The job interview sure has changed a lot since the good old days. When I was a young man, getting a job was easy- I'd wait until the bars opened and then visit each one, having a drink or two before getting around to asking the bartender, "hey, you guys need any help?". I always picked smaller, privately-owned restaurants and bars and I never had any problem finding work, even during my 'hobo' phase. I had an Amtrak pass and I took a 90-day vacation with hardly any money- I'd stop in whatever town caught my fancy-New Orleans, Flagstaff, Eugene- and get a quick kitchen job, work a few days and move on once I got paid. It really was fun, but I'm not sure if it's possible to do sober- for me anyway.
I mean, I could probably get a decent bar job right this very second if I wanted one...alas, I don't want to work around drunks and cocaine and those two things are an inherent part of bar jobs.
In 1990 I was on unemployment after working at a defunct bar -I was required to make a 'job search' report to the State every week in order to get my dole check. It was a pain-in-the-ass, you had to obtain real names and phone numbers without actually finding a job; something that was a lot trickier in the pre-Internet period.
One afternoon I walked into a comic shop and asked the guy behind the counter if he was hiring. He held up a white cardboard rectangle and asked me what it was. There was an identical rectangle on the wall behind him with a note affixed to it:
BACKING BOARDS 10 CENTS EA.
"Um, it's a backing board", I replied, not quite sure what a "backing board" was...I got hired on the spot. I wound up working there for almost eight years.
Today, my job searches are much different. Lately I've been on a series of failed interviews, including some that were set up by temporary agencies- something that the temp agencies never used to do-and I've found that every interview is now done by a 'team', usually three, sometimes two people. There is an uncomfortable interrogatory quality to being scrutinized from three sides and I have been flunking whatever hidden tests I encounter...aha!
As I write this, I have a theory: I have failed the 'distraction' test.
There is always one person at each interview that is extremely affable, someone that I 'click' with right away- and that person always leads me into a conversation about something that is not germane to the actual position. I have been taking this as a hopeful sign that I will "fit in" , but now I suspect that it was test to see if I could keep my mind on the boring-ass job being discussed. Obviously, I can't.
Today I had to sneak away at lunchtime for a job interview at a legal office. At the firm, one if the three interviewers saw my radio/audio credits and told me who his dad was. His father used to own a famous recording studio. Cool!
I could have talked forever about old studio gear, but I had to get back to my file clerk job, so I stayed on-topic and I sensed a 'good' vibe when I did so. It was a strange dynamic, the youngest of the three, a petite Asian lady, seemed ready to hire me on the spot, she even asked how soon I could start, but stopped short of making a cash offer...the other, older woman didn't say much of anything, she just took notes. The man was friendly, but not nearly as enthusiastic as the younger lady.
There was an inconclusive flurry of feints, parries and ripostes over schedule and salary requirements- this is a lot easier to haggle about when one has a job already, I have learned. It helps to be Not Desperate, ya know? Anyway, I asked for a couple thousand dollars more than my last law job, now I'm wondering if I didn't undersell myself...I'm wondering a lot about this potential job. I hate multi-person interviews and the mixed messages that result, but I did get a tour of the office and saw Obama and Kaine stickers on display in a couple cubes, which was a welcome switch from the starched conservatism that dominated my former office. Seeing those stickers made me want to work there...well, actually it's the health insurance I want, but I'm less likely to have a aneurysm if I'm not surrounded by raving Bush lunatics.
As luck has it, one of my job references dropped by to visit tonight. He arrived right before I sent an email containing said references to the law firm, per their request...I'm glad he did, I was able to update his phone #...it really was a strange coincidence that I saw him. Perhaps it's a good sign, eh?
Things are looking up.