I was writing an article yesterday, on an HR related topic, which put me in mind of my first job. Or, more correctly, my first job interview, if you can call it that.
As a teenager, I don’t think I planned for anything and didn’t have the faintest clue what I wanted to do. I stopped full-time education when I was 16, so in the months before I finished school, there was a quick interview with the careers advisor (I say “quick” because I doubt that I contributed anything of value to the conversation) and I went back to class. That meeting went something like this:
“What would you like to do when you leave school?”
“What are your interests?”
“Um, well, I like reading. And animals.” There were other things, but playing poker and going out drinking are things that you just can’t tell your careers advisor.
“Animals? Would you like to train as a veterinary nurse?”
“I’ll get upset if they have to put animals to sleep.
“What about an office job?”
The next thing I knew was that I had a job interview, for an office job.
I don’t now remember exactly when the interview took place, but I know that my first day at work was 6 August, and I’d only had a couple of weeks off since leaving school, so my guess is that it was the end of June/beginning of July. I don’t remember completing an application form either, although I suppose I must have, as I was being employed by a government department. Anyway, I digress.
I went to an all girls’ school, and we played hockey every week. When I say, we played hockey, that was what it said on the curriculum. Can you imagine all those female teenage hormones together in one place, with no outlet apart from brandishing a stick, not necessarily towards a ball? What an aggressive bunch of heathens they were. I remember clearly one of the bones in my foot being knocked out of position by the action of a wayward hockey stick because I happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. There was nothing jolly about it at all, from my recollection, and whoever coined that particular expression has clearly never played the game with other teenage girls.
On the day of my interview, we’d played hockey. We didn’t shower after hockey, I don’t really remember why. So, I turned up for my interview wearing my uniform school dress, which was fine blue, grey, white and black stripes, and actually nicer than it sounds, my royal blue school blazer, and my extremely attractive royal blue hockey socks, which insisted on slipping down to my ankles, revealing my matching bruises and bits of mud. I looked as though I’d been in a fight, not a hockey match. You’ll be pleased to learn, though, that I had managed to take my hockey boots off and put shoes back on though, so you can see, I was all about making a good impression.
I have absolutely no idea what was going through my mind, I’m sure I must have been a bit nervous. Anyway, I made my way to the government building, announced myself in the front counter, full of social security claimants. I must have looked very out of place. Someone came to collect me, and I was taken up to the office of Mr M.
Very welcoming he was, too. He shook my hand and invited me to sit down. Now, I must have been very naive, because there were absolutely no papers on his desk (this was before we used computers) but I assumed that, as he was the big boss, he was the busiest man in the world. My Mum and Dad have a lot to answer for, bringing me up with an inherent sense of faith in authority, and believing every word that people tell me.
As interviews go, it was pretty easy. I don’t remember what questions he asked me, but I do remember that I made him laugh a lot, and I did a lot of laughing. It was all very jovial. I must have been smoking hot.
I’ve ever had another interview like that. I even remember being given a cup of tea, and that’s never happened since either! I seem to recall being asked very difficult questions in later interviews, so that first interview really set me up for the wrong view of the world of work.
There was a point in time when I was having so many job interviews that I became very proficient at them and I actually started interviewing the interviewers. (That’s a really bad tactic, by the way. A few pertinent questions at the end of the interview are fine, but not throughout the interview. Nowadays, with my interviewing experience, I wouldn’t let anyone do that to me, and would be decidedly miffed if anyone tried, but I seemed to get away with it.)
It’s all much more formal nowadays, at least with big employers. You can’t ask this or that because of various bits of European legislation and fashions in interviewing have changed, just as with clothing. We HR types particularly like behavioural and competency based questions, such as “Can you give me an example of when you did….?”
Of course there are the questions that we were discussing in the office the other day, such as “What kind of dog are you?” (The kind that likes a comfortable bed and lots of food) or “How do you weigh an elephant?” but these are used more by non-HR professionals. Just for the record, the answer isn’t the important bit in these questions; it’s the thought process and your ability to think on your feet that matters.
Back to my job interview, I was offered the job, and worked there for several years, so I clearly won Mr M over with my charm and wit. Let’s hope I can do it again when I start job-hunting again.
©Susan Shirley 2014