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‘So, list six of your best qualities.’
I had to admit through my silence that clearly I had none.

Well, here I am. It’s Monday evening; I’ve been waiting since Thursday. Three interviews. About forty quid on Petrol. Days out first in Plymouth, then Penzance and then Exeter. The last was neatly rounded of with a promise; that the recruitment manager would be in touch on Monday. He was. But I’m still none the wiser because Mister Area Manager Man has gone on holiday for a week.

Is this the way it works? If so, job hunting isn’t very pleasant really. Certainly not good for the nails.
The whole process is a bit of a nightmare; especially if you live where I do- right down in the depths of Cornwall. Still, at least on the whole you’re spared the awful feelings of inadequacy here, unless you look at the I.T. specialist jobs!

The job I applied for two weeks ago stood out from the board like a sore thumb. The words ‘graduate Trainee’ screamed out from behind the pins that had crucified it. I couldn’t believe my luck. Graduate jobs are virtually unheard of in this neck of the woods.

Of course I applied. Well, I got the details. That is, I took them home. And promptly forgot all about them! It wasn’t until two weeks further down the line that I remembered I hadn’t bothered to do anything about it all. That’s when I telephoned. And started the ball rolling. It was a fast one. Faster that I had anticipated.

On the Tuesday I rang the branch quoted on the job description and was assured that the position was still vacant. I was given the number of an area manager and told to discuss it further with him. This I did. He was a funny guy. Very sales. I winced as his enthusiasm hurtled down the line, ‘Oh Yeah- we’ve had a 'lodd' of interest in this one. Send your C.V. through.’

And he was gone. I was left with a peculiar taste in my mouth. You know when you’re not quite sure whether someone has just been really patronising and rude; or if it’s just you being paranoid? It was one of those. I sat on the stairs. Wondering. Had I just been insulted? Was I insulted? I couldn’t work it out. Still - I sent the C.V. off that night. I wasn’t holding my breath.

Next day the phone rang. The enthusiastic voice railroaded me again. I hadn’t been expecting it so soon.
He chatted. He was charming. Polite. Articulate. The pushiest person I have spoken to in a long while.
‘I wanted to clarify with you - you are aware that the existing vacancy won’t necessarily be with our Truro branch?’
‘No’ - Shit. That was that then. But he was still selling,
‘Yes. I mean. If you didn’t feel able to relocate I might just have to say that this wouldn’t really be the position for you. Do you follow?’
Of course I rose to it. Said I was willing to commute for up to an hour. He had done his job well. Then he bettered it. Somehow I ended up agreeing to drive to Plymouth two days later for an interview.

And so it continued. He had sold it. I was hooked. I wanted it. He was very good at his job; even over the phone. In person, his talent was even more impressive. I left the interview feeling I had just had a pleasant chat. I clutched the company brochure and dreamed a few dreams in the tranquil seconds between leaving the offices and realising how crippled my new interview shoes had left me. This realised, all dreams were gone. I hobbled back to the car, cursing interview dress-codes.

That was the first of three. Next up was Penzance. This was a proper grilling. It hurt. I felt like a bit of a moron when asked what I would be least likely to buy from the highstreet. I felt like still more of a moron when my pathetic response turned turtle and became a product I was selling to my interviewer.

Nothing compares to the horror of being asked the infamous interview question: ‘So, list six of your best qualities.’ I had to admit through my silence that clearly I had none. This disconcerted me no little and quite some. Especially since- when asked to list six negative things – I had to be interrupted mid flow as I reached the twelfth! I gritted my teeth, silently hoping that it was their policy to employ unpleasant, difficult, stubborn people. If it wasn’t, well, it looked as though I was well and truly out of the running!

Apart from the mandatory awful moments, the rest went by fairly painlessly. At least the top button of my shirt never popped open. I had been dreading it doing this and, as a precaution, had stared down at myself so many times throughout the course of the conversation that he could have been forgiven for thinking me rather peculiar. Or that I had a fixation with my own breasts…and possibly other people’s too!

From here, amazingly ( he can’t have noticed the button-checking!) I was sent to Exeter. That was on the Thursday. I had a very short meeting with the recruitment manager and was assured that I would be contacted on the following Monday.

I was contacted as promised. Only to be told that no decision could be reached until the boss returned from his holiday in a week’s time.

During the week I spent waiting, I realised just how scary the prospect of a full-time job really is. How must it feel to hand over your freedom and exchange your current lifestyle for a new, tiring version which will constitute the basis for the rest of your working life? Career stretched out before me, black and forbidding. I wished several times during those seven days that life worked backwards. At other times, however, ambition and anticipation buoyed me up. By the next Monday, I was stressed to the max!

That was this morning. Woke up in an absolutely filthy mood having decided that whatever happened would be dreadful. If I was rejected, I would feel a failure. If I was accepted, I would have to sign my life over. Talk about a rock and a hard place.

The day dragged painfully. I phone-watched grumpily. Nothing happened. My nerved stretched thinner and thinner. Until at last the call came.So now I have to wait for the documentation. I start a week today. Time to re-invent myself.

© Esther Loydall 2000

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