I was recently approached by a young reader to tender my thoughts on the tricky process of surviving a job interview. I could tell, from his tone, that he had been personally scarred by the experience and sought guidance, for both himself and others, in navigating this hazardous course in the future.
So this is for you Matt
Upon being invited to a job interview
‘Work’ is a generally unpleasant experience, and is to be, as much as possible, avoided. Ideally one’s lavish lifestyle is financed by a steady stream of funds left in the wake of wealthy departed relatives. The sad reality for most of us, however, is that one is forced by circumstance, from time to time, to seek paid employment in order to avoid homelessness or a life of crime. One is thus compelled to ‘apply for a job’ and is subsequently faced with the daunting prospect of a ‘job interview’, an experience even more unpleasant than the job itself.
There was a time when such an interview would be conducted by an expert in the particular trade within which you might be attempting to pass yourself off as possessing vague competence.
Not any longer.
Assuming that you are seeking employment within a company comprising more than six or seven employees the entire odious procedure will be orchestrated by the ‘Human Resources’ Department. The HR Department is, invariably, the most powerful division of the company and serves absolutely no purpose other than to render life both hideously demeaning and procedurally unfathonable for all other employees. If you were not already aware that you were about to be handled like a tradable commodity then the name alone should dispel any further doubts. You are a piece of meat.
Your first point of contact on this descent into hell will be with someone who goes by the name of ‘Talent Acquisition Officer’. The TAO is a recent school leaver with no qualification other than a natural talent for human cruelty and the benefit of having friends in high places. This repugnant individual will require, of you, several things before the actual invitation to interview can be issued. This may include (but not be limited to) the following:-
1. The Curriculum Vitae. Otherwise known as the CV or resume this is a weighty document containing gross exaggerations and, more commonly, outright lies describing what makes you absolutely indispensable to the organisation to which you have just come begging. It should give the impression of vast experience by it’s weight alone and you will know that you have got this right when your interviewer slams it down on the desk in front of you, looks you in the eye and pronounces, “Impressive CV.” The actual contents are unimportant. It is (allegedly) about you and is assumed to be a mind-numbingly boring read. No-one, therefore, will read it.
2. Online Psychometric Testing. This is a long series of meaningless questions and puzzles designed to force you into self-contradiction. The trick here then, is to focus on consistency. It doesn’t matter if you feel that your answers may be revealing you as a borderline psychopath (it may be to your advantage, in fact) just as long as you do not swerve from this course. The true purpose of the test is to identify liars. More specifically it is there to separate the good liars from the bad liars. I think you know which one you want to be.
3. Online, On-demand (one-way) Video Interview. This is where the humiliation really begins. You will be required to sit, like an idiot, in front of a screen and record your hopes and aspirations in response to pre-prepared (carefully pre-prepared) questions and then submit the embarrassing results online. We are all aware of the dangers of recording personal and possibly revealing photographs or videos of ourselves and then tossing them in the open sewer that is the internet. Think about it. You can NEVER erase this stuff. Unless you are applying for a position as a newsreader this recording has absolutely no bearing on your employment potential. It is there entirely for the amusement of the HR department, who will sit, as a group during friday afternoon drinks, to watch the week’s submissions. And roar with laughter.
If you are deemed as worthy, after this process, of further consideration then an email inviting you to an interview by actual human beings (or a close approximation thereof) will be received. Immediately dismiss any ideas that you might have had of a pleasant fire-side chat. Think more along the lines of Guantánamo Bay. The interview team, by this time, will have poked into your past and thoroughly scrutinised every word that you have ever written on social media. They likely have enough dirt on you to put you away for years. Your psychometric testing has confirmed you to be mentally unstable. During the next hour or so they will reduce you to a shaking wreck. They already own you.
There will be no questions about your technical skills. But there will be a lengthy and uncomfortable probing into the details of childhood friendships and of your reaction on the day that you accidently saw your mother naked. Eventually you will be reduced to tears. The timing of this mental collapse is important. If you are seeking employment in the area of social work it is perfectly acceptable to start sobbing within the first fifteen minutes or so. If you are applying for a position as an international airline pilot, on the other hand, it may be wise to exhibit a little stoicism and hold out a bit longer.
Part of the process may include a group session during which a dozen or so of you (there are about three hundred people vying for one poorly paid position) will be put together to demonstrate your abilities in a ‘team building exercise’. If you are in the habit of viewing ‘reality’ television shows then you will already know what this is all about. It is a gladiatorial contest during which you will be expected to form flimsy allegiances with those that you will later betray and slaughter. It is important to smile during this process whilst being simultaneously as cold-heartedly malicious as possible. You are dealing with the HR Department. This is the sort of behaviour they respect.
You may want to bear in mind, at the same time, that the innocent widowed mother of two that you have just stabbed in the back and rendered emotionally unemployable will be by your side the following week at your next interview.
For in the end you won’t get the job. It will transpire that the second cousin of a senior vice-president who has just been released from jail following conviction for child molestation has been adjudged as being better qualified.
You will be left with the choice of either killing yourself or applying for another job. It will be a difficult decision.
So let me reiterate. Do not attend job interviews unless absolutely necessary. But if your financial circumstances leave you with no other choice then do not shy away from the realities. You are engaged in the most basic of transactions. There are people that have something that you want (money) and the onus is on you to convince them that you have something that they want in return. This is what is referred to as ‘selling yourself’. It is called prostitution.
In this case it is prostitution with a peculiar S & M flavour (minus the nudity and actual physical violence) and if this is your thing then I wish you all the very best. Personally, however, I am far too protective of my dignity to engage voluntarily in such unsavoury activities.
Which may explain my consistent record of long-term unemployment.