Readers note: The following story features two different perspectives. One showcases the thoughts of Augustine, the interviewee, while the other showcases the interviewer, Allan’s, thoughts. It turns out, second chances may not be as rare as they seem. This was a unique moment that occurred as part of the HCSS recruitment process.
Augustine: When I received my screening call from Allan, I was incredibly nervous. I tried to be as confident as I could, but let’s be real — I was not as prepared as I should have been, and you could hear it in my voice and see it in my hands.
Prior to our conversation, I did some very basic preparation for this interview. I researched the company and Allan and I skimmed over a few classic interview questions. This was my major mistake.
The interview started, fortunately, with the general opening questions, and everything was going relatively great. Relative is key, though, as I was still clumsy. But the conversation was moving along fine until Allan posed a question that stopped me dead in my tracks.
It was about detail orientation. In hindsight, lot of things went wrong here, the first being the fact that I could not bring the definition of detail orientation to my mind. This led to a series of “ums” and “uhs” and a deafening silence as I sat there paralyzed. There was no way to move past or around the current situation — no good way at all. I had absolutely no idea what to say.
Allan: As I was interviewing Augustine, I could tell she was nervous. After I asked the preliminary questions, like, “How did your hear about us? What makes you interested in joining our team?” I began to ask some deeper questions to see which internship, if any, would be a potential fit.
Augustine knew Tom Webb, HCSS Senior Vice President of Strategy and Research and Development, which shows the initial connection she had to our organization. She was also a student at Texas A&M University and had a lot of positive energy over the phone. Augustine expressed interest in both our Quality Assurance and Strategic Support internship opportunities.
But unfortunately, she struggled with her interview. A bunch of “ums,” “likes,” and “uhs” were thrown out there. I started to contemplate whether Augustine would be a good fit, but there was something that made me pause before making a firm decision.
Augustine: Then Allan started saying things that did not make sense to me, at least given my performance. I fully expected to hear the typical next phrases like, “Thank you, we got what we needed,” or “ That will be all.” However, Allan started saying something along the lines of “reconnect at a later date,” and “you seem a bit nervous,” and, “I am going to send you some resources if that would be okay?” He even asked if we could reschedule the interview and said we would talk soon. Needless to say, I was pretty shocked.
For some reason, God did not choose to close that door. Instead he gave me a second chance, and Allan decided to give me a second chance as well. And this time, there was no way I was going to blow it.
Allan: When Augustine started stumbling, I reflected on my experience as a college freshman interviewing for a scholarship program. The interviewer was an alumnus of my high school, and we bonded over some of my favorite teachers. Then she went straight to the structured, behavior-based interview question. I didn’t even know what a behavior-based interview question was at the time. Around the seventh question, I started to stumble over my words and struggle to find things to say. The fact of the matter is, I didn’t get into that scholarship program.
I didn’t give up so easily though. Afterwards, I took the initiative to go to the Texas A&M Career Center to learn more about the types of questions being asked by interviewers and how to tell my story more effectively. The counselors looked at me funny since I was only a freshman, but I explained my situation and they offered to help.
As I reflected on that experience, I wished that the interviewer had seen my potential and taken me under her wing to give me another shot. This is where the human side of hiring comes into play. I saw the potential in Augustine, and I knew that this was the right moment for me to impact her life.
I wrapped up her interview and advised her to utilize A&M’s resources. We then set up a follow-up date to talk again.
Augustine: Allan sent me resources — from my own school no less — that I studied and memorized. I compiled a list of about 20 potential interview questions and practiced answering each one using a resource called the S.T.A.R method. I wanted to show Allan (and HCSS) that I was not only prepared for this interview, but that I was truly grateful for the second chance.
I felt a lot more confident during the second interview — still nervous, but much more prepared. Allan asked me a couple of questions for which I utilized my new knowledge and confidence to communicate effectively.
Allan: When we talked for the second time, the difference was night and day. Augustine was poised and articulate, yet she showed her fun personality. I was confident to move her on to the on-site interviews, where the feedback from the other interviewers was that she would be a great culture fit.
Although we ended up filling both of the original QA and Strategy Support internships that had been available, she stood out so much that we ended up opening another QA internship role specifically for her. I decided to email, and then called Augustine to see if she was still available.
Augustine: Unfortunately I did not get the jobs that I applied for, and about a week passed before I received a very unexpected but exciting email and subsequent call from Allan. When he offered me a recently-opened QA position for the summer, I was overwhelmed with gratitude and could not wait for my first day.
Allan: On her first day, Augustine stopped by the recruiting office to thank me. I couldn’t be more proud of her. Not only did she take my feedback to help her improve, she ended up getting the opportunity to join an amazing company.
Credit: Photography by Allan Leung