Shortly after completing culinary school back in 2007, one of my first job interviews was at an Asian-themed chain restaurant named Panda Inn, as I applied for the somewhat vague “friendly staff needed” position. This didn’t concern me as I had just finished school doing pretty much everything during my externship in a fine dining setting.
It was early on in my interviewing experience, so “technique” wasn’t an issue I was aware of. My instinct was to charm myself into the position with my cute, shy smile and honesty. Aside from stumbling over the surprisingly loaded statement of “Tell me about yourself,” the dreaded strengths and weaknesses question was up next. As for strengths, I mentioned that I’m honest, punctual, use common sense, and pay attention to the area to see what needs to be done. When it came to weaknesses, I replied that I’m not great at math, I’m shy for the most part, and that I can’t be around [the scent] of eggs. Little did I know that during an interview you’re supposed to pretend you don’t have any weaknesses.
It was a while ago, so I’m paraphrasing here but my unboss offered advice for future interviews at the conclusion of our unfortunate session. “Let me give you some tips for future job interviews. In the future, maybe sit up straight, perhaps cutting your hair would help, shaving your facial hair wouldn’t hurt, and just overall be more confident.” I wasn’t sure to feel offended or thankful, but now I realize she was just being helpful. I clearly didn’t sell myself well and I’m sure she’s used to constant overselling from others.
I can’t complain; this was mainly on me being a little too honest with weaknesses and not keeping up with what’s perceived as a professional appearance. Looking back, I wasn’t terrible, it’s the aftermath I think as to why I think of this experience in a negative connotation. It helped me realize how looks can be just as important as experience in the eyes of some when it comes to perceived ability to perform a job. I looked different, so I wasn’t safe. I didn’t fit the somewhat over-the-top stereotypical Asian décor; of course, they don’t want a long-haired brown guy disrupting the ambience they were trying oh so hard to present. Clearly my appearance wasn’t the sole reason of my not getting hired, hence my tear flow isn’t terribly heavy.
As big a waste of time it seemed after the incident to both myself and the relatively polite interviewer, I’m glad to have gone through such an awkward interview as it in part helped me become the person I am today.