I performed well enough in my first interview to be turned down for the job. But wait, what’s that the interviewer is saying? There’s kangaroo stuck in the old mineshaft? No, she’s saying that I may have not got the job for which I was interviewed, but would I be interested in being interviewed for another job they have going.
I had been interviewed for the position of Junior Stock Control Clerk. This other post is for a Junior Assistant in Credit Control. Being able to say no was problematic and still is; it’s something to do with not wanting to offend or cause confrontation. True to form I said yes.
In hindsight, this was the first step towards a disastrous interview, so disastrous in my mind as to make the Titanic look like a minor scrape. My basic mistake was not asking for more details and a definition of what the job entails. What was a Junior Stock Control Clerk? Something to do with counting things, isn’t it? But credit control? Not a clue. My initial interviewer led me in to see Mr. Griffin, Head of Credit Control. There he sat behind his desk wearing a tweed jacket, blue shirt and a tie. Mr. Griffin was wearing something similar. His wiry hair, high forehead and all round stoney visage suggested a man that brooked no nonsense. However, the room smelt of ink and paper, generally a comforting smell that emanated from my dad when he came home from work. As first impressions go, it’s seemed promising, but it went downhill from there. The iceberg in the room loomed after a few tetchy questions from a steadily more testy Mr. Griffin and drifted closer to a point of contact. Mr. Griffin asked,
‘What are you like with mathematics?
If he’d been more specific and asked how I was at arithmetic, with which I was okay, who knows where the interview would have headed. Someone in the wheelhouse would’ve yelled iceberg! and then desperately spun the wheel averting a possible collision. But he didn’t ask that. He asked about mathematics.
I hated maths. In the last few years of school, I ruthlessly booked dentist appointments to coincide with the awful double maths lesson, the unsqueezable pimple on the face of the weekly timetable. To my mind, mathematics involves such impractical problems as calculating the airspeed velocity of a migrating swallow, or how long would it take you to circumnavigate the world whilst riding a bicycle at 15 miles per hour with a slow puncture. All of which are hardly likely to crop up in daily life. Arithmetic, on the other-hand, does abound and, generally I could cope with the day-to-day necessity of it.
I have always found it difficult to lie, to break with being literal and deviate from the facts. Later I found that this is referred to as autistic honesty.
I replied. ‘I don’t think mathematics are important.’
A command to abandon ship could not have been more appropriate at this moment.
Back in the car Dad nearly exploded when I told him. I argued that that was what I thought and believed and an air of hostility and irritation engulfed us as we drove home.
Back on the street that evening, I was smoking cigarettes with Chris and Brent, two slightly older friends who were already in work. Chris worked on the production line of a large-scale bakers. He’d recently ventured into high finance by buying a moped on the never never. Brent, who throughout school wore his long, deep red wavy hair with a foppish flop across his left eye while stylishly holding his cigarette from the corner of his mouth, was a sales assistant at Mr. Lawrence The Gents Outfitters. Sartorial elegance had dictated that he have his hair cut and the roguish hair was now confined to a rolling wave atop short back and sides. He sympathised over the interview, the cigarette dancing as he spoke; there was a sales assistant position going at another men’s clothing store across the market from Mr. Lawrence, why not try that?
Why not? I could see myself in men’s clothing: I’d had the practise. How difficult could it be to sell trousers to men shopping for trousers?
I vowed to speak about it to Frank at our next appointment.
Part Four Commentary:
A lesson in employability should include an understanding of what job roles are, the literal definition of what the role entails, the employer’s expectations and yours too. But all jobs have potential ‘hidden’ duties too, things that the employer calls ‘other reasonable duties.’ Then there is the psychological contract, an abstract belief that, “… describes how the parties (employer and employee) themselves understand their relationship, their own views of commitment and what they can expect to receive in return. The psychological contract isn’t generally enforceable.”
Is it possible to work these out in advance?
Interviews too, can we calculate what we might be asked and therefore prepare for those questions and prepare for the interview in general?
Next time, in part five of The Accidental Achiever: A Digression