I like to think that my brain is slippery and streamlined, like it’s full of an expensive brand of lube and that’s why my thoughts rush around it so quickly and I tend to blurt things out with basically no ability to censor. I like to think that, but really I’m just prone to saying things. This is obviously a theme I’ve explored before in this blog, but I’ve recently landed a dream job at Momentum Books and someone asked me how I went in the interview. Then they paused, and asked me how I’ve ever gotten any job ever. This is a really good question, and bears looking at. Obviously I didn’t go too badly in my Momentum interview, although I do remember saying the sentence ‘Well, I don’t PLAN to ruin everything.’ Well played, Patrick.
Generally I can come across as a mildly employable person. I don’t have a hook for a hand, or a neck tattoo of an eagle carrying an erect penis. Sometimes the stupid comes out slowly and subtly, like carbon monoxide poisoning. Other times it’s direct and in your face, like someone throwing a lump of carbon directly in your face. Much like the time I decided I wanted to work at a sex shop in Caringbah, because 90% of all shops in Caringbah are sex shops, and when I walked in, I handed my resume across the encounter and said ‘Hello, I was wondering if you have any positions.’ I then cackled like a witch, took my resume back, apologised and left.
Liquorland in Miranda seemed an obviously good place for me to work as a casual employee. It was near my home, provided flexible hours for a university student and was literally a land of liquor. So when I went in for my interview, I really didn’t expect to have to clarify more than those points to the interviewer. Maybe I thought we’d talk some real talk about availabilities on weekends, and maybe if my nose was doing that spontaneous bleeding thing, I’d have to clarify it was due to harsh skin medications and not excessive cocaine. These were the things I was prepared for.
‘You can have a good life at Liquorland’ stated the portly manager, hitching his shorts to the left of his vaguely visible testicles. ‘I earn enough to support my wife and three dough-like children’ he continued, flipping open his wallet to show me a picture of his dough-spawn.
‘What we want to know, as a company, is where do you see yourself in five years?’ The first answer that sprang into my head was ‘the moon’, so actually I was doing quite well when I told him ‘Not working here.’
By the time I’d left university and was looking for real jobs, I had learned how to mildly lie. I’d managed to fuzz my lack of credentials enough to get into a second interview at an architecture magazine, for the role of an editorial assistant. The office was stupidly chic, and it smelled like black coffee and expensive floorboards. I don’t remember much of the interview, but they were kind enough to give me some feedback after I was rejected. My two major mistakes were this:
- Apparently I paid more attention to the office dog than I should have. Which was clearly a trap. A TRAP I WOULD GLADLY FALL FOR AGAIN.
Who’s a deadly boy?
2. When asked who my favourite architects were, I swiftly thought on my feet and told them ‘I really appreciate buildings in general’.
‘I feel like my love for general structures will make me more efficient as an editorial assistant, unlike say, some kind of pyramid fanatic or whatever. I literally have no idea what this magazine is about.’
But really, the most awful word salad of my life happened earlier this year when I was shortlisted for a writing residency in Singapore. The fellowship would have paid me a bunch of money to live fully supported in Singapore for six months and work on a full length play. Pretty awesome. A large part of the residency involved teaching writing to students, the planning of which took up the majority of my thirty page application. So when I was shortlisted and told I would be interviewed via Skype, the majority of my preparation was going over my teaching schedule – outcomes and workshops and strategies etc.
When the Skype window opened, it became rapidly clear that I was talking to a room of about fifteen people. However the only person I could see was a disapproving English professor type, slouched back with his fingers steepled, looking vaguely appalled at everything. After some light chit-chat where they said they liked my project, one of the disembodied voices claimed we should get down to business. I nervously shuffled my notes, mentally pronouncing words like ‘projected outcomes’ and ‘Stanislavski’.
‘Why do you think art is important?’
I froze, and then laughed a little. ‘Umm, well you know, art is exactly that.’
It became very clear, very quickly, that not a single question was going to reference my application, and instead were questions stolen from a panel called ‘Making Poetry Relevant to Teens in 1982’.
‘What do you want the students to take away from your classes?’
‘Actual pieces of writing which they can use to further their practices.’
But the voices insisted. ‘But more symbolically, what do you want them to leave with’
‘Umm, self esteem?’
Finally the professor type, who had been silent and judgemental the entire interview spoke up.
‘And why do you want to come to Singapore, Patrick?’
‘It is where the residency is’ I answered dully, no longer having any real clue what they wanted from me.
‘Yes, quite. But why Singapore in particular? What do you know about Singapore?’
‘Well’ I said, desperately trying not to think about their zero-tolerance policy on chewing gum ‘the last time I really boned up on Singapore was during War World Two’.
He raised his eyebrows, which I took as a cue to continue digging my own grave.
‘Obviously I don’t mean I was alive DURING world war two, ha ha ha.’
One of the disembodied voices laughed, but it wasn’t a laugh with me.
‘I mean, you know, I read a lot about the Japanese occupation during World War Two. That was interesting. Interesting and horrible.’
The professor rubbed his head wearily
‘Indeed, and you’d know then that today is the anniversary of the date the Japanese left Singapore.’
‘Yes, I did know that’ I lied. ‘That is why I brought it up.’
There were no more questions after that. I didn’t get it. Oh and also once I went for an interview at Groupon and the building set on fire, but that wasn’t my fault. Officially.