Elizabeth Davies braves the rigorous beauty parade that is the job interview

Elizabeth Davies braves the rigorous beauty parade that is the job interview

By Elizabeth Davies

Every time you stop having to go to job interviews you somehow manage to forget what a special and unique experience it is.

Just like a first date it can be exciting and uplifting while simultaneously depressing as all hell.

It starts with the initial application, a carefully worded cover letter explaining just why exactly you would be the perfect fit for a company which is more like a family than anything else, if it's really being honest.

It's wise to resist the urge to say you're highly dysfunctional like any good family member should be. Your potential future employer wants you to be funny... but not too funny. Though this family situation they describe is somewhat accurate in an unintentional way. They say you can't pick your family and we all know that when you're desperately unemployed, beggars can't afford to be choosers.

After this initial application you may be lucky enough to receive a follow-up phone call designed to make sure you're not a robot and can articulate fully formed human sentences. Act natural. But for the love of God don't be yourself or they'll never hire you.

If you're lucky enough to pass this test you will likely be invited for a face-to-face interview. This will require you to get out of your pyjamas, bathe and bury your current desire to cry every fifteen minutes – don't worry the car ride home will give you sufficient time to return to your cocoon.

First things first, pick an outfit that screams – 'hire me'. In most cases this will be something black, so you blend into your surroundings and people don't notice when you spill things on yourself. If you're applying for fashion retail go for classic, cool, chic, with a pop of your own personality ( not your real personality, the one you think the chosen brand wants you to possess ). Wear sensible shoes and have tidy nails, practise your firm yet subservient, confident yet calm hand shake.

Personal hygiene is always important, don't let on you've been living in your own filth watching Breaking Bad reruns for the last three days. Embrace deodorant, subtle perfume and the all essential breath mint.

When it comes to interview preparation make sure you have well rehearsed answers to the stock standard questions. Come up with weaknesses that aren't really weaknesses, examples of times you operated well under pressure and scenarios of when and how you've had to discipline staff (don't mention the use of public shaming or the dungeon!).

When all is said and done, breathe and relax, you've done your best. It's important to remember that your personal value does not hinge on whether or not you get this job. Most of the time you won't get the job, and that's ok because it means there's something else more suited to you out there.

Don't take job rejection personally, or let it damage your confidence. There will always be another interview, another sweaty palmed, fake smile day. If you get the job and it's not your dream job don't fret, make some friends, get some hilarious retail and or hospo stories and be grateful you can pay your bills and don't have three kids to support.

Now that you've mastered the art of the interview, congratulations, you're a healthier minded, more well rounded, generally better actor. You will be rewarded in forced smiles, your very own weird retail voice reserved for customers, and the ability to work in any chain retail store or family restaurant until the end of time – huzzah!

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Elizabeth Davies is a graduate of the Auckland University of Technology post graduate journalism course. She writes for interest.co.nz on money matters and financial struggles from a young person's perspective.

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Good advice Elizabeth. I interview a lot of potential staff. I'm always on the lookout for good people. Something I would add is to have specific examples to call upon during the interview. It never ceases to amaze me that people call upon very weak examples or even worse just give a theoretical answer. They haven't thought about their real life relevant experience in advance so get caught on the spot and talk about minor things. 
 
Going into an interview think of three key projects or assignments you have worked on. Think through all the relevant information, challenges and outcomes and be prepared to talk about these specifically. We employers want to hear about real life experience not theory!

Good advice from Machiavelli above, to which I would add - of course you want to present yourself in the best possible light, but do beware of going too far beyond that into pretending you're something you're really not.  Unless you're a very accomplished liar, you won't convince; and a job that you have to pretend to be somebody else to get, probably isn't right for you.
 
From what I remember of your picture Elizabeth, black probably does work for you; but if you can afford it you might want to double-check that with a colour counsellor.  Male readers will sigh and snarl at this point, but honestly: if it's not right for you, black will make you look either terminally ill or like a prison warder, neither of which says "hire me" except to a prison governor.

I think black suits are too "safe" and i often look for people who embrace colour because to me that tells me they have some confidence in themselves.  

Generally (not always) the best salesperson gets the job.  I'm sure there is plenty of competition for unskilled work.  I often see people who are obviously fast talkers get jobs that they are not suitable for, but they get them because they know how to sell themselves.  While those who would be suitable are overlooked in favour of the person who knows how to lie.  That is a sad reflection of society.

Yep. Although (unless there were fair dinkum lies) don't blame it on the fast talker. I am from an industry where it has steadily moved away from being the sole preserve of electrical engineers. Over the last 20 yrs engineers have steadily moved to Oz for the better $ and the opportunities. This has resulted in many managers not having the appropriate technical backgrounds. So they don't know what they don't know. When appointing people the gift of the gab and positive discrimination seems to win over technical expertise and experience every time now. I've seen companies wasting a HUGE amount of money. But the thing is, that huge waste of money is NEVER mentioned in the annual report or any publicly available source. So the shareholders or govt never has any idea that the HR/ Management in that company has pushed for "diversity" in all meanings of the word, way too far.
In some cases the company has not been willing to pay for the appropriate person.
I have missed out on jobs before and when I have heard what sort of person was appointed, I have been relieved that I did not end up working for the Manager who appointed them. Don't forget that the interview works both ways. Turning down a position may be the best decision you have ever made. Don't let the flattery of having being made a job offer affect your better judgement.