I enter the atrium. It is glass and steel with a hard floor. I see your massive reception desk that has what looks like a suspicious disembodied lady’s head peering at me from over the formica. I approach the lady’s head with a BUSINESS and JOB motion, and stand in a WORK stance. Good morning.
Hello, I’m employed to greet people, but I won’t look up with much enthusiasm in my cold dead eyes.
Hi, I’m here to see Mr Interview for my Job Interview
If you’d like to sit on that very noisy leatherette sofa, and sweat even more than you’re already sweating, I’ll just ring through and let him know you’re very nervous
Mr Interview? Yes, another of those things is here to see you. Yes, his perspiration is very obvious.
He’ll just be a moment.
[silence, except for the massive creaking of my body on the sofa, sounding like a pirate ship in a gale. The atrium’s acoustics create natural reverb and every creak rings out around the space. She can hear me moving. I stare at objects: The floor, the plant, the light, the picture, the receptionist, she catches you looking at her. You open your mouth to offer small talk. She shakes her head, almost imperceptibly. I go back to looking at things and creaking noisily. I daren’t fart. I can feel sweat. He enters. He is older and radiates more power than anyone I’ve seen since waking up this morning]
Mr Interview! Here, shake my sweaty hand. I’m Mr Daniel Shitbrains
Pleased to meet you. I’m Mr Interview. Let me just shake your hand firmly, and then I’ll just wipe my hand on my trousers. Gosh, you’re sweaty. Would you come this way?
I’ve got no choice, really. Thank you Ms Reception
Let me just walk you very obviously through this intimidating office whilst making small talk. Look at these people. They might very well be your colleagues this time next week, small talk, small talk. See how they stare at you. They’ve already judged you. See how generically we’ve decorated this place. How drab it is. Have you got any small talk?
Yes, my talk is very small. Gosh, this place is depressing isn’t it? I’m trying to be confident, but I am also subservient and grateful that you have set time aside to interview me, even though it’s a part of your job to interview people from time to time.
Would you like coffee, tea, gin, or diazepam?
No thank you, I’m already tranquilised, thanks. I thanked you twice there. Did you notice? Would you really give me those things you have offered? What if I said yes to the questi-?
[interrupting] I guess you’ll never know. That now happened in another universe. Now, if you would step into this surprisingly cold and bare room through this rather ominous, yet ordinary door…
If I refuse, would you kill me?
In which case, I shall enter the room.
Please sit here. I will sit here.
Stop thanking me. More small talk?
A little, yes! Lame joke.
I laugh, but my eyes say “you’re a dick”. You’ve just blown any chance of having a job here.
Gosh, this chair creaks almost as bad as that sofa!
Right, well, I’ll just be a bit brisk and keen to stop this silly small talk business and get on with it. I’m just going to ask you some generic questions about what sort of human person you are. These questions will determine whether or not you are fit to do busy-work for us.
I understand. Not understanding at this point would be fatal to my chances.
OK, let’s start suddenly!
AARRRGGGH CHRIST THIS IS ACTUALLY HAPPENING!!! And I’m calm and totally in the jobzone.
What attracted you to the role at Thingummy Wotsit?
Well, I’m going to answer this in two ways. One is to answer using words that convey my undying enthusiasm for this company, and for the role. I use words like ‘challenging’ and ‘career progression’, and you nod in response. The other would be to use my body language to convey the message that I saw the job advert whilst smashing my head on a lamppost, that I just need a job, and this job will have to do for now. Look at my eyes, I’m not enthusiastic. I’m just reciting words and phrases you job-people like hearing.
I offer my thanks for your using those words, and I’ll just make an ominous scribble on this piece of paper. The note reads, simply: “Don’t”. Now, why do you think you are best suited for the role? Please give me examples from your career that will convince me not to kick you out of this room right now.
I’ll tell you about the time when I thought I did something awesome in a workplace. I’ll gloss over the times I was lazy or non-communicative, or felt bitter resentment towards my workmates. Again, I’ll use some words that you’ll think about whilst masturbating in the stationary cupboard later on this afternoon. I might just throw in, a bit early in the interview, a work-phrase. Something along the lines of that I like to think outside the box by saying “I like to think outside the box”
Hmmm. A bit early in the interview for that sort of phrase-dropping, but I’ll let it go. Can you tell me anything else… or is that it?
