“Come in. Please sit down.” She gestured royally to a plastic stool and plonked down prettily on another opposite. She took up a clipboard and pen and gave me a warm smile over the table.
“Thank you.” I settled onto the stool feeling my arse spill over the edges and supressed a grimace as my skirt rode up a little more than modesty would like.
“My name is Ariel and I’ll be your interviewer today. First of all, congratulations on making the short list. We had an overwhelming response to our advertisement.”
“Well, I’m very glad to make the cut.”
“Have you read the Position Description? Do you have any questions?”
“No, the position looks very interesting. I have been reading your recent press releases with interest and would be honoured to work for such an innovative company.”
“Thank you!” she said brightly, rising to the flattery like a cat to a rub.
“Now, I have to warn you. The other applicants are very strong contenders for the position. Shall we discuss your qualifications?”
“Certainly.” A Masters degree, two industry standard certifications and an abandoned PhD, how do you like them apples?
“Well, judging by your resume it seems you are overqualified for this position.”
Overqualified. What does that even mean? I would have thought that an employer would be looking for the maximum qualifications and experience for their budget. Perhaps it’s a passive aggressive code; ‘You might not have got the role, but it was for a positive reason.’
I glumly tuned back in to the stream of prattle.
“What would you describe as your weaknesses?”
“Interviews,” I replied with what I hoped was a wry smile. “I get a bit nervous and I over-talk. When I realise I’m doing it, I overcompensate by under-talking. I certainly make a better employee than an interviewee.”
My resume makes the cut every time, I just can’t crack the interview. Apparently interviewers make a decision within the first minute of meeting a candidate. So what is it then? Too cheerful? Too reserved? Wrong demographic? Should I cut and dye my hair to try and look younger? Update my wardrobe? I don’t smell bad, do I?
“If I asked your best friend to sum you up in one word, what would it be?”
Ah … behavioural interviewing.
“Hmm …” I folded my hands on the table and made a show of thinking for a moment. “Honest. Yes, if there was only one word to describe me it would have to be ‘honest’. It’s a virtue and a failing. If you work in academia, stating your position clearly avoids many a future conflict.”
Good, now put positive spin on the negative aspect.
“I do work hard on identifying those moments, when I am dealing with a sensitive soul, to better sugar coat my replies and overcome any adverse effects caused by my innate tendency to state the facts as I see them.”
“I see.” She scribbled something down with a scowl of concentration.
“What attributes do you admire most in others?”
And now an inversion question designed to get me to describe myself in more detail. Just give me the damn job already.
“Trustworthiness, reliability and enthusiasm.”
She made a large tick on her clipboard.
“And what attributes do you most dislike in others?” Hmm … more of the same.
“Micromanagers. Well, I should clarify that. I am used to working autonomously so a manager who requires frequent status updates is a bit more work. But you have to look at the bigger picture. Why are they buzzing about? Are they an inexperienced manager? Do they lack confidence in the project? So you need to sit down with them, explain the work you are doing and agree on milestones. Then everyone knows where they stand.”
She scribbled something else down.
Complete nonsense, but hopefully makes me sound like I know what I’m doing.
“Why did you leave your last position?”
“Budget cuts unfortunately.”
Actually, I was fired. By text message. After making a bad joke about Angelina Jolie’s double mastectomy. ‘SHOW US YER … oh.’
“According to your CV, it has been a while since you last worked.”
“Yes. Well it’s a tough job market at the moment.”
“Why are manhole covers round?”
Interesting. A random brain teaser question. Ostensibly to check how you respond to a question you can’t possibly know the answer to, but actually just makes the interviewer feel smug.
“So ninja turtles can fit through them?”
“There will now be a twenty minute work test, please follow me.” She jumped down off her stool and led me into the adjoining room. A bright, airy, but somewhat dusty, room containing another table with some decent sized chairs. The table was covered with Lego.
“You have to build a car. I will be marking it on a scale from one to twenty on inventiveness and usefulness.”
“Then you will have to draw a picture of your Lego creation and detail its accessories and abilities on this blackboard.” She took a seat and watched me get to work.
After twenty minutes my magnificent creation was complete. A horse drawn carriage three storeys high, driven by Gandalf himself. The lower storey was a bedroom where two decapitated Lego men were frozen in stooping posture attempting to retrieve their heads from the floor. In the middle storey, Darth Vader did battle with Felicity, the Lego Friend figure. Darth Vader was wielding Gandalf’s staff. Felicity was wielding a Light Sabre made from a cup and a long pink rectangular piece. The roof held a pool made of blue bricks bordered with bunches of flowers. There was a basketball hoop on one side and a slide from the top to the bottom on the other. Frodo stood at the top of the slide, brandishing Darth Vader’s Light Sabre, ready to slip down and knock Gandalf out of his saddle below.
“Wow. That is brilliant!” She breathed.
“Thank you.” I replied.
“Congratulations. You’ve got the job.” She declared.
“Thank you my darling daughter. It’s the best job in the world.”
“I love you Mum.” She put down her clip board and pen and I gathered up her tiny form in a big hug.