Since I last got made redundant in August 2009 I have been trying very, VERY hard to find a new full-time job! Against me have been my age (57), the worst economic recession in about 20 years and the fact that Information Technology is regarded (quite wrongly I feel) as a “young man’s game”!
As far as the last mentioned factor is concerned I offer as evidence the indisputable fact that every single Manager I have worked for since I blagged my way into IT work in 1999 has been between 10 and 20 years younger than me and they had all worked their way up from the bottom of the ladder to that level by the time I met them.
I have already related, in an earlier post (https://littlealfie.wordpress.com/2010/03/22/working-on-the-night-shift/), how my aggressively “biting back” at the young IT Manager who opened our interview with a reference to my age (46 then) actually got me my big break into that line of work but the over-riding problem is, and always has been, this:
I am absolutely rubbish at interviews!
I dry up at inappropriate times; I carry on talking to fill the vacuum after I’ve answered the question; basically I always do it completely wrong!
When I left school (at around the time that men were busy landing on the Moon for the first time) I went for a total of 3 job interviews. The first wanted me, a sixteen year old, to work alternate weeks on night shifts in a shipping office – this would have interfered with my growing evening social life so I said “No thank you”.
The second was with the Eastern Counties Building Society in Ipswich.
They impressed me immediately with their caring attitude towards applicants when a large woman from Personnel (as Human Resources Departments were then called) shoved me into a broom cupboard with a desk in it, slapped a sheaf of papers headed with the word ‘TEST’ down in front of me and ordered me abruptly to “Do this”!
Having just spent two years studying for and doing GCE “O” Levels it seemed to me to be somewhat unfair to hit me with ANOTHER exam but I did it, handed it in and was then shuffled out of the door with a brusque “We’ll let you know”! They did, in fact, come back to me with an offer of a job subject to a satisfactory interview but on the basis of my first hand experience of their methods and my father telling me that the Chief General Manager of ECBS was “a complete prat” I wrote back declining their offer.
And then the dear old Inland Revenue took me on – I don’t remember an interview for that but there must have been one and it was probably something along the lines of:
“You need 2 “O” Levels to be a Clerical assistant. What? You have 3? Welcome!”
Similarly, when 4 years later I went to Barclays Bank Trust Company the advert said “must have Inland Revenue experience” and I think I was the only applicant. The interview seemed to be merely to ascertain that I hadn’t picked up too many bad personality defects from being a Civil Servant and they attached more importance to the results of the Medical Exam they paid for me to have at a private clinic.
What I’m trying to get at here is that prior to Barclays I had little experience of job interviews and, indeed, very little experience of anything to discuss at them.
And by the time I next needed to do job interviews again 25 years had passed, the recruiting world had changed utterly and far, FAR more importance was put on one’s performance in the interview arena.
What I learned from that first IT interview but regrettably forgot again almost immediately is that this process should not be on the basis of “I’ve got a vacancy – you need a job – so beg!” although far too often that is the situation.
What it SHOULD be is “You’ve got a vacancy – obviously I’m the right person for it – so gimme!” but probably somewhere in between would be regarded as more acceptable to the pride of both parties.
Anyway I do have considerable difficulty in understanding how some people seem to sail easily through these interrogations while I’m a nervous wreck! Perhaps they have studied and practised their techniques to the point where nothing can faze them and no possible question can take them by surprise. Or perhaps they’re lying about it and are really as terrified as me. I will probably never know.
What I do know is that applying for jobs is not something I want to become good at – it implies that I can’t keep the job I have, which has been all too often the case in the last few years!
My phobia of the interview experience, following last August’s redundancy, has not been helped by two particular episodes.
In the first of these I was summoned for interview having applied at a nearby County Constabulary for an IT role.
No! “Helping the Police with their enquiries” is something completely different!
The IT Manager and his assistant were plainly jealous of the REAL policemen with whom they worked as the room was set up with me on one side of the desk and the two of them on the other side but so far apart that I couldn’t look at both at the same time. They then played “Good Cop, Bad Cop” firing questions at me alternately for about an hour. I firmly resolved that even if they offered me the job I would tell them to stuff it! I had enough of Managers like that at Barclays! As it happened they didn’t offer it.
My second bad experience was about a year ago now at a famous hospital not a million miles away from Cambridge. The job description suited me down to the ground; I could do every single thing on it. I even sported the same type of beard as three of the four members of the interview panel (the female panel member could only manage a feeble moustache!) and I felt good about it.
Just as the questions began, however, builders on the floor above began cutting into steel and concrete joists with an angle grinder. Thus I had to keep asking for questions to be repeated and they had to keep asking me to repeat my answers – which naturally didn’t come out as well the second time! I went to pieces and finished up as third choice for the job.
And the reason I’m boring you with all this is that yesterday (Wednesday 13th October 2010) I went for my first job interview in months.
On Monday I was called at work by a lady from an Employment Agency who had found my CV online and thought my past IT experience in the Food industry was appropriate for a vacancy that had just come in. It sounded good so I asked her to submit my details and resigned myself to hearing nothing more – as usual!
Incidentally, if someone in your office answers their mobile phone then leaps up and rushes out into the cold to speak to a caller who they plainly don’t know, the chances are they’re being offered a job – so give them a pay rise at once or you’ll lose them! And if you’re looking for a pay rise try getting a friend to call you during working hours and pretend they’re an employment agency – it might just work.
Back to the story – imagine my surprise when only minutes after speaking to her I received an email stating: “They want to interview you – is Wednesday OK?”
I jumped at the chance largely because, even though I’m currently hourly paid and time off is therefore money lost, the contract work finishes on Friday and the prospect of some more money coming in soon was very welcome!
The interview was GREAT! The two gentleman conducting it put me at my ease immediately and brought out my knowledge, experience and suitability for the role in a manner that was “conversational” rather than “adversarial” I unwound to the point where I was putting THEM at ease just as much as they were me and I have an extremely good feeling that they liked me enough to give me the job.
I will know one way or the other by Thursday night and am leaving this account in the “drafts” area of my WordPress account until the decision is made.
If I got the job you will be reading this and can rejoice with me!
And if I don’t get it you’ll never know!