No, that’s it for now.
Oh. I’ll write another note. Don’t look at me writing this. So, given that you’ve already answered some questions on the workplace, can you think of any times when you’ve found something to be too hard, and you’ve wanted to give up, but you’ve stuck with it, and ended up doing a pretty mediocre job of it?
Yes, I’ll answer this question with confidence, because you want to hear an answer, and by golly, I’ll answer it by answering as I do right now with my answer.
So why did you leave your last job. Did they hate you there? Were you sacked for being appalling? Tell me.
I’ll give a very broad answer that suggests any parting was amicable, and I hope you don’t actually speak to the references I’ve given you on my CV.
Really? That’s the total honest truth, is it?
Oh yes. I didn’t get sacked. I didn’t leave by backing out of the room with both middle fingers raised. I didn’t leave a turd in the photocopier. I left with hugs, good luck cards, and wishes from all my co-workers, all of whom regretted that I was leaving (some were crying) and all expressed a fond hope that I would see them again. I won’t. I’ll just have a few of them as Facebook friends and gradually delete them over the next 18 months. They’re waaaankers.
I won’t thank you for that answer. Now, can you think of any transferable skills from your time in the Army?
I wasn’t in the Army.
But I did look at a picture of an Army once.
Ah, that answer at least piqued my interest. You are clearly trying to make up for not being in the army. It does, at least, show willing.
And I once watched a Navy!
OK, don’t overdo it. Now, would you say you were a person type of person?
Yes, I’d say I was, and I’ll give a rambling answer to illustrate that point…
You don’t need to do that…
…and I’ll ramble some more while my brain freezes, and I panic and try and remember the question…
No need, you’ve answered the…
…and I’ll end up sort of rephrasing what I’ve already said in the first sentence of my answer.
Thanks. I’ll make a joke now. Haha.
Oh… um… er… right.
So what can you bring to this company?
I can bring THE MANY THINGS!!!
(oh, the Many, Many Things…)
I…er… Christ, I don’t know. I’ve never really understood this question. You’ve just asked it because it is a standard job-interview question, haven’t you?
OK, you got me there. It is a really bog-standard question that means nothing and your answer will not tell me anything truthful. You win this round. But I won’t allow you a victory dance…
…because I still want to know what you can bring to this company.
I can bring a toy to show-and-tell. Plus I can bring my body, and my many experiences as a job-person. I can bring metal and big rocks, plus I can bring cakes on the days when my wife bakes a fresh batch. I can sing songs, for I am a bard. I can bring a homemade vinaigrette, and my skills with a torch. I can bring a Soviet spy I’ve been hanging on to for a few years, in case that swings the deal. And I can bring shrimp; Lots and lots of shrimp. I can also bring…
[OK, well, you’re in full waffle-mode now, so I’ll just nod steadily until there’s a pause. I don’t understand your answer, but that’s sort of fair, because you didn’t understand the question. Nobody does, you’re quite right. I think it’s safe to say you’re panicking now because your answer is gibbberish, and now I’ll tune in because you’re reaching a cadence point]
…and there’s a massive bag of porn I found in a railway siding I can bring in to pep things up when projects go awry.
Excellent. So given that you’ve skim-read the job description, and haven’t a fucking clue, I’ll just outline some of the more tedious duties, which are standard in every job. You must show up to do the work, and you must do the work, and then you must leave the work so that you are rested before returning to do this work the next time the sun comes up. Now I’m going to ask you about some of the other aspects of the role that aren’t too obvious in the job title, but were mentioned in the Job Description…
I’ll just say “OK…” to show I’m connecting with this conversation
Does the fact that this job involves doing some work bother you at all?
Well, I should answer yes, but my brain is screaming “NOOOO!!!”
I shall punctuate your answers henceforth with an “Ah-huh…” to give you the impression I’m listening, even though I’m not, and your answers mean nothing to me.
…and although you’re asking me to do something I don’t want to do, I’ll sound positive and agreeable, and I’ll feel a trickle of sweat leak from my armpit hair and run down to my waist.
And I don’t want you to think I’m unwilling to work for you, even though what I want is a way to fill my daytime and earn some money to pay my mortgage, but really, I don’t want this job…
…it’s not what I want to do, and I’m certainly thinking I could do better…
…and I’ll just finish my answer abruptly.0
Ah-huh… oh, you’ve finished? That’s it, is it? That’s your answer?
