I couldn’t career less: your alternative job seekers’ guide

In 3 years of job seeking, I have submitted around 100 applications, amassed 18 rounds of assessment, been through more interviews than I can remember and, through all of this, maintained a 100% record. Sadly, the unblemished level of achievement that I speak of corresponds to a 100% record of failure. I’d like to point out that throughout all my job-seeking, not once have I applied for a position for which I’m under-qualified. As such, I think I’m well within my rights to place the graduate recruitment process under some scrutiny. This will, of course, be conducted in a wholly objective manner. Possibly.

Anyone who’s ever undergone a “competency” based interview will fully appreciate that, as a measure of employability, these exercises are anything but competent. One interview classic is: “What’s the biggest mistake you’ve ever made?”. For me, that question’s easy. I’ve suffered irreversible psychological trauma after watching Mila Kunis getting intimate with Natalie Portman during weekly family film time with my mum. I now always check on IMDB before renting DVDs.

In spite of this, my standard response -and the response of 95% of interviewees- consists of a fairly trivial yet entirely fabricated scenario that doesn’t reflect too badly on my character. I could be harbouring an illicit love-child in my home-made basement and you’d be none the wiser. I will concede that interviews are extremely effective at identifying certain qualities possessed by a candidate. However, the ability to “bend over and take it” is a quality that is of little use outside the adult video industry.

Phone interviews: is there anything more disorienting than talking at an inanimate object for prolonged periods of time? I’m not talking about David Beckham’s relationship with Victoria. Over a half hour period, at least Victoria will utter, intermittently, “oh David”. This is more than could be said about the majority of phone interviewers. All I’m asking for is an “ah” of approval or a “hmmmmm” of bemusement. Otherwise, how am I supposed to know if my speech about the time I became the first black president is being received well? I guess I don’t really take exception to the concept of phone interviews per se, it’s more the fact that I’m so horrendously bad at them that grates on me. One episode involved my phone interviewer actually catching me red-handed when I resorted to Google for a specific detail about the company. Thankfully, she didn’t have access to my webcam and therefore could not see what else was on my screen. People say that developing a confident phone manner is a natural process that can take years, yet in a desperate attempt to rid myself of my employment woes, I thought I’d found a solution to all my problems. Unfortunately at £1.53 per minute, you cannot get Chantelle from Babestation to ask competency based questions.

What do you get when you put four vacuous, impressionable wannabees in front of a panel of judges and tell them their career depends on their next performance? No, you don’t get One Direction. You get a group exercise in which the top international employers determine who they will entrust with the future of their company. Group exercises have a lot in common with a game I used to play at school called “testes”. During assemblies or other whole school gatherings, a player would start the game by saying, in hushed tones, the word “testes”. To accept the challenge, another player would also say the word “testes” but louder than the instigator. The game continues in the above manner until one player’s testes cannot be exceeded. Customarily, this involved full frontal nudity, clasping of one’s testicles and aneurism-inducing levels of physical exertion. I’m not advocating flashing as a successful assessment centre technique but, similar to testes, group exercises are characterised by their adherence to “he who shouts the loudest” principles. As with interviews, if you are able to speak with conviction, then even the most far-fetched pile of bull can be made to sound like Confucian doctrine.

Networking is a farcical situation. The only reason I’m here is because I want a fast-track interview. You know I want a fast-track interview. You may or may not be able to give me a fast-track interview. I don’t know whether you’re able to give me a fast-track interview, but I’m not allowed to ask. I’m not saying all networking is futile, but my advice is to take a bag. If times are tough, at least by swagging a few free beers, you won’t have had a wasted evening.

Again, some of you may disagree with what I’m saying. Competency based interviews form part of the wider assessment process. Group exercises, in spite of their artificial setting, are an excellent way to evaluate a candidate’s ability to put forward an argument. Completing “tick box” exercises demonstrates professionalism and motivation. Whilst I cannot dispute any of the above, in my opinion, the whole assessment process requires you to “act” as opposed to “do”. I’d conjecture that being able to jump through hoops does not demonstrate your suitability for a specific industry. If I’m wrong, this paints a very sad picture of the working world. Ask any recruiter what they look for in prospective employees and they band about the same buzzwords such as “honesty”, “integrity”, “creativity” or, quite simply, “something different”. I’d go as far as to say that these are the things that you must abandon in an interview.

We all want to do something different with our lives and it’s a sad truth that, at the age of 20, it becomes readily apparent that this won’t be the case for the overwhelming majority of us. The very nature of a “graduate programme” means that participants will be shaped to fit the corporate mould necessitated by their employers. Accordingly, all graduates will be treading a well worn path. In saying this, I risk hypocrisy- I’d still jump at the chance of guaranteed employment. Maybe the very fact that I’m writing this is an indication that I’ll never be “professional” enough to find a place in the corporate world. Perhaps I have deluded preconceptions about working life. But nothing scares me more than facing the prospect of spending the rest of my life as another insignificant cog in a faceless corporate machine.

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