Why You Should Remember Murphy's Law Before Your Next Job Interview

Remember Murphy’s Law : if anything can go wrong, it will? When it came to my first job interview, Murphy couldn’t have been more right. I was almost finished with my senior year of college and had made it to the final round of Teach For America (TFA) interviews. For those who don’t know, TFA is an elite national service corps and is known for being extremely difficult to get into. The final round of interviews consisted of a dozen TFA hopefuls presenting a 5-minute lesson each, followed by a group activity, an individual written test, a lunch break, and one-on-one interviews. To say it was an intense first interview is an understatement. I spent hours researching the organization and the reading materials provided, and I prepped and practiced my lesson plan over and over. Finally, interview day rolled around. I’d been to the interview location numerous times before. I knew it took forty minutes, so I gave myself two hours to account for whatever might go wrong. Then the following chain of events happened:

  • I got stuck in construction
  • I got lost in the construction detours
  • I got pulled over (though the police officer was nice enough to give me directions)
  • I couldn’t find parking
  • I found parking but didn’t have enough change for the meter
  • I got blown off by the first few people I asked to break my dollar
After showing up 15 minutes late, giving a flustered 5-minute presentation, and completing the group activity and individual test, it was finally time for lunch. I got in my car, ready to clear my head in preparation for the afternoon. Within a few moments I heard a loud noise and looked around to see if someone had thrown a snowball at me. No, it was a flat tire. Of course. My good friend lived nearby and she was nice enough to take me in and feed me Ramen noodles. After lunch, without an operable car, I started walking back for the in-person interview. Unfortunately for me, it was springtime in Michigan, which means the snow had mixed with mud to form filthy puddles along the street. Because it was that kind of day, I was DRENCHED by a car speeding by. I didn’t know what to do, so I just started laughing. The circumstances of the day were just too ridiculous. I showed up to my one-on-one interview with my clothes and hair dripping. The recruiter, already aware of my morning troubles, asked how my lunch went. I told her. She looked at me, seemingly unamused, before asking her first question: “Tell me about a time when you had trouble achieving a goal.” Looking back up from her papers, she cracked a slight smile and added, “You can use today as an example if you’d like.” We both laughed. I was relieved. It would be weeks before I found out whether I was accepted into Teach For America. During that time, I couldn’t help but think about what I could have done differently. The thing is, so much of that day was out of my control. What was in my control, however, was how I reacted. In the end, I was accepted into the corps. While there’s no way to be certain, I believe that how I reacted to the day was a big part of why they let me in. I could have given up, I could have felt sorry for myself, and I could have made excuses. But none of those attitudes would have helped me reach my goal. People don’t want excuses, just as they don’t want to be around someone who is negative or easily defeated. I hope you never have an interview day as trying as this one. If and when you do, I hope even more that you remember how important your reaction is. Keep your end goal in mind and move forward in as resilient and proactive of a manner as possible. Oh, and it never hurts to have a sense of humor. Written by Rachel Dotson on behalf of ZipRecruiter

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