Nothing more to add to that answer? Because this is the moment when, later on, you’ll realise you should have answered some more.
No, I’ve finished my answer. Yes, I’ll regret it later.
Did you know that the job involves doing something you’ve never done before, and you have no experience of, but that you’ll be expected to do it anyway without any training?
No, that has taken me completely by surprise, but I’ll lie and say I’m totally prepared for it.
So, you haven’t done this aspect of the job before?
Yes. No. Yes. And a no.
So you’ve done hostage negotiation with a known child molester holding a screaming boy at knifepoint before, then?
Yes. Totally. In my last job, I talked down a rampaging zebra in a bookshop.
OK, that’s not quite the same, but transferable skills, and small talk.
A little small talk, not much. Zebras and traumatised children both figure somewhere on a similar scale.
Somewhere… yes. Haha.
Right. No heehees in this job, obviously.
Absolutely. Attention to detail much?
Yes, I attention to detail plenty.
Yes, but much?
More like plenty. Plenty is kinda much.
Attenntion to detauil! (in semaphore)
OK, if you say so.
Not care now. Do you normally dress like this to do work?
Yes I do (no I don’t. I hate ties. I hate jackets).
And you have that haircut and that aftershave?
Oooh, yes. Daily. (what fucking aftershave is he referring to? Oh Christ, I think he means the stain on my trousers…)
And do you ever like to be an obnoxious work-prick?
I have a feeling it’s what’s expected of me, so I suppose I’ll say yes.
Because acting like an obnoxious work-prick with an inflated sense of importance is crucial to this role.
Yes. Let me use an obnoxious work-prick phrase to show I’m in the club. ASSERTIVE.
Not totally convincing, but kudos for using it.
And I’ll throw in another work-prick word! More ASSERTIVE INITIATIVE.
Ooh, now you’re talking! Now explain what you mean by ASSERTIVE.
I’m merely quoting something I saw on The Apprentice.
I’ll pretend I never saw that episode 400 times on repeat whilst fingering my bum.
I’m really out of my depth here, I hope you don’t notice that I’m not ASSERTIVE but PASSIVE.
I do notice these things. I am more than you. I > You. Now you’ll be working with work-pricks on a daily basis. You know that don’t you?
Yep. Can’t wait (for my adult working life to be over so I can retire).
And these work-pricks aren’t just men, but women as well.
Bring it, dude. I’m married. Women good.
And you’re OK with people screaming down a phone at and having someone screech abuse to you as part of the job…?
No, you don’t say “Ah-huh”, I say it.
That’s acceptable. So, the phone screaming…? You down?
I’m not a confrontational person, and I have mild mental health issues, but I’ll sound like one of the Big Boys right now, so you’ll not see my weaknesses.
Ah, I like your Big Boy routine, and it’s reasonably convincing. This pleases me.
Should I mention the mental health issues?
Nuh-uh. Absolutely no way. I have contempt for people with mental health issues. Never mention it again, not even when you’re suffering from a period of depression. I won’t understand it. In fact, I’ll make your depression worse by patronising it.
OK, then I’m supremely confident at all times and like shouting at people and throwing my weight about. Did you notice I brushed my hair and trimmed my beard into a neat mons pubis? That won’t happen often. I’d much rather look like a frontier woodsman.
I’m impressed by your shiny chestnut-brown hair and glasses. And I like clean-shaven men. But I equally like men with slight stubble, as long as they’re pushy and arrogant. And I gather beards are in now. I’ll make a comment about beards. I see you have beard.
I’ll make a very slight pithy comment about my beard…
I’ll chuckle in solidarity, even though I have done much to rid my face of my own facial hair because I hate it. So tell me, now that we’ve had that moment of levity, where do you see yourself in five years’ time?
In five years’ time I will see myself in a mirror. That’s where I usually see myself. I imagine that unless mirror technology changes in that time, I will see myself there. Oh, and I sometimes see myself reflected in windows and television screens that are switched off, but not as well as in a mirror.
No, I mean, where do you see yourself in five years’ time working in this company??
