It is easy to tell when someone has received bad news about a job in this town; fists clenched, they wear a snarl and grumble absentmindedly “Pfft. I didn’t want it anyway!” At the beginning of the year, only a few people were afflicted. Now, it is hard not to bump into a surly job hunter as you go about your business.
With another year before I am thrown to the lions of the Big Bad World, it has been my job to listen sympathetically to friends who have only a few short months left of studenthood. From this, I have learnt that the main reason companies seem to reject final year students is for not ‘distinguishing’ themselves from the other applicants. With a growing trend for interviewing more than one person at the same time, I suggest businesses just cut to the chase and reintroduce gladiatorial combat; someone who crushed a rival candidate with their Bible-thick CV would certainly stick out in my mind. However, the chances of the business world taking on my suggestion seem slim; I dread to think of the Health and Safety ramifications of a death match. Therefore, I have taken the liberty of preparing some memorable answers to typical interview questions:
Q. How well do you cope under pressure?
A. I don’t. I usually weep for a few hours, rant and rave at the world, then phone my long suffering mother who has to metaphorically and sometimes literally talk me down off the ledge.
Q. What experience do you have in the field?
A. None. I actually have more experience in a field than the field as I went to a petting zoo once when I was four.
Q. I see you took a gap year. What did you learn from this experience?
A. An intimate knowledge of the drug laws of a small, brutalised Asian nation.
Q. What are your weaknesses?
A. The Lady Boys of Bangkok and edible body paint. Preferably together.
Q. Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?
A. You know that homeless person who screams obscenities at the frozen food in the supermarket? Right there with them.
Perhaps companies would find the insanity refreshing; the rabid wholesomeness with which graduates feel compelled to answer questions at the moment is only rivalled by the Partridge Family. No wonder so many answers seem the same – people are just trying desperately to fit the mould of the perfect prospective employee. Who can blame them? The current job shortage means that graduates are more likely to feed you what they think you want to hear than ever before. Coupled with ultra-competitive interview formats, it is no wonder that so many fade into the background for the interviewer.
The whole strategy seems rather counter-productive. Only the loudest and most arrogant will thrive in such an atmosphere. I thought businesses were trying to find competent workers, not the next train wreck contestants for Big Brother. I will leave employers with one final thought- if ex-students were treated more like people, they might actually start behaving like ones you would want to employ.