As I quickly glanced around the room to get a sense of my competition, I couldn’t help but feel confident. Two adversaries sat between me and a great summer job with the third currently being interviewed. As I gazed upon the first candidate, I was immediately drawn to his Birkenstocks. Those overpriced, leathery contraptions that have not been in style since Ricky Martin was a heterosexual sex symbol would ultimately spell his downfall. The second candidate seemed so anxious that, at any moment, he might spontaneously explode – much like the pimples on his face. Suddenly, the third candidate emerged from the office door. Upon seeing her, I knew that the job was mine; she was dressed in a skirt that would have been inappropriately short for a three year old and was wearing a belly shirt that was unable to prevent a baker’s dozen of fat rolls from presenting themselves.
When I stepped into the interviewer’s office, the interviewer signaled for me to sit down. He causally began, “I can’t believe how little?” Cutting him off, I interjected, “How little these girls are wearing today, I completely agree! That last girl you interviewed looked like she was going straight from this office to the streets.” Looking at the interviewer’s face, he seemed intrigued and somewhat amused by my rant so I continued, “I guess she didn’t quit her day job.”
The interviewer then managed a smile and responded, “How little she still looks to me.” As the smile slowly seeped away from his face, he continued, “Now get the hell out of my office, and feel free to apologize to my daughter on your way out.”
I didn’t get the job that day, but I did learn a valuable lesson – my notions of an employer’s expectations for an interviewee’s behavior were substantially off base. Was it because I was brought up in a culture that encourages its citizens to assert their individuality? For some reason, I figured that when I walked into that office, I would be my “special” self and show how my attributes would compliment the values of the company. But a job interview is about being the type of person that a company is already looking for, not showing them why you are the person they should be looking for.
Consider that in every interview there will be questions like “In what ways do you think you can make a contribution to our company?” When interviewers ask this, they already have the type of answer they are looking for and it’s no mystery what that type of answer is. Google “best responses to interview questions” and see for yourself.
I have on two separate occasions been asked, “What is your philosophy toward work?” and each time my answer was a far cry away from the truth. Considering my prior work experience, here is my truthful response to this question: if it takes me one hour every week to finish my work, I have no reservations about spending the other 39 hours obsessively checking Perezhilton.com for the latest celebrity gossip. While I’m sure this answer applies to many of you, I doubt any of you would actually say it during a job interview.
A week after I confused my potential boss’ daughter for a lady of the night, I was able to line up another promising job interview. This time around, I knew that I would have to become the person the company was looking for. So I memorized the company mission statement and spent the day before the job interview spying on employees to determine what was the most expected attire. Finally, it was time for the interview, and I arrived clad in a short-sleeve plaid shirt, a bright yellow blazer and a tie that had a picture of Scruff McGruff taking a bite out of the word “crime.” I was ready. I approached the receptionist’s desk and signed in.
“Welcome,” she began warmly, “We’re having all of the job candidates stay in the waiting room or the break room. We’ll call you when it’s your turn.”
So I made my way to the waiting room and began analyzing the physical flaws of the other candidates. After I felt confident that I was more attractive, intelligent and smooth than all of them, I went to the water cooler in the break room. As I entered, I noticed a very attractive girl, waiting as I was. “You look excited to be here,” I told her sarcastically as I began to take a seat in a chair adjacent to her.
“You don’t even know,” she replied with a grin.
“So this is my competition,” I thought before being interrupted.
“And you are?” she continued.
“Whoever you want me to be,” I answered cheerfully. “Or you can just call me Andrew.” The young woman chuckled and said, “So how are you, Andrew?” Taking the woman’s forwardness as a sign of flirtation, I responded by trying to flatter her with sweet talk, impress her with my extensive knowledge of pop-culture and make her laugh with my impression of Sean Connery.The conversation only blossomed from there. “So how do you feel about this job?” she asked.
“Incredible,” I responded. “If I get it, I’d be paid to do a job that my eighth-grade self could do with ease. And since I’d have a computer with Internet access, it’s a lock that I’ll be able to spend at least 99 percent of the week watching TV shows online.”
“Really?” she said, intrigued.
“So listen,” I began, changing the subject, “What do you say you and I blow off this thing and get a cup of coffee?”
Leaning back in her chair as if to take in my offer, the woman smiled and replied, “Absolutely not. And you must have some sort of balls to ask me that.”
As I glanced away in embarrassment, I noticed a picture out of the corner of my eye – the woman from the room was in the picture next to an older man. It couldn’t be, not again?Turning back to the woman, I asked in a tone of panic: “Did I just ask out the boss’s daughter?”
“No,” she replied with a smirk, “You just asked out the boss.”
Schwartz is a Take 5 student.