- Philip Bryer
Surviving Stupid Questions...
...or Top Interview Tips That Just Wouldn't Work Anymore
“So what are your hobbies?”
Well, I like a drink and that, y’know?
“I said your hobbies, not your way of life.”
“OK, when can you start?”
Ah, those were the days, the days when such an exchange with the interviewer was enough to gain you a decent position at a major high street bank – this happened to a friend of mine in the not so distant Seventies. But these things have been over-complicated. How so? Well, the usual culprits are empire-building human resources departments for whom developing more boxes to tick means adding level-upon-level of spurious responsibility to their paper empires.
I was encouraged to read in an American newspaper that it’s not only employees who are pig-sick of the system of staff appraisals, apparently employers are now having serious doubts about their efficacy and are realising that yearly marks out of ten and setting meaningless objectives are of benefit to neither party. It appears that, like psychometric testing, the yearly appraisal is these days about as credible a doctor as Gillian McKeith.
On a hot day in Central London, some 20-odd summers ago, I had 3 interviews in the course of one Friday. Two in the morning, neither of which went very well. “Bit of a comedown for you this isn’t it?” said the second interviewer. “Agreed,” I said, “I can’t imagine why I’m wasting my time here, goodbye”, and I went to the pub. My final appointment wasn’t until late afternoon. So I loosened my tie, wandered about, stopped for the odd refreshing cold drink, bought some mints, almost sacked it and went home, but what the hell, I thought, I’m here.
I sat chatting about this and that to Malcolm, my prospective boss, in the office which, conveniently enough, was situated above a pub. He looked worn out, plainly couldn’t wait for the week to be over and showed little interest in discussing the details of the role. Instead, eager as we both were to avoid the subject in hand, we stumbled across a mutual interest in music and football. While we discussed Atomic Rooster and Wishbone Ash he fiddled with a Bic lighter. I spotted twenty cigarettes in the top pocket of his shirt. “Smoke if you like,” I suggested, “I don’t mind”. He looked at me keenly. He offered me a B&H and we sat for a while smoking and talking about Wishbone Ash before he took the step we both knew was inevitable and offered me the job. We sealed the deal with another ciggy.
So here’s a top job-hunting tip. Candidates should arrange for all of their interviews to take place during the afternoon, have a leisurely lunch and several drinks, pitch up just about on time, sit back and relax, make yourself comfortable, avoid discussing the position applied for, and if at all possible, suggest going outside for a smoke.
Malcolm and I, although we haven’t worked together for many years, meet at least once a year in an heroic attempt to uphold the traditions of the all day lunch and a day at the cricket. These days, without any of that smoking nonsense. What were we thinking?