The Interview Waltz

The Interview Waltz

view photostream Uploaded on June 22, 2006
by dannys42

Under a great deal of pressure in stress during my job hunt, I've found myself reverting to another point of reference about pleasing others in the hopes that they'll take you: the ballet audition.

I've danced ever since I was three. Since I was nine until I graduated from high school, I took around 5-6 classes a week, including jazz and modern. I took summer intensives at a local arts school, and auditioned for several professional schools, and was accepted to two (I picked the Rock School, which was a big mistake, but that's another story for another day). I auditioned for a prestigious production of the Nutcracker, where I danced in the corps. In college, upon discovering a dance program heavily skewed toward neo-modern dance, I helped found student-run ballet group that provides ballet classes and performances, which involved many other auditions over the years.

And now, as I brace myself for job interviews, I can't help but imagine them as auditions.

Like ballet auditions, interviews are nerve-wracking even before they begin. Though thankfully, I haven't had to face competitors face to face yet, like the ballerinas who use intimidation by show offing and stretching and pirouetting before the audition begins, I can still imagine them there, hovering in the back of my mind. Like eying the dancers around me at an audition, I wonder what the other candidates have got on me. Are they smarter? Do they have a Masters? Are they 35 and got laid off, but have 10 years experience in the field? And like a good dancer, I try to warm myself up (mentally), preparing myself for the worst, trying to recall the answers I've prepared for more commonly asked questions, and trying to calm my brain to sound as articulate as possible.

When the interview begins, it's much like an audition. Faced with one or more people judging you, and one person directing you, you're expected to be at your very best, trying to stand out, to be the one that catches their eye. While in an audition, you have to pay close attention to the teacher and the steps he/she gives, you must also keep an eye on the judges, in the hopes they noticed you. You have to make sure you're doing the right combinations, but doing them with perfect technique and some sort of emotion, too. In an interview, in the meantime, you have to make eye contact with everyone in the room, and make sure you're not just directing yourself toward the person who asked the last question. You have to answer the questions adequately but also use body language, eye contact, hand shakes, and enthusiasm.

If, for whatever reason, you mess up, or fall, or stub your toe, you have to keep going, to pull yourself together and hope that no one noticed or that your technique will be impressive enough to overcome your mistake. Similarly, in an interview, if you find you've made a gaff or misspoken or gave a really silly answer, you have to battle on and pick yourself up.

Some auditions leave you in less suspense: you're told immediately if you made it to the next round or if you've been accepted. Others are not so kind: you have to wait to be contacted (back in the day, by snail mail). In interviews, you usually have to wait to find out, though you'll often have an inkling to how you did. Like at a ballet audition, I find myself wondering, "Will I get a call-back?" For the life of me, I cannot bring myself to visualize a second interview as a second interview. Inevitably, I'll pray for that call or email telling me I have a call back.

And finally, I find myself in the battle between hubris and humiliation, depending on whether I get that call-back. So far in my job hunt since I've been back in the US, I haven't made it past the last round, and find myself wallowing in the same self-pity and sadness that I'd find myself in after not making it in an audition.

But I have to dust myself off, strap my pointe shoes back on (or in the case of interviews, pointy-toed black heels), and get back out there.