I remember my interviewer’s face in my first ever job interview 7 years ago. He was looking astig, occasionally puffing his cigarette while perusing my resume. He then squinted at me as if he was reading my mind. I like to think that I was a rookie in a movie scene, fated of meeting a gang leader. He asked me a technical question to test my knowledge on a particular subject matter. I explained I just knew the basics. He interrupted my answer and took it as a lame response. I never had a chance to explain myself. I thought that for him I was not capable of the job. I was, because I never received any call after that.
I have thought, in hindsight, that my first interview was not really about me anxious of answering those nerve-wracking questions. Though I was taken aback by the mobster-like presence of my interviewer, I was not really afraid of him. I was more afraid that I might fail to present myself well and not to get the job. I was then hoping that I could impress and convince him that I was up and qualified for the job.
I failed but I continued to practice answering interview questions. I later learned that the most important job interview question I have to answer was Tell me something about yourself. Although technically not a question, it is a staple in most entry-level job interviews. It had always resurfaced in most interviews I had. The answer to that has to be very specific and must briefly discuss educational background, previous jobs, skills, and career goals. I would zero in on those details because those are, as often advised by experts, what interviewers want to hear. I had repeated the formula in all of my interviews and I once taught the same to my former students who wanted to land a big time job in call center companies.
This interview system is so driven with finding the right qualifications, technical skills and competitiveness. Job applicants use these elements to package compact answers. Interviewers go directly to screening the applicant’s credentials. Straightforward and void of connection, this streamlines every interview, making it more efficient. Interviewers have no time for any intimate conversation, which may appear as dilly dallying to exchange personal stories. An applicant is reduced to merely a product examined for quality and not a human being with a voice worthy to be heard. I find it disturbing, for the same system has also efficiently driven us to tell something about ourselves even though it is not our self really but a fabricated image to get a job we might in the long run get bored doing.
Our soul is far greater than our job qualifications and descriptions, for it serves a greater cosmic purpose, for which our life is called to do the sacred work.
Anywhere in the world, unemployment continuously rises. Job interviews in many companies operate daily, and still fail to fill up the vacancies. I see this not as an economic problem but rather a spiritual problem. Mismatched qualifications with companies’ hiring demands happens when many graduates miss the value of deepening self-awareness, of what their souls are passionate about. They become lost and hurried applicants. Clad in business attires, holding their manila envelopes, patiently queuing in front of job agencies or treading the corporate maze in busy urban streets all remind me of the same struggle we all had – that feeling of trying to fit to this world – to be heard, to be seen, which is a longing of our soul. The humdrum of this rudimentary interview question provides no space for us to respond what is in the innermost of our beings.
Matthew Fox, a theologian on Creation Spirituality, calls us to reinvent the nature of work in our modern lives. He says: “True work comes from our being.” We must reinvent our ways of knowing the workforce for this to be possible. In our current system, doing so is hardly probable, but I feel that the call is for each of us to answer a new question: Tell me something about your soul. It is an effort for us, job hunters or not, before any interview, to really get in touch with our souls. More than just having a job, earning a huge salary or getting the right career, we must invite ourselves to try to know and discover our capacity to feel, to intuit, to dream, to imagine and to create. To hone not just our thinking and intelligence but our spirituality, our sacredness and our divinity in the context of our work. It is all there in our beingness and we can only do that if we stop trying to be who we are not just to please the interviewer, but to finally be who we truly are.
Our most important interview is with ourselves, as we reflect literally in the mirror and figuratively in what we are yet to see within us. An interview is an inter-view, a two-way, shared seeing. We will know clearer if interviewers and us mirror each other in the spirit of self-discovery. And if we can see our self through our deep witness within us, we can profoundly know better our soul. Our soul is far greater than our job qualifications and descriptions, for it serves a greater cosmic purpose, for which our lives are called to do the sacred work. This work, as the poet Kahlil Gibran writes, is “..Love made visible.” We can only do this when we are willing to share the deepest stories of our souls, to discover what it means to be alive for ourselves and for others. We must listen to what our souls tell us. It knows that we are not just qualified to take a job, but to be always true and to do our work as our purpose to Love.