“I picked up an issue of Cosmopolitan the other day that had tips for job interviews, because I was like, ‘I need to get better at interviews.’ The article was basically about how to get someone not to hate you in 20 minutes. Every single thing they told you not to do, I was like, ‘I do that every day.’” – Jennifer Lawrence
The panel was made up of three women all of whom limply shook my hands before inviting me to sit down.
For the sake of this article, I will be referring to them as Angela, Bella and Caren to protect their identities (but is mainly because I don’t remember, nor do I care).
Angela was fixated on her mobile. “Just to let you know I take notes on my phone, so don’t worry! I’m sending texts throughout your interview” she explained.
I thought ‘Great Angela, why can’t you just make notes on pen and paper like everyone else in the world!’ I said, “You can’t fool me, I know you’re catching Pokémon”
Shit. Off to a fine start Ruth! Well, if they don’t appreciate your incredibly witty and current joke (it was 2016 after all) you’ll just have to win them over with your adorable banter.
I had been asked to plan a 10-minute presentation about a specific spoken word artist and what digital media platforms I would use to promote them. This took me around 5 hours of my life. I worked hard on it, and I was psyched! It would be bloody brilliant. It had to be. I had cue cards!
“Apologies” Bella piped up. “We’re running a bit late.” Again, no shit! “So, that 10-minute presentation we asked you to prepare, we’ll be cutting you off at 5 minutes.”
What. The. Fuck.
I came all the way from Birmingham to give you this sodding presentation and now you tell me you don’t even care what I have to say. Being my stubborn and competitive self, I decided to interpret this as a challenge. I rummaged for my cue cards and took a deep breath: On your marks, get set, GO!
I was off. Galloping through the gates at a million miles per hour. 1 cue card down… 2… 3, 4, 5… smashing both my presentation and the world record for the fastest speed anyone has ever spoken! I slam the cards on the table and consulted the wall clock. 30 seconds to spare. Game, set and match! “Was that fast enough?” I asked, rhetorically of course. I knew it was. In your face bitches! I am the winner! VICTORIOUS!
Dead Silence again.
OK, there was a chance I had lost track of why I was doing this.
“Right, well,” said Caren, smiling with her mouth but pure disdain in her eyes. “Let’s move onto some questions about you.”
Yep, clearly CRUSHED it!
But she didn’t ask me any questions you’d expect to hear at a job interview, the generic but suspected ‘Why did you apply for this position?’ or ‘What’s your biggest weakness?’ No, there was none of that fluff! Instead, it was a round of quick-fire yes or no questions.
I felt like I was in the big black chair in the Mastermind, the moving lights had circled round the studio and landed upon me. A bead of sweat pooled on my forehead and the camera began to zoom in.
“Can you use a computer?”
“Can you use Word?”
“Can you work Excel?”
“Powerpoint? Outlook? Publisher?”
“Yes, yes and yes.” Although I feel like if you could use computers, Caren, you maybe would have put that all under the banner of Microsoft Office.
“Yep and yep.”
I thought ‘I wouldn’t have actually been able to apply for this job without many of these skills Caren… and to be fair, all social media platforms are pretty fucking similar…’ but instead, I just creatively reimagined ways to say yes.
“Yeppers…Yepster…Yeperoonie…Yah…aye…yes I surely canly do!” BLAH BLAH BLAH.
At the end of her checklist she glanced up at me, a worrying glint in her eye, saying “And, finally Ruth, Can you explain to me why you’ve been out of work for the last 5 years?”
Dead Silence… from me this time.
But after a far too long pause I managed to muster up the following extremely eloquent and intelligent response:
“Er, I haven’t?”
“Well,” Caren continued, “there’s no evidence of any work here on your CV.”
I’m not gonna lie, this had thrown me through a loop. I mean, why had they even offered me an interview if they thought I had never worked in my life?!
“Could I take a look at that copy?”
Unimpressed, Caren palms it over.
I analyse my CV carefully before looking back to Angela, Bella and Caren in turn.
“Have any of you thought to turn it over?”
I couldn’t believe it! I had travelled for hours, spent the best part of a day devising a presentation and waited for even longer and they hadn’t even bothered to turn over a sodding piece of paper?!
They all burst into laughter. I joined in, though I was crying on the inside.
And so, the interview was drawing to a conclusion.
“Now, are there any questions you have for us before we end?”
I had a list; I always have a list.
“Do you have any tablets or company phones to test the mobile capabilities of your site because at the moment it isn’t auto responsive?”
Having quickly scanned the equipment when I was trapped in the office and accessed that most of the hardware seemed to predate the Commodore 64 I can’t say I was hugely surprised by the answer.
“We are however in the process of launching a 5-year plan to make our website mobile-friendly.”
What are you doing every day Caren!? Step One, turn on the computer, Step Two, wipe brow, well that seems like plenty of work for today.
And actually, more to the point, in 5 years your mobile-friendly website will be out of date. In 5 years, we’ll probably be viewing websites through high tech contact lenses! (Or they’ll be a pandemic which will stunt the economic growth of the world and put you, Caren, out of a job.)
“Well, thanks for your time,” I said standing up and rolling my eyes as loudly as possible. “Looking forward to hearing from you.”
And with that, I spun on my heel and walked out the door.
* * *
Now I know what you must be thinking. ‘You bought The Girl on a Train, where does this come into play?’
Well folks, if ever a book has a more depressing opening of hundred pages of soul-destroying sadness I am yet to read it.
If you haven’t read it, in a nutshell, two women have given up on life and are sleeping or drinking the pain away.
Now I’m assured it picks up. Its twists and turns are (allegedly) enough to keep any reader hooked. I wouldn’t know, I have never finished it.
Because those hundred pages…
Whilst sitting on a train wanting to give up on life and sleep or drink my pain away, it wasn’t exactly the escapist thriller I was hoping for.
Oh well, at least it wasn’t raining.
Illustration by Kirstie Notman – Illustrator & Artist