to my latest job interview

July 14, 2014

intervw copy… was my black linen coat from Primark, tailored capris, summer shoes and the turquoise earrings Donna gave me when she was still trying to inject colour into my life.

I actually put some thought into this get up, hoping the right ensemble would turn things around.

Because these job interviews have not been going well.

I walk into the interview. We shake hands. They ask their questions, I give my answers. I ask my questions and then … nothing. Dead air.

I’m a little hazy on what goes wrong, why it always turns so flat and sour. Is it me (the interviewee), them (the interviewers) or the situation itself?

Here’s the situation: for the first time in years I’m looking for a staff job. The time is right — our daughter’s now at university. While she was growing up I worked freelance. I did corporate writing, magazine articles, the occasional newspaper feature. People hired me to name things – products and companies. I moved on to fundraising projects, still freelance. It was all about the holy grail of balance. Raise the child, run the household, earn some money and maintain the semblance of a professional profile. There were dry spells of no employment and there were periods of far too much of it. I remember one vacation in New York where I worked round the clock for two weeks with my daughter parked in front of my parents’ TV. But then, nothing’s perfect, right? What mattered, I stayed in the game. And I did my weekly stint in the kid’s classroom, joined the PTA, helped run a local youth club. To my way of thinking being a mother actually augmented my skill base. After all, who’s more efficient, more proficient than the person who’s been keeping all those balls in the air, all those years, right?


It seems no one’s buying it, not in my case. Or to put it in another context: no one’s booking that second date. (I mention this because I’m convinced interviews are a lot like dating. In fact, I’m convinced everything is like dating.)

Admittedly, there are all sorts of valid reasons I’m not getting these jobs, not even making it through to the second round of interviews: The wrong qualifications. Not enough experience. Sometimes the chemistry’s wrong, which is fair enough. What’s not fair is being told I have too much experience. That’s the work world equivalent of the perennial break-up line, It’s not you, it’s me (#everythingislikedating).

If my interviews were a graphic novel, the thought bubbles over the heads of the interview panel — it’s always a panel — would read, “Oh God, another one of those opt-out-revolution mothers.” “She can’t do the job.” “ She’ll never fit in.” My thought bubble would say, “Of course I can do your fakakta job. What I can’t do is the interview. I’ve lost the interview knack. “

I used to sneer at the random Hollywood star who refused to audition after making it big, who found the idea insulting. Self important, delusional: that was my assessment. I get it now, though. The star is good – great – at his job, which is acting. Everything he has, his energy, his time and talent, went into achieving that and along the way and of necessity, he lost his auditioning skills, discarded them the way a snake sheds a redundant skin. Then some director calls and demands he go back to square one. The actor stands there, looks at the phone in his hand and thinks, Do I really have to do this, this stage of my life, go out and audition like a novice?

There are courses out there targeted to women like me, mothers returning to the full-time work force. Lots of articles as well, tons of them on-line and in magazines and all of them can be boiled down to one collective title: Re-Entry Strategies for Moms. They always feature a section on the interviewing process, with its comprehensive list of do’s and don’ts. Every time I flick through one of those lists, what to say, what to wear, the art of eye contact, I can’t help but think, Do I really have to do this, be interviewed like a newbie, this stage of my life?





6 Responses to “to my latest job interview”

  1. Julian stafford Says:

    You have my sympathies. Ageism and sexism are both alive and well. Also, most interviewers and interview processes are very poor, unimaginative and formulaic. Many application firms follow a weary litany of candidate and job requirements with plenty of blank spaces for candidates to make unsubstantiated claims about their talents and skills.

    More specifically, I think people generally recruit for specific jobs with specific tasks and the “I’m a mum therefore I automatically have all the skills you might ever need” approach will not cut much ice.

    I’d look at it another way and ask “do you really want a job such as the ones you have been applying for? If you don’t, just do what you feel is satisfying and meaningful – maybe outside the workplace. If you do, how about an ageing intern approach? Say 3m for free and hope they keep you on. Or suggest a self-employed or zero hours approach. I think you will need to so something a bit unusual to counter the aforesaid ageism, sexism and (presumably) lots of applicants. Failing that, a sex change, Botox and elecution lessons might be worth a shot.

  2. Joshua V Says:

    Observant, quick intelligence, hard working and with humour, . . . . . . seems obvious to me that you are what they need, [whoever they may be], so stick in there, be brave, and when success strikes, come back and tell the rest of us how it’s done !

  3. rebeccahoyes Says:

    As always your blogposts make me smile …

  4. Tim Says:

    I know just how you feel. When I was looking for a full-time teaching position (which I did not find, despite having all the right credentials), I filled out hundreds of applications and sent out hundreds of resumes. I landed somewhere around 15-20 interviews and taught several demo lessons – but no job offer. It is tough out there, still, despite the fact that there has been some improvement in the economy since the 2008-2009 recession.

    I don’t know how old you are, but I can’t help thinking that age discrimination may play a part. When I was younger, it was much easier for me to find a job, despite having less experience and maturity than I have now. When I would go on interviews and see that the person doing the hiring was several years younger than me, I would inwardly groan because I knew that my chances of getting hired were virtually zilch. A lot of the hiring today is done by women – have you ever seen a woman hire an older man? This is something that I have never seen. Not once in my life.

    But I don’t mean to be negative and discouraging. Keep trying and perhaps look into some different areas. And a comment on interviewing – maybe you should try to lessen the pressure on yourself by thinking of it as an opportunity to meet somebody that you might like and discuss something that may be mutually beneficial, rather than seeing it as an audition or a hurdle that must be overcome. Remember, you are doing the checking out as much as they are. You wouldn’t want every single job that is out there, would you? I found that things went better for me when I approached it that way.

  5. MJ Says:

    Work for yourself: write a novel. You have the skills…

  6. Sheila K. Says:

    F#@*ck ’em! Put on your best cha-cha heels, grab a cuppa, go into to your home office, and write that novel! (Okay, you can start with a proposal for a collection of “What I Was Wearing” vignettes first . . . but then the book!)

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