DictionaryMy first job interview didn’t go so well. Here’s what happened.

I met several people at the New York public relations agency. They liked me well enough to invite me back for a second visit. The agency’s top manager, Sheree Reinbach, delivered the good news: "We’d like you to come back to take a writing test. Would that be all right with you?"

"Uh, sure," I said, wondering if I could bring a dictionary, because I’ve never been a confident speller. "May I bring a dictionary?"

"Why?" asked Sheree.

"Well, I’m not a very good speller," I confessed. Then, suddenly, this gem: "I think I might be a little anorexic."

"What?" asked Sheree. She must have figured that this informal part of my first interview was finally revealing a reason to disqualify me. She was also looking more closely at me. You see, this was my Thin Period (1968-1992, 138 pounds) and anorexia seemed plausible. But why, Sheree surely wondered, would I blame my poor spelling on an eating disorder?

"Oh, not anorexia," I sputtered. "No, not anorexia. It’s that other one. You know, when you get your letters all mixed up." The word I needed – dyslexic, dyslexia, dyslex-a-rama – was nowhere to be found. The only arrow in my quiver was "anorexia."

Sheree remained calm. "Settle down. Don’t worry. Bring your dictionary." We set a date for the Writing Test. On the appointed date, I returned, passed the test and was hired.

What Lesson Does This Teach The Interviewee?

Be yourself. Don’t pretend to be someone else. We’ve hired people who were not genuine when they interviewed. In the end, usually after just a couple weeks, they were revealed honestly. Suddenly, everyone recognized that our decision to hire (and their decision to accept) was a bad idea. Be yourself and (as my eighth grade grammar teacher often said), "beat the rush. Embarrass yourself early." That way, you’re more likely to get a job that matches your true self.

Actually, the Writing Test story doesn’t teach "be yourself." It probably suggests the opposite. But it’s a favorite story.