Probably in one of the bathroom mirrors. You have bathroom mirrors, yes? And probably in a computer monitor that hasn’t been switched on yet. And maybe in some of these glass doors you have.
NO! Where do you see yourself WORKING in five years’ time in THIS COMPANY?
Ah! I see what you mean! Ah!
I see myself working at a desk…
Oh for the love of…
…in a reflection on a glass office wall that belongs to a MANAGING JOB PERSON!
OK, I’m feeling this… and what will you be doing?
WORK, but sort of in a reversed image, because reflections do that.
BUSY work? Will you be important and cool?
BIG and BUSY. And reflected. Which is how I’ll see myself. Very cool, and very important. Who knows? Maybe you’ll respect me then.
Unlikely. I’ll probably always treat you like a junior underling, reminding you that I interviewed you. Now, how do you feel about this thing here?
I don’t like it at all, but I’ll say I like it, in case that’s the answer you’re looking for.
It is the answer I’m looking for, well done. I’ve put a question mark next to the “Don’t” on my piece of paper.
Hopefully, you won’t ever discover I just lied to you.
Hopefully, we’ll never talk again. Does this mean you’re OK with doing something else unpleasant?
Yes, I’m fine with it except I’m not really.
Good. Now as far as experience goes, have you killed using a sniper rifle before?
Do you wish there was another you?
All the time. Expecially now. Reflected in an office glass door in five years’ time. Attentnion to DETWAIL. ATTENTION.
And can you quantify that with examples?
Three times, but only in April.
When you’re looking at the job description of the worky-work for our job, did it fill you with dread, and a gnawing feeling you are utterly incapable of this.
Yes, but I’ll say no.
Milk small talk!
I LIKE MILK!!
YUO MUUS T LIEK THE M<LIK HEER!!!
We are MILK brothers now!
Hopefully, I’ll never see you again.
I hope we do milk together. Often.
No. Now, with regard to regarding things, how much regard do you pay to regarding the things that are highly regarded in this organisation?
I’ll answer in a way that makes you think “Hmmmmm. WORK”.
Oh, very good. I shan’t eat you now. Can you computer?
Oh, yes. Buttons a lot, and programs.
Of course (not. PC 4 lyf, bitch).
God yeah! (fuck no)
So, computer good… Mac good…
Can I just interject, a little bit out of turn, to distract from all this Mac nonsense to say something that shows I am pro-active, with a point that I hope will make you think “Mmmmmm. BUSY WORK”?
Yes, by all means… although I’ll remember later on that you changed the subject…
So I’ll make this point to give you an image of me, in a meeting, making a point that makes everyone in the room think “YES. WORK AND JOB. BUSINESS”
[leans forward in the chair] Oh, WORK AND BUSINESS MUCH!
And I’ll even slip in the assumption that I will get the job to make it sound like I fucking PWN the job already.
YES! JOB AND WORK BUSINESS. And INDUSTRY TOO.
Yes JOB. Yes WORK. WORKING HARD AT WORK JOB.
Yes, you’ve made me consider – very briefly – the prospect of you doing a WORK JOB. And even more incredibly, this WORK JOB might be involving us. Well done on WORK.
Where are we in the interview? I just want to check my scores
Oh, it’s progressing and your scores are scoring. Now can you think of any time when you did stuff in work?
Yes, I did stuff a lot, and I’ll ramble again…
…don’t mind me…
…and there was a time when I did stuff for JOB…
…and I did BUSY.
Good. Now I’ll ask a question you didn’t fully expect.
Oh. Um. I’ll pause before answering…
Don’t pause too long, or I’ll have to think about eating you again!
…but I’ll very quickly cobble together an answer, but it’ll be too short an answer.
You finished your answer suspiciously quickly. Is that your answer?
Yes… WAIT! No- oh, all right, yes. Yes. Go back to yes.
OK. Slight disappointment that you very obviously blagged that answer. Might have to put a question mark next to the question mark next to “Don’t”. Now, I’m going to lighten up a bit to give you a human face to make your responses to. Do you have any hobbies or interests that might be of any interest to me right now?
I do, but you clearly don’t have any understanding of why I like doing what I do, and they don’t interest you personally, but they add dimension to me as a human.
Well, you’re correct in that assumption, but I’ll pretend to show vague interest, but I’ll also make it clear I think such things are stupid and that we share no interests in common.
