Just the job

Having been with my current employers for almost ten years, it’s been a long time since I’ve been in the job marketplace. But I still shake in terror at the recollection of nightmarish interviews, in which smirking members of the personnel department — sorry, that’s now “Human Resources”, isn’t it? — would unleash sneaky questions like “What do you think is your biggest weakness?”. You would mumble something totally implausible like “I am too ready to sacrifice my health through overwork for the greater glory of the company”, and pray they’d hurry up and move on to your O-level results.

Needless to say, when the chance came to put the boot on the other foot, I leapt at it with both hands [pausing only to mangle severely a few metaphors en route]. For the company was having an open night, and for my sins, I’d been selected to act as a screener. This is not-quite-an-interviewer; you go through people’s CVs with them to make sure they have the necessary experience, and filter out the real deadwood before passing the rest on. However, it was still enough to provoke visions of shrieking “Kneel before me, mortals, and QUAKE at the POWER I hold over you” at bemused applicants for the post of business analyst.

Sadly, this was to remain unfulfilled — as did the one about desperate supermodels prepared to trade sexual favours for employment in the IT department of a major, but somewhat backward, financial institution. I largely found myself interviewing a series of grey people whose major personality trait was the complete lack of any. The disturbing thing was that the people I’d actually want to work with, inevitably lacked any sort of relevant experience — people with years of web experience are not really required by a company which still views the Internet as a tool of Satan. How many ways are there to subtly tell someone, “You don’t want to work here”?

The organisation of the whole event left a bit to be desired, not least having the event at an old brewery, but only supplying orange juice. It is my belief that interviews (and indeed all business meetings generally) should be conducted down the pub; after three pints, you get a far better idea of what someone is really like. There was also a startling failure to realise that some positions would be more attractive than others: they didn’t seem to realise they’d get more “analysts” turning up than “database administrators”, so there were queues for the former while the latter failed to see ANY applicants during the entire evening.

For the first interview especially, I think I was probably more nervous than the interviewee, especially as we had no time to prepare, by looking at their CVs for example. For some people this was no problem, they’d would happily witter on for ages, while you frantically scanned their application form for anything you recognised — “oh, so you live in Brighton? Do you come up to London on the Thameslink trains?” was one of my more desperate ploys. But in other cases, the answers were monosyllabic in the extreme, and when you know sod-all about the position in question, this means that you run out of steam inside about two minutes. It seems churlish to chuck them out on that basis — you tend to err on the side of caution and send anyone through to the next stage, as long as they possess the right number of limbs (plus or minus a couple).

This is thus somewhat in the nature of an apology, to those individuals who were keen enough to turn up, hoping for a job opportunity, only to be faced with a gibbering wreck, slamming back the orange juice and droning on about trains. Sorry. But, hey, I was probably doing you a favour…