need to remember to think of a call center and not a concierge. Seriously, this isn’t some elitist statement on my part. I mean, I’m used to Best Western and Motel 6 in the next city for family vacations, okay? It’s just that every time I see CSR in an ad, I think of a front desk type situation. And from a law firm? Anyway, I digress…

This post is about the kinda cool way I discovered to answer the question that was asked at the very beginning of this unannounced over-the-phone interview.

“So, Melissa, why don’t you tell me a little bit about yourself.”

And, then, death… Not literally, surely, but I can never think of what to say. In that moment of the interview my mind shoots to that “About Me” box on MySpace. I never quite knew what to say to fill that up. So, then my mind kicks up random data one might put on a dating site. Age, Astrological Sign, and Relationship Status. Then, I think, “that’s not what they want to hear!”

So, while I’m saying um… my brain kicks out why I want the job and my mouth follows suit.

“Sure, I understand,” she says, trying not to sound annoyed, “but you still haven’t told me about yourself.”

This hung me up for days, Kids. The last couple of days, I’ve been trying to come up with a snappy–but not “rehearsed”–way to answer this question with no hesitation next time.

Then it occurred to me, the answer’s in the question.

When I was kid, I loved playing with the letters in my name and coming up with sentences or short phrases with silly meanings. Then, I started applying the same kind of pattern later in spelling classes and history classes to remember names and dates. It’s a mnemonic, which I’m sure you’re familiar with, but at the time it was quite a novel process to me. And it’s still a fall-back when my brain is tired. I’ll discover patterns in things or I’ll need to find something to straighten…

But my brain broke down my professional strengths, just like that, using the letters of my name.

M-Meticulous

E-Energetic

L-Listener

I-Idea person

S-Supportive

S-Self-starter

A-Adaptable

And while I can use that list, it doesn’t have to sound rote because the words would be applied to the job discussed in that particular interview. It was just a moment of pure clarity that I had to get down before I lost it. Just that moment of *snap* into place. Hope this might help someone else who’s been caught like that in an interview. As if we aren’t stressed enough!

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