As I shared my hair razing corporate interview experience with a colleague, she sat forward in her seat, smiling. Her eyes started to sparkle.
I could feel the anticipation, excitement, and intimidation start to build as I told my story.
Corporate America had a challenging interview process for me so long ago, involving several initial screenings over two months time: resume, written test, and a stress test. Then I was flying to all expenses paid to HQ for an all day interview session.
The company booked me in an Embassy Suites hotel on the eve of the interview marathon. I ordered an amazing dinner, and tried not to be intimidated about what the next day held.
I was right out of college. A single mom, age 32.
It was interview time.
The next day I reported to the assigned room. A group of us were given the day’s agenda. We were informed by our host that only 1 out of 7 people pass this phase of the test.
I looked around. There were 7 of us.
Our host left. People started talking about their degrees and where they went to school. Everyone had an engineering degree. I had a psychology degree. Yikes!
Give it your best always.
I told myself, “it doesn’t matter what anyone else does today, I need to be the best I can be”. Mindset shift, decision made.
Focus. Work smart. Be hungry.
Our group was given a 30 page technical sheet. We had three hours to prepare a technical solution and presentation. Each individual would be called into a room to make a sales presentation to mock customers.
I hated giving presentations!
Hungry for success, I made myself focus. If I bombed out, I would bomb out doing the best work I could do.
A quick scan of the document showed instructions buried in the document: “Ignore everything but the last two pages when preparing your technical solution”.
Curious, I snuck a peek at the others in the group. Only one other person noticed what I did. Score!
Don’t underestimate the power of a smile.
As I walked into the room to give my sales presentation, my teeth started to chatter. Four “customers” waited for me.
This was my worst nightmare! I gave them a big confident smile, introduced myself, and shook each person’s hand. I was getting a great reception. They seemed to like me.
Introductions out of the way, I presented my sales solution to their technical issues. Halfway through my presentation the group started to frown. They said, “This isn’t at all what we asked for; we don’t like your solution at all. You haven’t been listening to us”.
Don’t give up. Persist.
I knew I had presented a good technical solution. But I said to myself, “the customer is always right”. I also thought, “Well, this interview is pretty much over… I failed”.
I told them I would make the revisions they asked for within 24 hours. I kept a smile on my face and stayed positive that I would deliver a solution that satisfied them.
The meeting ended. I went back to sit with the rest of the group, a rumpled, sweaty mess. I was ready to go home. I had tried my best and failed.
Sometimes being right isn’t right.
I returned to the group. What I heard the others saying shocked me. They were vocal, fired up, comparing notes about what they had said.
Each person had argued with the customer and insisted their solution was right! They were confident the customer was wrong!
Some things don’t appear as they seem.
Our host dismissed us, telling us we would be notified by mail of the results. I already knew my results. Nada!
As I got up to leave the room, the host pulled me aside. Perhaps they were going to let me down easy.
I was asked to stay for an interview before I left that day.
Sure I could stay! I couldn’t have been more surprised.
Great people skills trump everything.
The VP in charge of Major Market Sales was super nice in the interview.
He explained technical skills can be learned; great interpersonal skills are hard to find. The company wanted employees who would offer excellent customer service under any circumstance.
I was offered my first professional position – Technical Sales Representative. I was on cloud 9!
Stepping up to a challenge is worth it.
I can’t tell you how great it felt to be the “1 out of 7”. You can be too!
Don’t underestimate the power of a smile, great people skills, persistence, and determined focus. They will take you farther than you could imagine!