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No, this time I’m not going to preach another poetic recruiting tips. Instead, I feel the urge to share my own experience as a candidate. Yes, even a (former) recruiter had to go through every single step of the recruiting process. No, it wasn’t a smooth one.

But it was worth the lessons I once preached to all of you.

A few months ago I decided to leave my comfort zone and start over. Honestly, I still have my doubts every now and then wondering the way to figure out how I want to build my next chapter after recruiting life. Years of interacting with two-page CV has given me a sense of urgency to create a new identity ASAP.

I can’t have a gap year, my insecurity whispered. Logically, I understand that one can have the longest gap year they need for whatever reasons they have. But in reality? I still frowned upon my unemployment. I’m not comfortable talking about my situation to anyone, even feeling ashamed of it. I lost my identity along with the fancy title on business card.

Another push coming from the amount of free time I never had before—it killed me slowly inside. Thus I gave corporate life one more shot and proceeded with an opportunity that piqued my interest most.

Things went okay until I reached the final stage: interview with the CEO. I was both nervous and excited. And it was a female CEO. I felt empowered already. I asked the recruiter for some tips and insights to help me prepare. A straightforward, data-driven leader who loves doing extra was the recruiter’s impression of the CEO.

Got it. I’m used to interviewing such people back then, might consider myself one as well. I usually have a good train of thought so this shouldn’t be a problem.

I started off pretty confident discussing my past experience and hypothetical case study where she deeply probed about my recruiting funnel strategy. Checked. Then more personal questions came in: motivations and areas I didn’t excel in recruiting.

If you have spent countless hours doing the interviewing, this won’t be your first time hearing such questions. But somehow it caught me off-guard. I got it wrong a couple times and didn’t think thoroughly before answering. I babbled. Randomly throwing out ideas out of my mind. I noticed everything and rushed to just get it over with, bury myself in a grave, and never come out.

I remember one question that hit me hard.

“Have you ever had a conflict with your coworkers?” which I replied, “Nope. Disagreements maybe, but I wouldn’t let it be a conflict.”

Who on earth never had a conflict with their coworkers? *sigh in disbelief*

I preached, but I didn’t practice it. Far from it. I just wanted to impress her by trying to be the nice, accommodating employee. Why?

I admitted my lack of focus and ended the session feeling miserable. I couldn’t stop playing the scenes in my head for days. It was a torture.

After a series of self blaming, as I got more time thinking through it, I realized that actually the interview has helped me figure, no, convince me that the job isn’t the right fit for me. I won’t fit the job either. I went through the interview not for getting the job, but proving myself that I could nail the interview.

I just wanted the validation. The praise. The admiration. With appearing-humble-and-lowkey cherry on top.

It was really hurtful to acknowledge that despite the kind of good teacher people say I could make, I’m a terrible student.

You can’t teach if you don’t want to be taught.

I felt like a hypocrite. Deep down I always aspired to be the smartest one in the room and without my realization, it had made me being a know-it-all person. The kind that I always hated, avoided. Yet I became one.

I wonder if this is the main reason why I refused to take a further step. Better career, higher education, bigger challenges. Because it means I have to fail, to let my guard down and accept that I have so much to unlearn and relearn, more than I could ever imagine.

Am I ready?

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