Friday, December 04, 2009

Position for the position of...

I was thinking about doing a blog post inspired by this blog post by Maria about hating job interviews. But then a week passed and I forgot. But then another week passed and I remembered - so here we are!

Job interviews. Man, I've been to them. I've been to interviews where the employer just spent the entire half hour rambling on about whatever took his fancy, and didn't bother asking anything vaguely job related. I've been to some interviews where the employer just gathered all the interviewees together in a huge board room and tried to interview everyone of us, all at once. Other interviews were just preliminary interviews to see if you would make the grade for further interviews down the track. Some employers, I found, liked to give you little general knowledge tests, while others just asked you along to an exam that lasted for two hours or so. I even did interviews at several temping agencies around Newcastle where they got you to perform pointless psychological tests on the computer before ushering you out the door and promising to call you the moment a job came up. (Strangely enough, they never did.)

It eventually got to the point where I could have seriously considered listing in my resume

- Significant experience in preparing for and attending job interviews; answering pointless questions; filling out meaningless general knowledge quizzes; participating in baffling psychological tests; and generally sitting in waiting rooms for medium to large amounts of time while the interviewer prepares to see me.

I suppose I could have seriously considered going back to uni or TAFE and getting some more practical experience and trade qualification, but hey, I'm never one to do something practical about a problem when I can whinge about it.

Anyway, in all that time, there was one sort of interview that I haven't attended. Here's how I imagine it would go.

SCENE: A cavernous boardroom. MARIA is sitting at a large polished oak desk slowly eating creamy, golden puftaloons. She contemplates each puftaloon before lowering them into her mouth, munching contentedly on them, and licking the cream off each finger. Eventually, she puts her head up, wipes her hands on a tissue, and calls out across the room...


(There enters into the room a SHY YOUNG BUSINESSMAN, JONES, carrying a briefcase which has been polished up to look incredibly important. JONES has to walk all the way across the room to get to his seat at the table).

MARIA: Ah, good to see you, Mr.... (reads from a sheet of paper) Jones. Puftaloon? (Pushing the box towards him).

JONES: (Looking slightly confused.) Oh, uh, er, no, thanks.

MARIA: Now congratulations Jones. You're among our top ten applicants.

JONES: Ha ha, thanks.

MARIA: Now let me put it to you straight away, Jones. This is an important position you're
applying for. You're now interviewing for the job of the person who will be interviewing me for the job. Do you think you have what it takes to be my interviewer?

JONES: Oh yes, Ms...

MARIA: Maria, please.

JONES: ... Maria. I have extensive experience interviewing other people for a job.

MARIA: How much?

JONES: I interview on Mondays, Tuesday, Thursday, and Fridays.

MARIA: That's a lot of interviewing.

JONES: And sometimes on Sundays. Extensive interviewing, as my resume...

MARIA: Do you do anything besides interviewing?

JONES: What... (looks confused)

MARIA: Does your job entail anything other than interviewing?

JONES: Oh, administration, filing...

MARIA: Hmmm. (Frowns). How many people have you interviewed?

JONES: (Looks embarassed).

MARIA: Jones, it's going to be a tough job interviewing me. I want to be sure you have what it takes. Can you fire a couple of application criteria at me?

JONES: Oh... sure! Maria - are you a people person?

MARIA: Ha! Cliche. A good start! (Makes make on form).

JONES: Do you work well on your own?

MARIA: Well how on earth would I answer that? It's in complete contradiction to your previous description - brilliant! (Makes another mark on form).

JONES: (Nervously) Do you have good communication skills? Are you outgoing?

MARIA: Yeeeeeeerrrrs. Not bad, but I'm not really intimidated by these. (Makes more marks on form).

JONES: (Quaking with fright, very quickly). Are you able to use Word, macros, Excel, formulas, and do you have industry experience with Quark, HTML, and Illustrator?

MARIA: Goood.

JONES: (Finishing off, utterly ruined). But most of all, are you warm, efficient, bubble, down to earth, competitive, friendly, with a co-operative and go-get-em attitude? Are you born-to-win and born-to-grin or born-for-fun and born-to-rule?

MARIA: Excellent! (Ticks form). How could anyone possibly be expected to answer such fatuous criteria? Jones, one last question. Why do you want to be my interviewer?

JONES: Because, I... I... I... (flustered, fumbling around for an answer)... um, I look forward to the challenge?

MARIA: Hmmm. Interesting. Anything you want to ask me?

JONES: Oh, nothing much, just...

MARIA: (Cocks eye). Mmm?

JONES: When will I know if I've got the job of interviewing you?

MARIA: We'll call you, Mr Jones. Well, thanks for taking the trouble to come all this way. (Walks around the table and shakes Jones' hand.) Have another puftaloon. And help yourself to some coffee on the way out.

JONES makes his way to the door. MARIA waits 30 seconds before taking the puftaloon box back to her side, sitting down, and picking another puftaloon up, turning it this way and that so she can admire its golden glow in the light of the sun beaming in through the window, and then slowly lowering it into her mouth...


Maria said...

Fantastic, I wish more of my interviewers were like that!

I've been to some strange interviews lately. One where the guy told me it would be for an IT job, but I didn't have to dress too formally. I wasn't sure how exactly to dress, so decided to play it safe with a suit. The interveiwer rocked up late in a pair of trakky daks like he could have rolled out of bed in them. He also referred to HTML as "funny squiggly stuff".

I've been barraged with cliches and baffled by strange questions. One recruiter said to me "Now, tell me why you applied for this job!" clearly reading off her form sheet. I said, "I didn't. You called me in to tell me that the position I applied for was filled but you might have some other position available for me. I don't even know what it is."

That got a blank stare and a bit of an apology-damn-I-actually-have-to-turn-off-my-auto-pilot-switch response then.

Then I went to a little talk at a volunteer centre the other day, not exactly an interview, but a very different experience. Spent most of the time talking about such subjects as Twilight mania, garlic dip, and smoke breaks.

Maria said...

By the way ... I wish I'd had more puftaloons at my interviews.

I didn't realise my loss till now.

TimT said...

My ideal job would involve more puftaloons and less funny squiggly stuff. I don't imagine I'll ever get one like it, but we can all dream.

Email: timhtrain - at -

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