June 14, 2012

Interviews and pants.

Interviews are top of my mind today. Someone is being interviewed in the office behind me as I type this and I was reading something a few minutes ago about what possible interview questions people should be ready for when they're looking for a job.

I took law in grade twelve, just so you know. Our teacher was really good at letting us know what is and is not acceptable for potential employers to ask you. Or maybe that was CAPP. Either way, I know my rights. I know that all an employer really needs to know about me personally (and only sometimes) is whether I'm over 18. And, you know, they can request a criminal record check if I want to let them. In an interview, though, there are lots of questions they can't ask me. Naturally I've been asked quite a few of them.

I applied for a crappy job the summer after our wedding at a little deli. It was to supplement my crappy hours at the bar and I really wanted it. I didn't want to work in a deli but I really didn't want to spend my summer making pennies and doing nothing, either. In that interview they asked me the most intelligent question ever. "Do you live at home?"

I'm not sure how such a question was remotely relevant. I think it was a way of finding out more personal details about me without outright asking. Of course I live at home, I don't live in a box. I'm not a hobo; I consider the place I live to be my home. I wish I'd answered it a little more coyly because they had no right to ask me in the first place. But I really, really wanted that job. By asking me that prying question they found out that I'm married and living with my husband in my mother's basement. Because when they ask if you live at home what they're really asking is if you're living with your parents and that really makes a difference when you're applying for a position to serve people food and pizza from behind a counter. I answered their question because I wanted them to like me and not think I'm difficult. Not that it mattered, I didn't get the job.

That was back in the day when I didn't dominate my interviews. It was also back in the day when the only job offer I did get started (and ended two weeks later) with me fainting and throwing up on the floor on my first day. Summer 2010, you hurt me bad.

In the fall during my head hunting phone interview (which is, you know, very strange if you're in the same city) it came up that I was married. That time it was probably my fault. My future boss had a way of just drawing it out and making you feel like you were great friends (ironic, eh?). And then, of course, she asked if I planned on having kids any time soon. Right, because that's a totally legal question to ask me. So, since she was getting personal with me, I asked her if she had kids. It seemed only fair.

Yeah, I got that job.

A lot of people seem not to want to hire the young and married and I think part of it has to do with the belief that if you're crazy enough to get married in your early twenties then you must want kids ASAP. If anyone ever asks me again in an interview if I have kids, if I'm going to have kids soon, or if I live at home, I'm just going to say, no, I don't plan on having kids anytime soon, and yes I live at home. Because even if I'm six months pregnant (terrifying thought) and living in a box on the street, that really isn't anyone's business but mine now is it? And my baby daddy's.

One thing that really struck me about my current (six months, folks!) job is that in my interview they were totally professional. All the right questions, none of the wrong ones, and it was only when I came in for my second interview (aka unofficial job offer) that we were talking about benefits and I mentioned that my husband has some. They raised their eyebrows (because I'm child, I know it) but didn't go any further. And I still got an email later that day offering me the job. Score.

There's so much more to job interviews than just the questions, though, isn't there? The most stressful part of applying for jobs (up until September) was figuring out what to wear.

I applied for a co-op job a few years ago and the interviewer made a not so subtle comment about appropriate dress. I was wearing my dress pants, flats, a cardigan, and a lovely floral tank top. No cleavage, thank you very much but I guess it showed a little more skin than he would have liked.

Yeah, I didn't get that one. Probably because he thought I was a dirty skank.

Well, ever since then (and actually before, but even more so since) I have stressed and stressed about what to wear to an interview. The rule of thumb I always heard was to dress one level nicer than what the job calls for. So if you're working at McDonalds? Come dressed and you're probably doing okay. Working in an office? Dress pants are probably a better choice than jeans.

When I was in school I didn't have a lot of "nice" things. I had my dress pants and the nice shirts I'd wear for weddings at the bar, but somehow those tops didn't seem appropriate for job interviews. Eventually I got the hang of it and I'm confident that I have a very interview appropriate wardrobe. When I interviewed here I was wearing a dress and tights, after all!

It's funny, though, because of the four people that have also come in for various interviews since I started here six months ago, two of them have been wearing jeans. One of them got hired, too. The other one just interviewed. The two not wearing jeans didn't get hired. Hmm...

Are jeans the key to successful interview apparel? My mind is being blown. And I will never wear jeans to an interview again (unless, of course, it seems appropriate. Although if I'm wearing jeans to the interview does that mean we'll work naked?).


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