“You’ve got this!” I say to myself as I head to my car. The telephone interview is scheduled in 10 minutes giving me plenty of time to organise and compose myself into my most compelling and vivacious self. I have done the homework, I know the company website and blogs inside out, I have read the latest financial statements and bought the product. I was so on this.
I had parked my car at the back of the office underground carpark so that I would be inconspicuous for the lunchtime interview. As I get to the car and hide in the back seat – more of my MI6, covert ops planning – I realise my mistake. It is dark in here. Whilst awesome for concealment, it’s pretty darned useless for reading the crib papers I have brought with me. I could put on the interior light but that would be like a spotlight on the guilty for anyone passing the car. Hey! Look at me sitting in the back of my car on the phone like a politician who forgot to page the driver. Not at all weird.
Flustered, I peer at the tiny print of my CV, job description and cover letter. I have failed the eye test and apparently need new magnifying glass strength lenses on prescription. The confidence drains from me like a punctured tyre. Oh Lord, what was I thinking. And how do these telephone interviews go anyway? We never did this ‘back in the day.’ I’ve not been interviewed for a decade and a half and suddenly I feel both very old and completely out of touch. It must be like divorcees dipping their toe back into the dating game. Swiping left or right they say? Sounds like grounds for an assault charge?
My mobile rings and I answer in a tone that I hope sounds calm and confident. The little guy in my brain is running around trying to find where he stored the conversation flash cards that I had worked on all weekend. There seems to be a filing error, could he have more time? No! I need them now! Jeez! I manage to talk to the first few questions, but my voice is an octave higher than I expect and unusually wobbly. My inner critic shakes her head sadly as the words tumble out.
Then the easy question: “So what do you do outside work?”
“…Gah, ugh, plah.” Is what my brain tells me. What do I do for fun? How do I fill my days when I’m not working? I have no frickin’ idea. I am suffering a complete mind blank. The little guy upstairs is scratching his head still looking for the flashcards and hasn’t noticed we’ve changed mission. All I’m seeing is the little girl in front of the chalkboard on the ‘end of transmission’ screen. I garble something about my dogs and keeping fit and socialising. Seriously? I sound as exciting as a carpet tile.
I have completely forgotten that I am always busy when I’m not in the office with things that are not the stereotypical corporate image. I’m a story writing, drum playing, tattooed bad-ass who throws awesome parties with live bands. Unfortunately, cool-me has slung her leather jacket over her shoulder and sashayed out of the building leaving boring-but-professional-me to it. Inner Critic sighs deeply and scribbles extensive notes for the de-brief I will be inflicted with for hours after this is over.
“And what do you consider to be your greatest achievement?”
Ah, back to work questions again as I’m sure things like getting to the front of a Foo Fighters gig doesn’t count because (a) the ambition to wriggle forward until I’m in a heaving, crushed riot of sweaty bodies that smells of piss and beer does not seem like a smart thing to be doing and (b) who gives a flying…?
So, despite the awesome achievement of making it to the end of each and every working week in one piece, having utilised my skills as fire fighter, diplomat, teacher, psychologist, politician, IT expert, counsellor, devil’s advocate, social events manager and accountant, I plump for safer ground – one of my systems projects.
This was one I’d practiced. I had a flash card for this somewhere in my head, but I am waffling. The little guy upstairs is inspecting his bald spot and has apparently given up searching for anything useful. Blah...blah…team-work...blah...blah…communication…blah! Inner Critic guffaws at my attempts and writes something else down. I reach the end of my diatribe and feel utterly dejected. Why am I so bad at this? The plaudits, great end of year reviews, promotions…all forgotten. I am slowly dying inside.
Another question I hear myself answering is some bollocks about interviewees who tick all the boxes on paper but aren’t the right fit. Yes, just like this idiot is doing. I have successfully nullified all those years of experience and professional aptitude with an epic twenty-minute bore-fest. So, my only hope is that my interviewer knows that candidates who interview well prove only one thing – that they are bloody good at interviews.
I haven’t eaten all morning because I was so excited and pumped, but now my blood sugar levels are base-lining. I have no adrenalin left and the interview has gone so horribly differently to the way I had planned. I am gutted but also feel dizzy. The interviewer has had the good manners not to snigger at me and closes with the fateful words, “we’ll be in touch.”
Cool-me bounces back in as I hang up.
“So? How’d it go?”
Professional-me can’t speak but Inner Critic closes her notebook and says, “if it had been any worse it would have been funny.”
Author Notes: Yes, this is semi-autobiographical.