It is a scientifically proven fact that job interviews are harder and more nerve-wracking than first dates. In the space of fifteen minutes, you have to confess everything from your education history to criminal convictions to a person you’ve only just met and convince them you’re better than everyone else on the planet. No pressure.
Having been to a number of unsuccessful job interviews in recent weeks, I have decided that either a) I am starring in an exceptionally dry-humoured TV series about a comically pathetic idiot or b) job interviews are actually a social experiment testing the effects of passive torture on unsuspecting uni students and backpackers looking to make a few quid over summer.
I feel like I’m the subject in a Pavlovian-style conditioning experiment in which the phrase “What qualities do you most admire in yourself?” leads to a cold sweat and hyperventilation. I’m pretty sure that “I admire my ability to make a perfect cup of tea and sleep through the sound of loud traffic on Lygon Street” is not an appropriate answer. But what are people meant to say in response to that? How do you say “I admire my ability to organise my time and work efficiently both autonomously and as part of a collective” without sounding like a massive wanker? Trick question- you can’t.
Then there’s the wonderfully vague ‘Tell us about yourself.’ Righto. “Blaire Gillies. Nineteen years old. Right-handed. This morning I had cornflakes and a banana for breakfast and washed it down with an iced latte. I’m terrified of birds, but since this is a waitressing job I’m sure that won’t be an issue. I prefer the Green Apple flavoured Skittles but my confectionery of choice is actually sour peach hearts. I sometimes wear odd socks because I never seem to wash both of a pair at once, but I’m quirky so I can get away with it. I talk to myself a lot because I live alone and I sing a lot of Spice Girls while I’m cooking dinner… oh, and I’m a Cancer.”
Everything these people need to know is written in my resume. What more could they possibly want to hear?
I also resent being told to relax at the start of a job interview. It’s hard to relax when the person sitting across the table from you obviously loves lauding their power over you and being as intimidating as possible. ‘Would you like a glass of water?’ No. My hands are shaking like the dance-scene from Grease and I will end up spilling it in my lap within seconds, but thanks for the offer. By the way, your reassuring smile isn’t fooling anyone.
The only upside to these many interviewers is that I have deciphered their secret codes. For example:
What is your biggest weakness?
‘If you can lie well enough to make yourself look good, we’re impressed.’
What is your greatest strength?
‘We’re playing employee bingo. If you’re good at filing, we win a prize.’
Why would you be suited to this job?
How well have you actually read the job description?
What was the name of your childhood pet?
‘You seem too good to be true. We’re throwing you a curveball to try and throw you off your game.’
Where do you see yourself in ten years?
‘Tax Offices are like Hotel California- you can check out but you can never leave. Make sure this is what you really want. ‘
Why did you really apply for this job?
Dance for me, monkey, dance!
These standard, cliché questions are unavoidable. Your interviewer knows them back-to-front and inside out and probably hates them even more than you do. To make the situation as painless as possible, aim for originality. Set yourself apart from all the mindless automatons applying for the same position. Let’s face it; your greatest weakness is not that you are a perfectionist and your greatest strength is not your people skills. You hate people ( or maybe that’s just me…). Give honest answers to questions. Tactful, but honest answers like “I left my place of employment as I felt that my capabilities were better suited to a different environment” rather than “OH&S would have had a field day with the morons at my last job.” I’m not one of those people who follows the “tell them what they want to hear” rule. If you have to lie to get the job, it’s not right for you. You’ll regret it in the long run.
If you’re currently on the job hunt as well, I wish you the best of luck. Unless you’re in Melbourne and applying for the same jobs as me. In that case, may the best man win.
– by Blaire Gillies