For example: If you tell me that you play the violin, I’ll say that I never learned to play any musical instruments, and although I’ll profess a liking for music (because to say I don’t like music would imply I’m a soulless freak) and I’ll state my admiration for people who do learn instruments, to be honest, this is the last time we’ll ever discuss our hobbies, even if you do come and work for us. Although you have mastered a musical instrument, whereas I have not, and therefore you are superior in some ways, remember that I ultimately care not for your musical ability. I am nothing like you, and I don’t understand why you play the violin. The concept is alien to me. I have very different interests. For instance, I hate clouds, and I like to vandalise bus shelters.
Yes, bus shelters are vandalised often. I wondered who did it. Now I know.
Hopefully, I’ll never see you again.
I am human and I have interests.
I can see that. Well, I’d just like to wrap things up by putting a blanket around my shoulders, and putting some paper around a thing I’ve bought for someone.
I’d like to make some closing remarks, and throwing in some last minute examples of work-prick words…
…bit late, but go for it…
…and I’d like to say JOB, and WORK, and ignore the sweat that is now pouring from my armpits like a mountain stream…
I could’ve left the window open, but I didn’t. This should tell you what I’m like.
…and ASSERTIVE. Oh, and OFFICE! And COLLABORATE! CONTENT!! PRODUCT!!!!
Ah. You should’ve said all that before. Bit of a desperate ploy at this late stage. And I shall briefly morph into a female of your species just to remind you that your boss could be female and therefore more terrifying in a more profound and Freudian way.
…and JOB and I WANT JOB but not desperately (but desperately I want JOB, even though I don’t like the prospect of working here).
I see these are your closing arguments, and I shall steer this conversation to a close by changing back into MALE mode and raising the pitch of my voice at the ending of this sentence to provide a natural cadence. Thank you. This concludes our allotted talking moment where you have attempted to convince me of your suitability to level up to Next Level Human.
My measured thanks are a substitute for a loud exhalation of relief.
Now if you’d care to follow me back to the very echoey atrium…
Back through the OFFICE WORK PLACE?
Yes. Look at the people in their stations. In their rightful places. You could be joining them. Are they your future colleagues? We shall see.
Gosh, they all look so sad. She looks nice, but that one there, that man, he looks like a future enemy.
They do look sad. So do I. Did you notice? Small talk, small talk, but I’m keen to get rid of you.
To be honest, I didn’t notice your sadness. Small talk.
That’s why I’m a boss interviewing the likes of you. Attention to detail, see?
Oh, right. That’s what it is.
Yes. One notices things that are worng, and then re-evaluates them until they’re right.
Yes, I see attention to detail a little more now. (Shit! I didn’t say RE-EVALUTE!)
Yes. I project the air of perfection and power, and yet hide my failings as a father and husband. That’s the secret. I look perfect, but I’m not. Learn from this.
Small talk diminishing now. You interest me less. You follow me to the end of the building and to the world outside.
You were my captain for this brief period, and I would have followed you to the end. I hope I have your respect.
Unlikely. I shall think on your application to join us. And now, we enter the atrium. It’s like the end of the fantasy film where the young girl heroine returns to the real world. Back up through the rabbit hole, click the ruby slippers, tell Jareth he has no power over you, etc.
This atrium represents the end of our moment together. Thank you, Mr Interview.
Thank you, and I insincerely wish you all the best! What the best is, one can only guess. And, even if you do get the job, hopefully I’ll never see you again.
Part of me wants this job, and a lot of me doesn’t. Thank you for taking the time to interview me which is part of your role here at Thingummy Wotsit.
All the best, again, whatever that means.
Thank you, again. I can’t stop thanking you. I look forward to hearing from you (last-minute proactive MUCH ASSERTIVE)
Good bye. And I’m walking alone now through the atrium. You’ve already turned on your heel to welcome the much more snappily dressed, younger, assertive, proactive-looking person who is radiating initiative, sitting on the creaking sofa, but holy crap, they’re sitting there silently without creaking at all! You have switched your attention completely away from me already and will struggle to recall our interview later, when you refer to your notes. Oh well. I shall move on. Good bye Ms Receptionist.
(I didn’t get the job)
This concludes the series on unemployment. Thank you for reading! Back to Dad-fails and the usual humiliations next week!