Tag Archives: EMPLOYMENT

Is there anything as silly as a job interview?


In today’s economy, getting a job in the formal sector is a bit like finding a unicorn. It is a hard and often thankless task. What is even worse is that , browsing through the Twitter and the endless LinkedIn updates and the Facebook and the Instagram, everyone else is living their dream life except for YOU.

I have had lots and lots of awful, painful and embarrassing job interviews that ended in polite rejection letters. I’m sure I am not the only one. During my long, long years in under/ unemployment, I made a few observations that made me think that the whole concept of job interviews is quite silly.

1. We are all reading from the same script

It seems like HR people ignored their training in favor of internet articles on interview questions. Which explains why every single interview I have ever had rarely strays from the path of ‘tell me about yourself, what are your strengths, what do you want in life.’

Does anyone actually expect any honest answers? It would go something like this:

‘I have a degree that taught me a lot of American theories. I am very good at putting pictures in my Power Point Presentations. If I don’t know something I will go on Google until I find it. I want a job because my mother is threatening to kick me out of the house. And this jacket is the only formal piece of clothing in my wardrobe.’

This tells you nothing about what I can actually do, and it tells me nothing about what kind of company you run.

2. Interviews are only good for weeding out blatant liars and psychopaths

Since we are all reading the same articles from Wikipedia and Business Insider, you can be sure that anyone with an internet connection and an empty bank account has memorized all the answers to all your tough, probing questions.

‘How much are you currently earning?’

*Laughter* ‘Less than I would like’

‘Could you give me a rough estimate?’

*more laughter*

‘It’s too early to start digging my own grave’

I understand the employer’s dilemma. Which is  basically, ‘Can I actually spend 8 hours a day, 5 days a week with this person without killing them?’

But since we all have to hide our real intentions behind buzzwords and adjectives that convey our enthusiasm, this can be very difficult.

Which is why people are often hired through networks. At least you have someone to stand up for you and say, ‘this person will, at the very least, show up everyday and use big, impressive words.’

3. The lies go both ways

I once went for an interview where we spent a considerable amount of time discussing my ‘flexibility’ and ‘willingness to go the extra mile’. What they were really asking me was whether I was willing to work on weekends and in the evening.

The real answer, of course, would have been,

‘MADAM, I AM SELLING MYSELF TO THE HIGHEST BIDDER. HOW MUCH WILL YOU PAY ME TO WORK ON WEEKENDS AND IN THE EVENING?????’

Instead I made noises about dedication to the project and my desire to grow my career.

4. We tend to forget that we too should be interviewing the company

The behavior of the person interviewing you can tell you a lot about the company culture. And whether you actually want to work there. You should be able to spot a slave contract disguised as a learning opportunity.

You can also tell the person’s thinking processes by the way they handle the interview: lateness, last minute cancellations, aggression, using the interview as a chance to display superiority and so forth.

There is once I was interviewed by a woman who seemed physically repulsed by my presence. I soldiered on and answered her silly questions but I knew without a doubt that I had already failed. If I could go back in time, I would have asked her point blank why she looked so disgusted. It would have made for a much more entertaining experience for all involved.

In fact, if you fail these kinds of interviews, thank God because you dodged a massive bullet.

5. You should never stop interviewing

This is a new piece of advice that I haven’t tried yet. Basically, you should always be scanning the horizon for new opportunities. And actually go out and interview, even if you have no intention of moving from your current place of work.

That being said, if you actually do find a job that you genuinely enjoy, with people that you get along with, doing things that you like, then thank your lucky stars. I have heard that such things actually exist.

For the rest of us, let’s keep memorizing answers from the internet and smiling like our lives depend on it. Oh, and throw in a few curve balls, especially if you realize that you have zero chances of getting hired.

I want to hear your ridiculous interview stories.

[Sorry HR people, please don’t take offence.]

 

 

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Laziness, Ignorance and Chance: the Weird Ways we Get it Right


Now that I am looking for an internship to possibly launch my glamorous and enviable career, a lot of little things are coming back to me.

Like one of the first times I was called for an interview. I had seen an advertisement on the USIU notice board  calling out for freelance writers, and I thought, ‘yeah, I could do that!’

So I sent my rookie cv and cover letter , with a sample piece I had written for my distance learning assignment, which, at the time I thought was a very clever piece. (Just like when I will read this post years from now and think, aaw, how cute.)

And then I waited. And waited. Aaaand waited.

Finally, I was called for an interview. ‘Hey, am THAT awesome- lets do this!’ I thought.

So I put on my only white shirt, a pair of odd looking pants I thought were formal, rounded off the newbie look with some inappropriate jewelery and got there on time, just like the career center advised.

I remember the reception had that nauseating chai ya maziwa kwa thermos smell and I nearly gagged as I waited for an eternity to be called into the interviewer’s office. (PowerPlay!)

Maaaan, the guy was old. And he was asking me all these questions about search engine optimization and ad words and all the shit we take for granted today, but in 2009, was cutting edge stuff. Obviously, it never occured to me to research on ‘writing for the web’ and so I fumbled around for answers- even cracked a couple of jokes. The guy was so old, it was impossible to be nervous- not even when he asked me, ‘If you love to write so much, how come you don’t have more work published?’

Good question. I still think about it today.

Then he went on to tell me that the ‘work is pretty basic, nothing special- just write 1 000 words on a destination that we give you, and you get a bob a word.’

I left, and waited for the call. It never came. Obviously, I did not impress enough to do the ‘basic work’.

A few weeks later, (or maybe months, not so sure) I saw another advert. Looking for freelancers. This one asked for an original piece to go along with the application.

This time, I was inspired. Probably smarter. Possibly a bit of both.

I wrote my article one afternoon at Fifi’s (and rewarded myself with a beer afterwards) and I have to say, it was much cheekier. A couple of days later, I got an email with a list of topics to choose from as well as instructions on how to write for the web. Pay was per articles, any discussion or consulting could be done face to face. In short, I was in. All I had to do was write, and if they liked it, they would pay.

How simple. How beautiful.

After a couple of stiff, awkward posts, I sort of got the flow. Then I was put on a monthly retainer. Yeah baby.  It was one of the best assignments of my life. The euphoria from finishing each task could have rivaled a hit of cocaine, I’m pretty sure. Eventually, the rumblings about a job offer came too.

(And then  I left for France)

Anyway, obvious differences:

Ancient guy asking for 1 000 word articles and conducting meticulous interviews. Who the hell reads 1000  word articles online? (You probably skimmed through this post, with like, five other tabs open.. )Versus, you write, if we like we pay- and keep it short and sweet.

I was still the same person, basically with the same skills- but who could make the best use of them? Who could see my potential?.

Honestly, where was I suited better? No wonder I failed the first interview- I just was not a match for the ‘mutton dressing up as lamb’ company. Thank God I wasn’t saddled with that dinosaur company: maybe by now I’d be going through three thermoses a day….

My point? Sometimes there is a good reason we fail interviews. Because it just wouldn’t work out.

Any stories about how you finally sold your souls to the corporation? Please do share