Wednesday 4 July 2012

Finally, Some Feedback

No, not on this new blog, although I am surprised that none of my millions of devoted readers, who live for my next post, have commented yet. Do you think I am writing just to hear myself talk?

Wait, don't answer that.

So, after some pestering, I was able to obtain the following:

"While the team appreciated your enthusiasm, they had concerns about your communication style and at times felt you struggled to give precise examples when asked. They have discovered through this interview process that a portion of the time allocation for this position will be personally communicating with executives about business initiatives and presenting options and recommendations. They now view these competencies - executive interaction and business acumen - as integral to the role. Because they have such a highly collaborative environment, and the role calls for interaction with senior members of the Firm, cultural fit is important so they chose to continue their search."

Now I understand, and feel a bit better. I am still sore about losing the money, obviously, but at least I know it wasn't my fault and I don't have some personality flaw that made them dislike me.

The simple explanation is that they are not used to candidates who are desperate for the money. Most of their employees were born with the proverbial silver spoon and never had any financial worries to distract them during the interviews.

Their other candidates aren't faced with an inability to afford to travel to the interview. I was literally shaking with anxiety when I spent the $100 for the train ticket to their offices. I couldn't afford to lose that money; it could have contributed significantly towards July expenses, not to mention as yet unpaid June bills. I agonized over it but I had to take the risk; I'd come so far in the interview process that it seemed certain I would get the job if I cleared this last hurdle. Yet the expense was a constant weight on my consciousness, adding to my nervousness. It was just so HUGE. But $100 was the cheapest deal for a round-trip ticket purchased 24 hours in advance, which is the amount of notice I had for the interview.

Their other candidates aren't so ridden with chronic stress from financial worries that they are no longer sharp and quick-witted like they used to be. When I checked my phone between interrogators, I saw no less than 3 calls from collection agencies, and I had already received several earlier in the day, as I was heading to the interview. I no longer answer my phone unless I recognize the number but the daily barrage of calls that starts first thing in the morning and lasts until late evening, and sometimes (illegally) on weekends, makes my blood pressure rise. After years of stress, the brain does not function as quickly as it used to and one's processing time increases. I hope it is reversible. Apparently, even a supposed genius IQ cannot mitigate the problem sufficiently.

Their other candidates aren't pondering how they can survive until the first paycheque. I was mentally calculating that, if it took several weeks for them to make their decision and fix a start date, and another two weeks before I received a first paycheque, I would be unable to get there to begin my employment. How would I pay for transportation and a place to stay near the office? How would I pay my July rent and other bills, all due in a few days? How would I buy food and other necessities? I sometimes feel as if it is too late for me to get a job, that I am too broke to be able to accept, commute, and wait to get paid.

Their other candidates haven't been so broke for so long that they are lost in fantasy spending mode. I was dazzled at the thought of making four times what I had earned in any year in the last decade. I literally missed some of the questions the interviewers posed to me because I spaced out thinking about money—both the current lack of it and the future windfall this job would bring. Money, money, money—when you don't have any, it is the only thing on your mind.

Their other candidates aren't dressed for the interview in the only thing that fits. Let's see: My dress is 15 years old and so threadbare and full of holes that Good Will wouldn't even take it. I will have to donate it to textile recycling when I stop wearing it. But, after putting on 50 lbs since my last corporate job, I cannot fit into any of my suits or skirts or other business-appropriate attire. (One of my suit jackets is a size 8—isn't that cute?) Because this dress is black, wearing black tights under it hides most of the holes, and strategically folding my arms disguises some of the worst threadbare spots. The tights are also full of holes but, since the dress is ankle length, they don't show. The shoes are only 5 years old and still in decent nick, but the dress needs heels, which I couldn't wear since I was walking across town from the train. Had I been able to afford a place to stay or a taxi, I could have worn more appropriate shoes, but I didn't want to look like a bag lady by carrying a second pair. Speaking of bags, my 6 year old "Little Miss Perfect" Lady B knitting bag is getting too disreputable for public display—stained, cracked, full of holes, broken zipper—but I love it so and I have nothing else—no briefcase any more and no more rucksacks, all worn out and thrown out long since. My sweater doesn't have any holes yet, although I have been wearing the hell out of it since I purchased it on sale 3 years ago, but it isn't remotely interview appropriate. But the lining of the only jacket that I can still sort of squeeze into if I don't button it is so shredded that it hangs out the bottom and the cuffs, no matter how much I trim it and tuck it in. The pearl necklace was a high school graduation gift from my mother—at least those are timeless and classic. The only new item in my interview wardrobe was my bra—purchased only two years ago from Target (I know; I plead poverty—I couldn't afford to go to a real lingerie shop) when I was finally forced to own up to having gone from a barely B to an overflowing D when I gained those aforementioned 50 lbs from depression and anxiety. At first, I refused to admit that I had put on so much weight, and I stubbornly wore my old bras until they were so stretched out I had to discard them. I have not purchased any other fat clothes; bras were my only concession out of absolute necessity, and I only bought 3, which have to last until I lose the weight again. (People must think I am a fundamentalist because I only wear long dresses. Too fat for any of my trousers, I refuse to buy fat jeans. No trousers until I can fit into my size 10 Levi's again!) The point is, my interview outfit did not give me confidence, so rather than focusing on the questions I was being asked, I was fussing with hiding holes in my dress and keeping my bag and sweater out of sight under the desk. I daresay that is not a distraction that plagues other candidates at this company and at this level.

So, I am aware that I was not at my best in terms of showcasing my communication skills. I am normally the person asked to communicate with senior management because of my stellar communication skills. I am normally able to think on my feet and bullshit extemporaneously—years of college teaching hone those skills to a high level. I am known for being articulate, logical, precise, shrewd, and having a good vocabulary. I was just so desperate for this job, so anxious not to fuck it up, that I was completely tongue-tied. I was totally disengaged because the stakes were so high. I could not fail. So I did. But that performance is not an accurate reflection of my communication skills. Their fear that I would not be able to communicate on the job was entirely unfounded, so I may be able to sleep tonight for the first time since getting the devastating news.

The moral of the story is: Don't ever interview when you are desperate for the job. You can't acquit yourself well when you are desperate. Only interview when you don't need the money.

It's just like dating. My male friends tell me that childless women over 35 exude an unappealing air of desperation on dates. The trick is, in dating or job hunting, how do you disguise your desperation? A 39 year old single woman who really wants kids but cannot afford to have them as a single mom is desperate to find a suitable man. She can attempt to feign otherwise, but she can't slow time down. Likewise, the longer I go without finding a job, the more desperate my financial situation becomes, and the less employable I become. It's a fucked up situation and there is no easy way out of it. I can't put off interviewing until I am less desperate for money; every day makes me more desperate.

I bet the person they hire doesn't need the job half as badly as I do.

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