Ah, the interview.

I’ve always hated interviews. In fact, I think interviews are specifically engineered to lower your self esteem by 50%.

I wrote in my last post that I had more disappointing interviews than unrequited loves in middle school. This is true. I am the type of girl who blindly crushes for a year before finally moving on in defeat. It is not the same for interviews. I treat interviews like one night stands. I cringe while I recall the awkward glances and the almost maniacal rattling off of my top 3 weaknesses.

“What would you say are your weaknesses?”

“Well… My weakness is.. I have no weakness!! Muahahaha!!”

*awkward silence*

“And your strengths?”

“Hardworking, adaptable, dedicated, organized, and um.. hardworking?”

“Thank you for coming in.”

I think perhaps that’s how all my interviews ended. Of course, I did have some good interviews. About a month ago, I interviewed for a part time job as a gallery assistant at a commercial gallery midtown. I went in, not knowing what to expect.

The gallery was like love at first sight. The art was quirky, not too commercial, abstract in a way that emphasized form and colour. The owner of the gallery was there, and he was approachable and friendly. He quickly took me to the back to see some of the art work that had not yet been sold. He asked me to describe one of the works as I would to the customer.

This was right up my alley! I pulled out all the stops. I asked first if I could have some basic information about the artist. She was from Quebec, trying to make a living in Toronto by selling her art – she was a young artist, gifted, untrained in the arts and yet a natural. I was waxing poetic about the colours and the lines, the ability of the artist, the amazing value.

He was so pleased. We discussed further about art and politics, rather than the traditional questions. He said he would call. I went home on the subway, feeling pleased.

A couple days later, I received this email:

Hello V,
It is with some hesitation I write this letter. I had a difficult time deciding between you and another candidate. You were articulate, confident and you seemed very approachable. I am going to hire the other candidate but will definitely keep your resume on file. You never know what the future holds.
All the Best,

I was floored. Surely I was more than capable of taking on a part time assistant job. I did not like how abruptly it had ended. It was difficult for me to handle, and I had to break down for about the tenth time that month. It is as I said in my first post – we are all overqualified and underworked.

Of course, having a good interview and then being rejected is much harder than having a bad interview. But the worst is: the 2ND INTERVIEW. *cue dramatic music*

In my experience, the Second Interview is something that is exclusive to the retail industry. I’ve always been baffled by the process for interviewing in retail. Last week, I was called in for an interview at Jean Machine (don’t laugh). I went there in my tightest, trendiest jeans, and my most trendy – but not formal – top under a summer blazer. This was for, um. A cashier job. At ten bucks an hour.

I arrived early and immediately sought out the manager. She took me through the store, then asked me a few basic questions. Then she opened up the cashier program and asked me to ring in a few items. Of course, having worked at Booster Juice in first year, the cashier was a breeze. I mean honestly, cashier means money in, products out.

Then she asked me to sit outside in the mall and fill out an application form. I went and sat amongst the crying babies and exasperated mothers. All to fill in some application that asked everything from what I had for lunch to my toe nail colour.

But yeah, it was pretty much par for course. When I interviewed with Lululemon, I filled out a similar kind of form. Then they sat us down for a GROUP INTERVIEW. Let me just say right now, group interviews flatter no one. Either you come across as too rude, or too quiet. They want to foster that “competitive spirit”, so that means people yelling across the circle, icy glares and forced smiles. I thought I held my own, until it came to a particular question in the post-group interview application form.

Who in the circle would you be most likely to hire? Who the least?

Well fuck me, if that wasn’t the bitchiest of bitchy questions.

About a week later, I got a call back for a second interview. This time, it was paired interviews. The girl sat across from me. I could tell we were the same age. Almost fresh out of high school, in second year, calculatedly cynical. She gave me a polite stare from across the rounded Starbucks table while our interviewers bought us a round of tea.

It was rather unnerving, as I felt that the girl across the table was out to undermine me. She was openly hostile in her stares, while directing sweet and naive little looks to our interviewers. Towards the end of the interview, I had built up a rapport with one of the interviewers. She was a business major from Singapore and she knew my yoga instructor back home. Score! The girl across the table shrugged, and mumbled something about how she knew what it was like to be homesick ‘cos she’s from Ottawa, donchaknow?

Well I suppose it wasn’t enough to have the interviewer like you when you have zero retail experience, aside from a brief stint as a juicer in a juice bar. Needless to say I did not get the job.

Earlier this year, I attended a similar group interview for Lush. It’s difficult being the only minority in a group interview, particularly when everyone else is a sunny beach blonde with perfect teeth and hair. I was bulldozed at questioning time. Did they like the interviewer’s favourite band, (insert some indie band whose name I never heard of and includes “Castle”)? Yes, they did. Did they like art? No. Did they think Quiznos was the most awesomest sandwich place ever? Yes, while I prefer to go to the little sandwich shop run by a sweet elderly couple down the street.

It’s difficult to find a job. It’s even more difficult when you are trying to find one that almost requires you to fit in with the dominant culture here. However, that’s something to be saved for next post – the struggle of minorities in finding jobs.

Until next time, onward!


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