As You Like It: Of Sharks and Flames


If I had to make a list of things that I hate doing, interviewing for a job would be right up there. Isn’t it everyone’s dream to enter a room where they are at the mercy of someone who can make them feel instantly flustered and utterly stupid? I once read somewhere that an interviewer makes up her mind within the first ten seconds after a person walks in the door. I used to try and impress that on my students when they came to me for advice before heading off for a job.

“Ms. Joan! Do I look okay?” they would ask. I would look over to see that they were wearing jeans, a t-shirt and sneakers and just sigh. I would ask them why they hadn’t come to me a couple of days before so that I could have given them some pointers. Then I’d tell them to go home and change into a shirt with a collar, nice slacks, and shoes. But they would always insist that they were fine and then inevitably come back the next day angry because they didn’t get the job. I used to conduct interview classes to give them advice, but my students believed that if the employer couldn’t accept them the way that they were, they didn’t want to work there anyway.

Most of us have no problem dressing for an employer’s approval. The dressing part is almost the easiest. You find a decent suit, comb your hair, slap a smile on your face and you’re done. It’s the questions that are the unknown descent into hell.

After having been on countless quirky or soul-crushing interviews, when I’m on the other side of the desk looking for employees, I become the warm, fuzzy questioner that smothers you in sugary sweetness. It’s absolutely nauseating. But I honestly feel that the more relaxed an interviewee is, the truer picture you get of their personality. And in the adult teaching profession, personality counts for a lot. If you have a class of 18 year olds who have dropped out of high school after having challenged everyone who has ever tried to teach them, you need someone strong, with a boatload of patience and a good sense of humor. An industrial whistle helps too.

The only time that I was completely relaxed in an interview was when I applied for a job that I didn’t really want. So of course I got it. I tried to explain that to Lisa a few weeks ago. Interviewers can smell desperation. They’d rather hire someone who plays hard to get. It sounds crazy, but it’s true.

Since Lisa and Matt moved to California, Lisa has been job searching. She has two nice suits, a good looking resume, and a great personality. (Okay, I know I’m her mom, but it’s true) She also has the usual case of job-hunting nerves. Last week she got called in for an interview that would last from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and encompass everyone at the company, including the custodial staff. So she decided to enlist Matt’s help in the interviewing process. She asked his help despite knowing how absolutely, adorably nuts her husband is. It’s the main reason why he fits in so well with our family. The “interview” began with just the two of them but quickly mushroomed as we all got electronically involved.

Lisa: Ask me about a time when I faced a challenge while conducting research.
Matt: You can’t tell me what to ask you! I’m the interviewer!
Lisa: Okay.
Matt: Errrmm, ummm … What would you do if you were stuck in a castle surrounded by a moat full of sharks?
Lisa: Umm … Can I catapult myself off?
Matt: No, that would kill you.
Lisa: Umm … Do I have a hot air balloon?
Matt: Yes, but it catches on fire. Also, the sharks can walk and talk and have keys to the castle. They eat you and you die. You’re going to have to find another job.

That’s how it began. Lisa emailed that to me, Steve, and Mariel, so of course we all began to stir the pot.

Joni: Matt definitely has a future as an interviewer. What imagination! What daring! What utter craziness! Can I work for you Matt?

Steve: From where I stand the interview would be a killer.

Joni: Excuse me, but it’s obvious that Lisa should have gotten into her plane or helicopter or had plenty of food and beer to feed the sharks. This sounds like a typical interview for a job at Google!

Mariel: I sent this link to Matt this morning: (go to this site for a great shark lesson and all around amazing comic).

Matt: The sharks have sabotaged all the planes and helicopters.

Steve: Then there’s only one correct answer. The sharks play Bezzerwizzer* and will allow Lisa to cross the moat if she lets them win.

Matt: Actually, the correct answer is to use a flame thrower, which Mariel guessed in a separate thread.

Mariel: Matt gave me a clue when he told me you couldn’t beat the sharks with science, but with FIRE.

Lisa: I want to print out this email chain and frame it.

I want to print out my family and frame us! We are all nuts … but we interview well!

*Bezzerwizzer is a fantastic strategic trivia game that our family is addicted to!

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avatar Posted by on Nov 7 2012. Filed under As You Like It, Featured Content, Opinion. Both comments and pings are currently closed.
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