Perhaps the most degrading part of your job search, the interview can be compared to the climax of a three-month-long humiliation symphony; it is here that the product of all your past job-hunting humiliation comes to fruition, and it is here that you must endure the final test. It is your moment of glory or your moment of tragic loss – in this economy, probably your moment of tragic loss – and as such you are forced to answer, in a seemingly earnest manner, questions such as “If hired, how will you be a positive aspect to our company?,” “Can you describe an instance in your professional life in which you had to overcome adversity?” and “What skills will you bring to the table, and what sets you apart from other job applicants? In other words, why should we hire you?” This rapid-fire questioning is indeed one of the most extreme parts of every interview. The power dynamic is completely in favor of proper debasement and humiliation – you in the supremely inferior position of ‘beggar of job’ while being intensely scrutinized for your worthiness by a person who, in this context, is all-powerful; the sole individual who can provide what you so badly desire. As you leave the interview, but not before predictably being told that there are other applicants, and that you will receive a call sometime next week, the next applicant is just rising out of her chair, looking way more professional than you.
2. The Reason You Need a Job in the First Place
And undoubtedly, this question will be asked of you in the interview. And if you were, well, fired from your last job – you’re most likely going to have to subject yourself to a degrading rhetorical calesthenics routine of piecing together the story of your termination in such a way as to implicate that the incident was mutual, mutually beneficial, unavoidable and in no way due to the fact that you were in completely over your head and had basically no idea what you were doing. “Well,” you’ll have to say. “After a good amount of discussion, we just decided it wasn’t The Right Fit.” “So, do you know if they hired someone to replace you?” your hopefully-future employer asks, trying to pin down if you were fired for being incompetent or if the economy was to blame.” You take a deep breath and reply, “Well, what they did was replaced my position. My position was terminated and I think they were looking for someone else… for a position that would take over my position’s duties…” The interviewer’s looking perplexed by now, and understandably, you’re feeling pretty ridiculous. Red blooms suddenly materialize on your face in flowery patches, betraying any semblance of cool you may have been projecting.
3. The Whoring
From the first email with a cover letter and CV attached to the third interview with the Information Architect, WordPress Guru and Content Ninja, the process of finding a job requires intense whoring of your skills in a language so jargony, antiquated and foreign that the whole thing is just embarrassing. “Here’s why I’m better than all your other candidates, make no mistake,” you write in your cover letter. “I’m highly relatable, am a great team player, and have a passion for sales and marketing. I’m the man for the job, sir.” This is where you actually have to leave the laptop, go to the kitchen sink and retch. The first phone interview requires more meaningless rhetorical bullshitting and, likewise, encourages you to provide the most vague and functionally devoid statements about why you’re the Perfect Candidate. Of course, this goes against most of your ideas regarding blanket statements about which you couldn’t possibly know all associated information and as such puts you in a compromised position, but this is in essence the crux of the humiliation you are to bear while shuffling around on your knees for a salary above $25k a year and benefits.
4. Because You’re Not Even Qualified
After a couple months of job hunting, your appeals become so high-pitched and desperate that you find yourself applying for extremely exotic sounding positions whose titles you’re completely unfamiliar with and whose job descriptions are equally confounding. “Need Technical Content Manager to collect and manage IE developer technical content BOM and production of new content from four key sources. Must also edit / QA technical content before distribution to DPE breadth engine, form key partnerships with MSDN and ScriptJunkie to cross-publish content across friendly and competitive channels (KPI >50 artifacts), and collect, manage, and support economic data from Field in aggregate (KPI > 25% of wins capturing measurement).” Of course, you have no clue what the fuck any of that shit means, but the title of the Craigslist ad was “Writer/ Content Manager,” and you definitely have experience… writing content. And so: welcome to the fun world of going to interviews in which you have no idea what they’re even asking you! Word of warning, though: you’ll never get used to bullshitting your way through conversations in which you’re expected to show some semblance of an intellect. You’ll get called out. And once you get called out, it is perhaps best to bow your head in shame and walk out the door.
5. Because You’re So Completely Over-Qualified
After a couple MORE months of job hunting, you’re considering borrowing money from your parents, moving back home, or… getting a job that completely sucks ass. Soon you find yourself at Longhorn Café – a downtown lunch-hour place that serves barbeque and espresso – sitting in front of its manager, who’s wearing a tucked-in forest green t-shirt with “COME N GIT IT!” printed on the back, a black cap inscribed with the same, black ‘work pants’ and restaurant-catalog non-slip shoes. This is all required attire for every employee, and they take fucking money out of your first paycheck to provide you with it. The pay rate is, of course, somewhere just above minimum wage, and this manager person in front of you is asking you if you have a passion for barbeque. “Oh I love barbeque,” you say, grinning. “I really love barbeque sauce and the ways of barbeque.” The manager looks at you, taking the only moment he’s ever going to get to look pensive, sagelike, and not batshit crazy during the middle of a lunch hour rush. He draws his syllables out. “Whyyy… should… the… Longhorn… Café… hire… you?” he says. Stay tuned for the deepest moments of your humiliation.
[Stressful people job interview image via Shutterstock]