I distinctly remember opening up my laptop, setting up a split-screen between my note-taking document and the Zoom window, and watching the seconds tick by on the digital clock, wondering how early an “acceptable” time to join would be.
I had applied for the position of UX Designer at Four Kitchens, and it was my first job interview in nearly two years. I’m sure many readers can relate and even vividly recall the pre-interview jitters: Ensuring there aren’t any stray hairs poking off your head, going over “potential interview questions” you Googled, and making sure you had your own questions prepped as well.
But, if I’m honest, most of the jitters come from the “what ifs.” “What if they ask me a question I didn’t prepare for?” “What if I forget an answer to an obvious question?” “What if they don’t like me?” What if, what if, what if?
As the clock hit the hour and I logged into the interview, I had those “what ifs” naturally and subconsciously running through my head.
But less than five minutes into the interview they fizzled away.
The screener: The one that set them apart
Four Kitchens breaks the interview process into three parts. The first interview is the screener.
After the initial introductions and a fun icebreaker, the team member interviewing me led off with a quick “deal-breaker” conversation. What are deal-breakers? They are anything that raises a red flag for the people representing the company — or, conversely, for you. This upfront callout gave everyone permission to put a full-stop on the interview if either party heard a dealbreaker. No feelings would be hurt, no judgment would be shared, but the interview would end then and there.
Now, reading this might cause fear to arise in some readers. “Uh oh, what if I accidentally say something that’s a ‘deal-breaker’?” But for me, it was a big (internal) sigh of relief and a weight off my shoulders that I didn’t know was there before. No longer was the power of the interview solely in the interviewer’s hands. They had graciously decided to empower me as well. Now both of us had a say in the outcome of this interview.
Needless to say, neither side heard any deal-breakers during the interview, and a few days later, I moved to the next step in the process.
The skills: The one when I lost my cool
Because I was applying to be a UX Designer at Four Kitchens, my second interview was with the Creative Director and a UX Strategist to assess my skill set.
Like the first interview, they led off with introductions and a fun icebreaker. This time, however, instead of a “deal-breakers” conversation, they set the stage for expectations for this conversation. They would be asking me questions to assess my skills, but (and they clearly emphasized this point) if I ever answered somewhere along the lines of “I don’t know” or “I haven’t done that before,” those answers would not immediately disqualify me from consideration. They were simply trying to assess my skill set.
This opening statement was also a relief, much like the previous interview. However, as the interview progressed, I was asked a few questions to which I did have to answer, “I have not done that before.” Queue paranoia and anxiety. Though I knew what they had told me at the beginning, previous interview experiences started flooding my mind, and I couldn’t help worrying that I was failing this interview.
To make matters worse, two-thirds of the way through the interview, my internet began cutting out! I dropped the video call once (right in the middle of answering a question), then twice, before one interviewer suggested that I simply phone in to the call instead. Flustered, I remember apologizing for this inconvenience multiple times (just short of profusely), but both interviewers show me copious amounts of grace and understanding. “We all work remotely, so this happens all the time,” the Creative Director assured me. Despite the interruptions and rockiness of the call — which was technically my fault, if there was any fault to be given — they also were intentional about allowing me time to ask my own questions.
I left that second interview feeling a tad apprehensive. The confidence I had coming out of the first interview had all but dissipated, and was replaced with doubt. “Did I just blow it?” But in the midst of that emotion was a realization that, if I didn’t get a third interview, I wouldn’t simply be sad that I didn’t get a job, but sad that I wouldn’t get to work with the three amazing people I had met so far.
Thankfully, a couple days later, I received a request for a third interview.
The team: The one I didn’t want to end
The meet-the-team interview is exactly what it sounds like: You’re meeting the team at Four Kitchens. Well, not the whole team, but three select members. Their goal is to determine if you would fit into the company culture, and your goal is to determine if the company culture is something that you want to fit into.
After the standard introductions, one Web Chef led off with a question that caught me off guard: “What books have you read lately?”
I definitely paused upon hearing that question, because it was unexpected and I was unprepared. Thankfully, I love books, and shared two I had recently completed. That’s how I found out our COO also reads (or had attempted to read) the same fantasy epic series I was plowing through.
After that initial question, I could feel myself falling into the groove. The questions asked varied between Core Values, project obstacles, and other fun hobbies or personality inquiries. I laughed, genuinely, when recounting stories or providing answers. I listened and paid attention, not simply to make a good impression, but because these were interesting people. I could work with them and learn from them.
I finished the interview with revived confidence, as well as the knowledge that all three Web Chefs I chatted with would be serving me tacos if I ever came to visit.
The next steps involved me sending them references, and then they would make a decision. Hearing that I had reached the end of the interview process gave me a strange sense of disappointment. I genuinely enjoyed all of the quality conversations throughout the process, and I (almost) wished they had another interview lined up for me to meet more Web Chefs.
As I waited to hear back from Four Kitchens, I realized the “what ifs” had returned. But now, it wasn’t “What if I blew it?” or “What if they didn’t like me?” but rather, “What if I get to work at this amazing company?”
Of all the “what ifs” that my mind considered during this process, that’s the one that came true.
Stay tuned for my follow-up post, which pulls back the curtain behind the onboarding process at Four Kitchens.
Four Kitchens is always accepting applications and looking for new talent. If you’re interested in exploring the ways of the Web Chef, you can learn more about us here.
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