Letter from London By Alexia Saoulli
Going to a job interview is very much like going on a first date with someone you’ve met online.
At first, you’re just over the moon. You can’t believe that your CV/online profile has been singled out among all those other CVs/online profiles and that you’re being asked for a face-to-face meeting.
Then the anxiety sets in. Will s/he like me? What do I wear? What do I say? How should I act?
Everyone always says just be yourself and you can’t go wrong. “They’ll love you. How could they not?” Hmm, not so sure about that. Who “myself” is can very much vary depending on the lunar cycle and hence “just being myself” at all times is likely not a good idea; or at least not if I want to get the job or a second date. I don’t think a blubbering wreck and/or an aggressive battleaxe ready to take down anyone who looks at her the wrong way quite gives the right impression.
On the day of the interview you feel really jittery. Again, not dissimilar to said date. What should you wear? A suit? A skirt? A dress? Leggings or tights? Decisions, decisions. And what about your hair? Pulled back, straightened or just au naturel. Make-up? Minimalist obviously. You don’t want to look like you’re dressed for a night on the town. Something that looks professional and polished but not like a drag queen. A quick glance at your fingers confirms you need to get a manicure ASAP. Untidy nails are a big no-no as it screams laziness. I mean if you can’t be bothered to get your nails done then what else can’t you be bothered to do. Especially this early in the game, details are subtle telltale signs that can tell you a lot about a person and when you’re under the microscope you want to make sure those details are in tip-top shape. Eventually, when you’re comfortable with each other, you can relax and have a bad hair day or even, shock horror, risk chipped nail polish. It’s not nice, but nor is it the end of the world.
Unlike a first date, you do not have a glass of vino to settle your nerves before going to an interview. You need to be clear headed and pinot grigio breath screams functioning alcoholic. After work drinks are fine but only after you’ve bagged the job, not before. At this stage you see, it’s best advised to keep to yourself the fact that after a couple of cocktails you become Gloria Gaynor incarnate and, on behalf of all women who’ve been to Heartbreak City and back, belt out “I will survive” like your life depends on it.
Again, unlike a date, being fashionably late is not a good idea. No interviewer likes to be kept waiting, even if there are works being carried out on the Tube line you had planned to use. You should have known there were going to be delays well in advance by checking the Transport for London website. Checking it 15 minutes before setting out is a bad idea because your new route might add 10 minutes to your journey, which inevitably means you turn up looking sweaty and flustered. This is not a good first impression look.
As you make your way towards the address where your interview is going to be held, you remind yourself that it is only a job and not the end of the world if you don’t get it.
“You’re a lovely person, inside and out, and that’s what counts,” ring the soothing words of your cousin in your head. She’s a yoga instructor hence the Zen-like speech.
In between deep breaths to calm your nerves, because you really, really want this job which looks great on paper, you also remind yourself that like dating, it’s not all about them and whether they like you. You are also interviewing them, and determining whether you like them, and whether they are a good fit for you. They have to sell the job to you, just as much as you have to sell yourself to them. After all, you’re a catch. A great candidate. What employer wouldn’t want to hire you?
The interview goes well. You’re relaxed and chatty. OK so you interrupt him a few times because he was just so boring and wishy washy, and had the handshake of a limp fish, but generally you feel you clicked. After all you’ve put all your eggs into one basket here. You’re unemployed, desperate even, isn’t this just the perfect fit? Isn’t he the perfect, most inspiring boss from whom you can learn so much? This is a job you can grow in! A place you can spread your wings and develop your skills and unleash your creativity. Half way through the interview you wonder if you’re talking too much or if he’s bored of you. You take multitasking to a whole new level as you start to think one thought with your head, while your mouth expresses a totally different one. You start wondering if you’re even enjoying yourself in this environment. Maybe it’s not for you. Come to think of it he looks rather drab and has made much less of an effort than you for this interview. The other staff also look rather wishy washy and boring. In fact the entire atmosphere is rather depressing and you begin to question whether you even want to bake your famous brownies for this lot.
As you leave, your interviewer makes a big show of walking you out. As he shakes your hand you wonder if it was limper than the original handshake. He tells you he’ll be in touch tomorrow. You express shock that you’ll have an answer so soon. He smiles reassuringly, and says “don’t worry”. Your heart skips a beat. Does this mean he’ll call? It sounds as if he will. Maybe the office wasn’t so drab after all. He really likes me. I think I could make this work.
Then you wait for his promised follow-up contact. And you wait. And you wait. A week later and you still haven’t heard back from him. You don’t think he’ll call after all. Back to the drawing board and that online profile.
Letter from London By Alexia Saoulli