Have you ever lied at a job interview? Of course not. Neither have I.
I do remember turning up for an interview (my first serious one) with a local government department. I wore a black skirt, demure blouse up to my neck with a ribbon tied in a bow. (Thanks Mum – I’m sure it helped). No make-up, hair scraped off my face, face furniture in the style of Deirdre (this ones for the poms), i.e. on the enormous side. My Dad who gave interviews regularly had politically incorrectly but usefully told me that it was best not to look on the tarty side.
There were curious glances a week or so later on my first day in the office. Who was the floozy with wanton hair and disheveled clothing? Too late. I was in.
I nearly didn’t get my first job in London which would have been a shame, as that was where I later met the husband. I traveled the wrong way round the circle line and arrived late. I was dressed somewhat provincially in a type of anorak and flat shoes. I think the interviewer took pity on me.
I have since attended many interviews, in London and in Sydney. I shied away from potentially demanding bosses. One woman asked me if I minded a boss who threw impromptu lunch parties for clients, expecting me to cook. Or sew up the sagging hemline on his trousers. No thank you. Strangely another job I turned down after the boss said the f-word. That seemed to be a problem in the early 90s. Bring it on I say now.
I haven’t attended an interview in fifteen years. Not since I had children and went feral. Do they still ask the same terrifying questions? Terrifyingly banal anyway. ‘What are your strengths’ ‘…your weaknesses?’. ‘Where do you expect you’ll be in five years time?’ You had to answer these questions saying what the interviewer wanted without giving away what you were really like. A sort of verbal version of my first interview. ‘I’m positive, good with people and a great sport at office Christmas parties’. The weakness question? Was that a trick? Did they really want to know about your compulsion to steal office stationery? Your insubordination, terrible phone manner? And five years time? I didn’t know where I was going to be a week on Tuesday.
I struggled with interviews in London. Once applied for a job in television and thought I could dispense with the navy blue suit. I arrived wearing a red silk suit with a Mandarin collar. I was advised that if I wanted the position I should turn up for the second interview in something less shouty. I tried, and failed, to please prospective employees. I mean, what was it? Did I come across as too flighty, too stupid, too dull? A girl could take all that rejection to heart.
Then I moved. And not a small move. 17,000 kms from old London town.
In Sydney they loved me. I just opened my mouth and out came my ‘posh-side of estuarine’ English accent and they fell over me. Offering me pot plants for my desk and invitations to lunch. Why? Did I sound more capable? Capable of what? Colonising the antipodes, whinging? Was I better at stand-up, which as a nation we undoubtedly are.
I was offered some great and well paid jobs. Finally. Trouble was sitting in an office in London is very different to sitting in one in Sydney. Who could stay away from the beach all day?
Not me. It turns out.