One job that has never appeared on any of my CVs, ever, is the eight weeks I spent working at Top Man in Leeds in the summer of 1985.
Eight weeks – Saturdays – spent mostly standing outside the changing room, handing out the bits of plastic whenever people went in to try something on. I was given the push because I wasn’t engaging enough with the customers which, to be fair, was a bit difficult when your opening line every time was “How many items is that, sir?”
There were also occasions when mothers, kitting out their teenage sons, would ask my (still teenage) opinion on whatever they were trying on. Now, some of you will have seen my style of clothing… it’s no use asking me if turn-ups were back in fashion, or flares, or anything else. It’s your choice. I can’t do ‘selling’. If I could do selling I wouldn’t be working in public relations.
Which is making the whole job interview process a bit difficult for me
“Tell us about a time when…”
Pretty much everyone who has worked with me over the last 10 years will say that I am very bad at selling myself. I can communicate the merits of a project to a target audience easily enough but not if that project is me. Yet that is exactly what I need to be doing at interview. I know this, I just have trouble doing it. If I’d known I was this bad at interviews I’d have stayed where I was, miserable, instead of leaving and being miserable plus slightly panicked.
I hate interviews, almost as much as I hate written exams. Part of the problem – for me – is that the interview event is completely at odds with what I’d be required to do in the media relations / press officer roles I’ve been applying for.
Consider the question: “What time is it?”
The work answer would be “It’s 17 minutes past 11.”
The interview answer would be “It’s 17 minutes past 11, British Summer Time, which is one hour ahead of Greenwich Mean Time. It’s called ‘British Summer Time’, but the UK is in sync with the other countries in the European Union, and several outside it. Clocks go forward one hour on the last Sunday in March and back one hour on the last Sunday in October.”
(The second answer gives reporters reason to wonder if the dates of BST will change post-Brexit – I don’t know, don’t care, can’t say “no comment” and so really don’t want them to ask the question, and so I construct an answer that doesn’t lead them off anywhere else. I talk to reporters, I don’t gossip or speculate with them.)
My job is to answer the question as asked. Why not interview me on that, instead of asking me to repeat whatever I’ve already written in the application form, and which you already consider good enough to invite me for interview?
I recently had an interview for which I could have written better answers than those I gave verbally. I then spent six days kicking myself before the call came through to tell me I hadn’t got the job. Apparently, they don’t allow do-overs.
I have form
Actually: now I think about it, the interview with Metro/WYPTE in 2000 was the only one I passed. I failed the Leeds Uni one in 2000. The Leeds Met one in 1999 was for a job they’re created for me after a restructure (only candidate). I wrote the job description for my secondment in 1994. The original Leeds Poly one in 1991 went to someone else; I got a one-year contract as a consolation prize to fill in for someone who was on secondment. I was one of two Trainee Librarian candidates at TASC, and the other candidate wouldn’t have got it because of the course she was already on.
Wish I’d remembered all of that last June, when I applied for VR…
And so, the search continues. If only I can find a job that doesn’t require an interview. Need to find something soon though. The money’s running out.