I nervously knocked on the door of 2101 at a Hilton in New York City. Not hearing an immediate response, I began walking back to my makeshift window seat (kind of ridiculous, since every other room had a chair outside it) as the door swung open.
A man named John introduced himself as we rounded the corner to a seating area. He seemed relatively nice. An additional interviewer waited on a couch. Her name was Michelle. I think she may have been into me, but that is beside the point. A second interviewer caught me off guard. I thought to myself, “This feels weird. There’s like, two of them and one of me. Is this a threeway?” In hindsight, I’m really glad I kept that one to myself. Although, which is better—some sexual tension or a lot of regular tension? Who knows.
The interview began. It probably should have been easy, since they were mostly behavioral questions. I answered everything honestly—my first mistake. The position I was interviewing for was in sales. When asked to describe a quality I would like to change about myself, I replied, “I would like to be less shy. You know, there are people who you instantaneously fall in love with…I am not one of them. I win people with my work ethic.” Classic salesman being shy, am I right? Worse than that, I continued to explain that my old boss would call me shy. Despite my poor response, at the very least I knew how to answer the work ethic questions. I figured, this was the perfect out: it’s a positive quality in an employee, and it is really hard to debate. The decision was made: any question I didn’t have an immediate answer for would shift to work ethic.
You know how they say you shouldn’t create any distractions during an interview? I had forgotten this. It wasn’t until 20 minutes into the interview that I realized my foot was tapping, my hand was shaking and my jaw was chewing; I didn’t even have gum in my mouth. How does that happen? To calm myself down, I imagined us all sitting there in our underwear; apparently this only works when giving a speech to a large audience. By the way, I still think Michelle was into me.
I was on roll, answering anything the interviewers could throw at me, until I encountered a question I didn’t have a great answer for. John asked, “So, what do you know about our company?”
The question didn’t process immediately, so I began ranting about my work ethic. About two sentences into my response, I realized this was the one question work ethic could not apply to. Just my luck. I went into the brief background I had read about the company on Wikipedia during the train ride to New York City. Next, I accidentally said something that really should have broke the camel’s back (if it wasn’t broken already): Me: “Oh, and you are killing it in Asia.”
I created a future rule-of-thumb that day: not only should I not use slang in a formal setting, the word “killing” should probably not come up in an interview. What if they didn’t know their company well and used their own imagination for it? Did I just accuse an enormous company of killing someone in Asia? Worse, they could have assumed it to be some famous, beloved panda.
After all is said and done, I guess you could say I might have landed the job.
Kuhrt is a member of the class of 2017.