Professional Knowledge brought to you by AKPsi
by Brock Edgar
Everyone in AKPsi knows how to do a successful interview, but we never really learn how NOT to do unsuccessful interviews. I think that an illustration of how to give a terrible interview might help in the job-search process, so you all know what not to do when interviewing. And since there’s no teacher like experience, I’ll tell you a tale of my experience interviewing for a scholarship at Drake University.
The year was 2008. The Northern air was crisp, like a potato chip in England. I was an uneducated high school lad, making the long trip from Green Bay, Wisconsin to Drake University in Ohio. Or Idaho. Nothing ever happens in either state, so you’ll forgive me for not knowing which one I was in. I was interviewing for a full-ride scholarship, along with about 100 professionally-dressed high school scholars. I was probably the only one in sneakers and a button-down, competing against a legion of knowledgeable young professionals, most of whom I dismissed as douches, minus one hottie whom I struck out with at a later date. So how did I manage to lose to these well-dressed mouth-breathers? Read on, brother.
I went into my interview with the confidence of a drunk fratstar at a sorority party. At this point in my life, I had been trying to figure out who I was, and what I wanted to do with my few years of work before retiring as a billionaire. I had no idea. I still don’t – on both counts. But I did just read a very special book, and I watched a very special movie, both of which I thought might set me apart from the uniformed, uniformed masses I was competing against.
The first few questions I got were easy: rapport-building, typical questions like “why do you want to come to Drake?” “What’s your greatest strength?” And my personal favorite, “Where do you see yourself in ten years?” But the questions soon took a predictable turn for the worse. The first hard question I answered was “What’s the last book you read, and how did it affect you?”
I didn’t want to lie – I was rocking that ‘integrity’ nonsense before AKPsi made it popular. I’m a goddamn honesty hipster. So I answered truthfully. The last book I read was I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell by Tucker Max. If you’ve read it, you’ll know why it was a bad answer. If you haven’t read it, please don’t – the author’s an asshole, and he doesn’t deserve your patronage. Anyway, I was kind of stumped as to how it affected me. I muttered some answer about Max going about his life, following his passions and becoming successful while doing exactly what he wanted to do. I thought this was a noble pursuit, so I made a weak connection about how I wanted to live for myself and follow my dreams as well – not that I had any dreams, but it sounded good at the time.
They laughed that question off, told me I was “unique” or something, and moved on to the next question: “What is your greatest weakness?” Now, at the time I was training in MMA. Believe it or not, I considered myself to be a bit of a badass, and a major part of my training never showing weakness. Pain, fear, blood, exhaustion – anything that could be used against you was swept under the rug and either dealt with privately, or ignored until it went away. It’s no coincidence that I got into the sport around the time that 300 came out. So when they asked me that question, I didn’t know how to respond. I went through my usual checklist of weaknesses: checking kicks, sinking arm bars, talking to girls. None of those seemed to be a good answer, and even if they were, it would be a cold day in hell before I admitted them to a panel of complete strangers. So, like any other stubborn child, I decided my best bet would be to tell them I didn’t have any weaknesses. Perfect plan, right? I thought that made me the best candidate. I was the King Leonidas of interviews. I was unstoppable.
After answering that question so poorly, I think they just decided to mess with me and see how awful I really was. Their last question to me was “what fictional character do you identify with the most, and why?” I immediately thought of my favorite movie, American Psycho. Not that I identify with Patrick Bateman, of course. I just really love the movie. It’s an incredible period piece, depicting the excesses and self-involvement of the yuppie culture of the 80s. It also has a scene where Patrick Bateman impales a prostitute with a chainsaw. Really poignant stuff. I thought I was on a role with my answers, so I told them that I identified the most with Patrick Bateman. I didn’t have an answer for “why,” because I never wanted to buy a prostitute, much less nakedly chase one through my apartment, chainsaw her to death, and then cut a lock of her hair and sketch her in a notebook. But the damage was done, so I made some awful connection between him and Tucker Max and doing what they want to do in life.
They thanked me, told me I was unique again, and quickly moved me along so they could interview some deserving candidates. Believe it or not, I never got the scholarship. But I did learn an important lesson: if at first you don’t succeed, at least make sure you have a decent story to tell.
Also, be prepared or something like that.