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Thursday, June 30, 2011

Ask me questions

Husband and I have been looking for jobs. The last few months have been disappointingly quiet, as Husband has only received one phone call for an interview, and I haven't received even that.

Two days ago my voice mail held a message from the [retail clothing chain] I'd applied for just a few days before. She said she wanted to schedule an interview with me! Now, let's get really honest here, I have no work experience besides a couple of short stints at a shoe store and as a front desk agent at a motel (when my 8-year-old was only two). My resume is pathetic. Even after my friend Miken spiced it up for me with terms like "Domestic Engineer" and other awesome-sounding things I've done, no one wants to consider me for a job. Even call centers have been avoiding me.

So, gradually I have been applying for less and less awesome jobs, giving up the hope that someone will take a chance on me for anything that might pay me decently. Anyway, when I got called in for an interview, I was super excited. Someone might hire me!

Uh-oh. I forgot one crucial detail.


There's a reason I choose to primarily communicate through the written word. Impromptu answers to pre-made questions are my greatest downfall. Every interviewer I've ever faced has almost-politely excused me with a "better luck next time" approach to rejection. The few people who have been able to see through my nervousness have said things like, "Well, even though you clearly can't speak under pressure, we're going to give you a shot." My manager at Payless even told me I got the job because of the shoes I was wearing. (I can't blame her. They were gorgeous gold heels - Thanks, Krista!) During the interview she handed me a black and white BIC pen and asked me to sell it to her. I stared at it in disgust and said, "I... can't." I didn't mean to, it's just what happens! My mind says, "Be charming and give them the answers they want!" and my face betrays me! My face insists on showing exactly what my true emotions are, despite all my self-coaching and monetary desperation. My mind says, "Think! Tell them why they should buy that awful pen!" and my face screams, "I wouldn't touch that cheap pen with a ten-foot pole." (Just so we're clear, I am only a snob about writing tools. I'm not a judgmental freak about everything; only about the pens I use to write.) Needless to say, it was a damn good thing I was wearing those shoes.

I spent yesterday morning painstakingly preparing every inch of myself for the interview. I borrowed an outfit from Andrea that would make me look super-responsible, blew my hair dry WITH a blow dryer (let's face it, that happens so rarely these days, I had forgotten what it felt like), painted my nails, agonized over what color eye shadow would make me look most "professional" while still being myself (a difficult task), etc., etc. Husband looked at me like I was insane, because, well, interviews are his greatest talent. He could charm the pants off a homeless person in the dead of winter if he put his mind to it.

"Why are you panicking about everything like that?" he asked me, completely disregarding my track record. "It's all about confidence. Just smile and tell them what you're worth." (Does he know me??)

When I opened the door to [retail clothing chain store], I told myself, "Just smile and tell them what you're worth."  At least that helped me accomplish the smile part.

The woman interviewing me greets me by yelling out the door of her office, "What's your name?"
"Aubrey," I yell back, as confidently as I can manage.
She cranes her neck to see me better around the door frame.
"Yes," I confirm. Here it comes. This is the part where they get the "WTF? But she's white!" look on their faces, until they remember to wipe off the shock and confusion and act professional.
"Wait in there," she yells.

While I'm sitting at the gooey table in the break room, I'm obsessing over things like whether I should cross my legs and where I should put my hands. Is my hair all bunched up on my shoulders like it does? Maybe I should straighten it out... Stupid things like that.

Before she even sits down, she says in the most monotone voice I have ever heard, "Well, tell me a little about yourself and what you're looking for in a job."

Crap. What is there to say about me? I'm a fumbling idiot who thinks my straight hair and pink eye shadow will get me a job? Finally I tell her, "I have been home with my three kids on and off for the last eight years..."  I don't know what I was thinking starting with that. I guess I felt like I had to explain my lack of work experience. I winced, realizing I'd done it again.

Her blank, bored face cracks into suspicion. "You don't look old enough to have kids for eight years," she blurts out, tactlessly.

I knew it. Defensively I say something like, "Yes, well, I know, I look a lot younger than... well, I have three boys..."  You know, the usual lame response I give when people accuse me of being "too young".  "I'm twenty-six," I add, and she immediately starts reading the first question off her paper.

"What about your work experience has prepared you for this job?"

All I can think is what has happened to this woman to make her so completely emotionless? Her face is like stone, and I'm pretty sure her eyes are looking straight through me. Just as I start to say something about Payless, really enjoying my customer service job there, she cuts me off with the next question on the list. I'm sunk. She's already bored with me. I so don't want to go home and tell Husband that I botched another one.

"Tell me about a time when you had to deal with a difficult customer and how you resolved the issue."

This time I start right in. "I worked at Payless here in Utah, but I also worked at Payless in Kansas when my husband was in the Army. The women there would always come in looking for shoes size 10-14, women."

Her eyes go wide. "14? That's a BIG girl!" I'm busy hoping that cracking her stone mask is a good thing, and I continue.

"...I had to try to explain to them tactfully that there's-"

"No one carries that size!" she finishes for me.

"Exactly! So there was this one lady who came in yelling at me, calling me names, telling me how I wouldn't know anything because I'm short."

The woman's face turned back off like a light switch, and she cut me off with the next question. Apparently how I resolved the issue really doesn't matter, because she clearly has already decided to check the blocks and send me on my way.

Every single question and answer was that way. She read right off the paper and cut me off before I was finished answering her questions. As I was mid-sentence on the last answer, she announced, "Here's what I'm gonna do. I'm gonna offer you the job..." She spouts off the training times and location as fast as she possibly can, stands up, and walks out of the room before I have time to respond.

So, I got the job! Apparently she intended to give the job to any living, breathing human who walked through the door, but still! I have a job. And a discount at one of my favorite stores.

Maybe it was the shoes I was wearing....


  1. Congrats on the job! I suck in interviews too. I'm not looking forward to them in the future. I'm hoping to be extremely successful over time in working from home as to avoid such instances in the future. Have you ever considered looking into something that allows you to be your own boss? You're a mom, you run your house, why not run your own biz? Freelance, you have the talent!

  2. Lol... what a crazy lady interviewing you! congrats though! so - is it a secret where you will be working?


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