Life experience · Workplace

On Interviews

I am doing temp work at a Major Publisher after being laid off, and it was boring and generally awful. One guy is keeping a close eye on me, making sure I pick up projects from the project-pick-up desk, with this passive-aggressive bonhomie that makes me want to kill him with a paperclip.

He says things like “When you’ve been doing this a while…” as if I am fresh off the plane from never-having-been-a-copy-editor-land. I am tempted to post my resume to the wall of my cubicle. But that might contravene their rules on what is and is not appropriate “cube” decoration. No one should work in “a cube”…

I wonder how obvious it was yesterday when I packed up the small amounts of personal belongings I’d brought to the office (mug, action figure, photo of Patient GF). Almost like I was waiting for one email/phone call and never planned to return ever again.

I’ve had two interviews for full-time jobs.

The first was for a trendy company with a very start-up feel. I won’t name them because I can’t remember their name. Really. I am that sharp and focused. The HR guy was ten years old and smiled constantly. He was called Ryan. Ryan immediately made me feel old and in the wrong place.

I was actually going to be interviewed by a Susan Russian-Name. It is a tricky thing, asking for someone with a deeply unpronounceable name at the reception desk. I gave it a go, making sure I said it with a question mark, so the receptionist knew I knew I was getting it badly wrong. She was nice enough to only smile a little at my off-base attempt.

We chatted for 45 minutes, me and Susan, and she seemed very nice. The role was as a technical writer, writing instructions for software produced by the company. They are a very young company, with all that comes with that. Bright, airy offices, no set amount of time off (just what you and your manager deem reasonable), good benefits (including pet insurance), really good pay, and a great location for me. I liked them a lot. They do work in cubicles, though. This is, as of very recently, something of a black mark against them.

I really want to talk about my second interview, though.

The interview was at 4.30, which was my request but really a mistake (for future reference). First, it means I’d been out in the world all day. And it had been hot. I’d brought a clean shirt, because I plan ahead (my resume almost certainly says so). However, I did have a mad dash across town from the office back to somewhere nearer to home. I can usually do this in 20 minutes, so I left work at 4. Because of crazy traffic, I was in the parking lot at the interview place at 4.25. I changed into my shirt and tie in the back of the car (classy!) and rushed into the building and up the stairs. I knocked on their door at exactly 4.30.

The receptionist – a kindly old lady who immediately reminded me of the librarian from Ghostbusters – let me in and I literally was so winded that I couldn’t speak. (One flight of stairs!) So, there I am, shirt barely tucked in, tie almost certainly askew, so winded I am gasping for breath, trying to make a Good First Impression.

I’m sure I was charming and English enough to breeze through that.

She said they were expecting me, and did I need some water?

Yes, yes I did. A bucket would probably do.

I was shown into a conference room and left alone to straighten up and breathe. Finally, the three people who were to interview me filed in.

The founder came in “just to say hi”, but stayed for a long time. He’s friendly but business-like; lots of “Tell me about a time when you…” questions. I answered them all with a straight bat and an impressive amount of not-making-things-up. He nodded, satisfied. As he left, he said, “Now you have to impress these two.”

I was assured after he’d gone that this wasn’t hard and the bar was very low.

I was left with the manager (D) and the editorial lead (E). We then had a wide-ranging but incredibly relaxed discussion about what the role entailed. We discussed hyphens and commas. I managed to not make a fuss about the serial comma. But I wanted to.

They asked if I’d mind taking a test – and that they’d pay me. I said, Send it my way! Because in interviews, you never say no.

As the interview ran on, they’d clearly ran out of questions. D wasn’t used to (or maybe not really interested in) formally interviewing people and liked to say odd things. He asked if I was afraid of clowns.

I said, “Actually yes – after a primary school trauma,” which is true but sounds improv’ed.

He nodded. “Good, we don’t allow clowns in the office.”

“Excellent,” I said, “that was going to be my final question.”

Was I a cat person or a dog person? I said dog, although (to balance things), I mentioned that my GF had cats and I liked them. E did a little fist pump. She is clearly another one of those crazy cat ladies. My life is full of those.

And that was that. A weird, funny, relaxed interview.

As I was being shown out, we took a tour around the office. I remarked that I liked to see the separate office spaces (with doors!) as I was currently in a cube farm – perfectly timed with turning the corner and being faced with rows and rows of cubes. Awkward.

“So, would you want an office?” D said.

“I’d like an office.”

“OK.”

As I left, I noted that the back of my shirt was both untucked and soaked with sweat. I know how to make an impression. I got the job.

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