Worst job interview


Or: How to dodge bullets



It's late March, 2018. I’m interviewing for a job at a private ESL college in the Melbourne CBD. To get here I’ve taken a 3-hour bus trip and trekked some 30 minutes from Southern Cross. Great city, a nice place to visit, but there’s a lot of traffic and way too much going on. I'm not a fan of the Big Smoke.

I’m about 20 minutes early for my interview, but I’m happy enough in the waiting area with my e-reader. My new leather shoes have been torturing my feet, though, especially that long ligament thingy which connects the shin to the upper foot. That bit really hurts. I haven’t worn trousers or a tie in ages, either, and I’m not exactly relishing the experience. On top of all this, the couch in the waiting area isn’t very comfortable and I’m trying to extract my underpants from my arse without the receptionist noticing. But, I've got stuff to read! Things could be worse.

Eventually, INTERVIEWER emerges from the bowels of the college to greet me. He’s the big boss, the CEO. Game on!

INTERVIEWER: (Shaking hands with me) Hi. Tim, is it?

ME: Hi. Uh, no, it’s Jim.

INTERVIEWER: (Gesturing) Come into the office, Tim.

I go into the guy’s office. Not only has he failed to get my name right, I can see that he also has the wrong CV on his desk. Funnily enough it belongs to someone called Tim...

INTERVIEWER: (Sitting) So, I see you have experience with [Company Name]?

ME: (Also sitting) No, I’ve never worked for them.

INTERVIEWER: No? Oh! You are Tim, aren’t you?

ME: No.

INTERVIEWER: (Looking confused, but also a bit annoyed) Oh, you’re not? Then why did you say you were Tim?

ME: I’m, uh, pretty sure I didn’t…

INTERVIEWER: So, what was your name again?

ME: It's Jim. Or James, if you want.

INTERVIEWER: (Finding my CV directly under Tim’s and flicking through it) Okay. Okay! Oh, so you’re Jim! Actually I didn’t think you were coming today.

ME: Sorry?

INTERVIEWER: I didn't thing you were coming. You never replied to my email.

ME: Uh... I definitely did reply. We confirmed the date, time and everything for this interview?

I'm actually a bit pissed. I've got emails to prove everything I just said. Besides, if this guy wasn't expecting me, why was my CV right under Tim's on his desk? Or does he think I'd come here for shits and giggles? I mean, I've spent 4 fucking hours just to get to Melbourne, and it'll take me another 4 to get home again!

He then makes a comment about how I've done multiple short teaching contracts. He asks why. I tell him that it's very common for ESL teachers to do a year here and there in different countries. People who set out to see the world on someone else's dime don't tend to stay in one place for long. In fact, we're notorious for it. He argues that it isn't the norm. Bullshit. It absolutely is the norm. Eventually...

INTERVIEWER: So, I see you’re currently doing your TAE certificate?

ME: Yes, that’s right. I started a few weeks ago.

INTERVIEWER: A few weeks ago? And you haven’t finished yet?

ME: No, it’ll take me another six months.

INTERVIEWER: What? But you can do that course in a couple of weeks.

ME: Can you? I, um, yeah... don’t know about that…

To my surprise, we go back and forth on this for a bit. He’s talking out of his arse, because it is simply NOT possible to complete the certificate in question in a couple of weeks! 20 years ago, maybe, but not these days. When he starts getting argumentative, I let it drop. I don't need a TAE for this particular job anyway because I’m already overqualified. He asks a few more questions about me and about my work history. Eventually…

INTERVIEWER: So, are you aware of how English teaching has changed?

ME: No. How has it changed?

INTERVIEWER: (After a long pause) It has changed.

ME: (After an equally long pause) Uh, okay…

Things couldn't be more awkward. I love it, but the guy seems genuinely puzzled by my amusement. He can't figure me out, but I know everything I need to know about him - he's amply demonstrated that he's an incompetent, gaslighting, combative prick. When he asks if I have any questions for him, I say no and there's another long moment of silence. The only question I have is too rude to voice: why the fuck would I want to work here? But he just looks confused, no doubt wondering why I'm not enthusiastic about the job.

Guys like him seem to think that as potential employers, they hold all the cards. This just isn't true. A job interview is not a gift. It's not an act of charity. It's not the granting of a boon by a feudal lord to a lowly peasant. It's a chance for a boss and a worker to see if they're right for each other, and nothing more. And in this particular case, we are clearly not a good match. It takes a little bit longer for the penny to drop, but he gets there.

The dude wraps up the interview by saying he’ll be in touch. He says it so unconvincingly it's a wonder his pants don't burst into flames.

I laughed all the way home.

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