My "Energy" And "Enthusiasm" Sabotaged A Job Interview, How Can I Learn To Control Myself?

Sure, I was passionate and motivated, but I suspect I was also a little "scary."
Publish date:
March 24, 2014
career, interviews, anxiety, jobs, personality

I recently interviewed for a management position at a small company in Los Angeles.

On paper, I was perfect for the job. I had the experience necessary, I had the appropriate education for the needs of the position, and I had glowing recommendations from past employers. I even had someone pulling for me internally for the position. But after round after round of interviews and submitted writing samples, I did not get it.

Now I'm sure there were reasons beyond the doubts that are dancing in my head -- that there were aspects of my resume that were lacking, that the people I was competing with had even more experience, that perhaps the boss just didn't jive with me. These are all very real and logical things that could have cost me this job.

However, I'm pretty sure it was my last interview that did me in.

You see I've never exactly been described as subtle. Co-workers, friends, family like to joke about, usually not unkindly, the largeness of my personality. I have a big, loud laugh, my speaking voice is often described as BOOMING, and I've been told that my enthusiasm for some things can be exhausting. These are usually positive attributes to my personality that in that past has helped me make friends, influence people, and procure jobs. But I think that's what went wrong with my job interview.

The head of the company and I planned a Skype chat at 11am my time. The morning of the interview, I got up extra early, made myself a healthy breakfast, drank my coffee and made myself look appropriately business-like yet "creative" from the waist up. It was a Skype interview after all.

When it came time to Skype, the boss rang me on my computer and I picked up. Immediately it was apparent that our connection was bad, and try as we might, a Skype chat was not going to happen. We decided to switch to plan B, and talk over the phone instead.

This change of plans already had me thrown a little. It didn't seem to bother him, but I couldn't help but feel the feelings of doubt start to nibble at the edges of my confidence. I could already hear the level of my voice rising in compensation for the nerves I started to feel.

Come on, Hung, you got this, you can be charming and professional, GET IT TOGETHER.

Our phone conversation went OK. I was able to answer his questions thoughtfully and intelligently, for the most part. But intermittently I caught myself laughing a little too loudly, my words tumbling out a little too quickly, too frenetically. When asked about accomplishments I was proud of, I helplessly felt myself escalate to that place of "bulldozing" him. Sure, I was passionate and motivated, but I suspect I was also a little "scary." Try as I might to regain my composure, my stride was broken, and I couldn't get back into a rhythm.

I had defaulted to my dreaded "exhausting" mode.

As the interview came to an end, the boss remarked TWICE about my impressive "energy and enthusiasm" and explained to me how the remaining hiring process would continue should I move forward. Then he commented again on my remarkable "energy." Ugh.

I've interviewed many times, more of them successful than not, but you just KNOW when you've mucked one up. And this one was mucky.

Upon hanging up the phone, I had an overwhelming urge to call him back and ask for a do-over. NO I DIDN'T DO THAT, this isn't a sitcom, but sweet crap I wanted to. I might be delusional, but I feel like the job was mine to lose, and in retrospect it feels like I did everything in my power to lose it.

Indeed there are times that I can channel my nervous energy into a powerful resource, but this time I know it just came across as anxious, pummeling, over the top.

I know I'm capable of controlling myself, I have after all landed jobs before, but lately I find that my nerves betray me. I have a lot at stake right now, perhaps more than I've had job-wise in a long time. I'm probably leaving Hawai'i soon, I'm attempting to get my career back on track, and there is the very real possibility that my husband and I may have to live apart for one, maybe two years due to his PhD field research.

The next step I take in my job and career will be incredibly impactful to me, both personally and professionally, and I find myself obsessing.

It's a hard, even humiliating realization to make, but I think the issue I'm dancing around is that I'm feeling a little desperate. And it's bleeding into my dealings with people.

I'm so hellbent on compensating for the uncertainty in my life that the compensation is becoming my tell. It's OK to really want things -- jobs, friends, success -- but want it too much and it becomes ugly, unseemly. I feel like I'm tottering.

I so wish that I could be more like the calm, confident women I admire. That marvelous type of person that seems to get more still and measured when the tension is high. Instead of overcompensating, they quietly invite you to rise to the challenge. I know I'm capable of that, but somehow it feels lost to me right now.

So as I prepare for the next job interview, the next submission, the next bid at work, I silently plead with myself to remain calm. Yet the very act of "pleading" with myself speaks to the mounting sense of doubt and anxiety that is coloring my every action as of late. I just want to feel like myself.

Have you ever sabotaged an interview or job-type situation with your enthusiasm or "big personality"? Do you ever find yourself overcompensating for your shortcomings, real or perceived? Do you have an "exhausting mode"? How do you deal with this type of anxiety?