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Sunday, December 5, 2021

Column: The inevitable

In this world, nothing is certain but death and taxes. And now, another unwanted fate has joined the ranks to complete a trio of utter distress: job interviews.

Back in the golden days when the U.S. was less populated and ice cream cost a measly one-cent per pop, most jobs lent themselves to on-the-job training. All you needed was a happy-go-lucky attitude and a willingness to work.

In today’s age, with a rising population of more skilled and more educated citizens and an economy that is in dire straits, you can’t get by with just a smile and a tucked-in shirt. So now, all employers require an interview in order to process desperate potentials, similar to how processed meat goes through a grinder.

These days, even jobs like mowing the lawn or filing papers in alphabetical order requires you to dress up all stuffy and answer a series of hard and irrelevant questions.

For example, a question that you might get for a job stocking merchandise onto a shelf could be: “How do you keep concentration while doing repetitive tasks?”

If you can answer that, then hats off to you. But if you are like me, then you most likely saw rejection flash before you eyes and in a frantic frenzy blurted out, “Meditation. I concentrate by meditating.”

It is questions like these that make you wonder whether employers need someone who can do the job or someone who can fabricate really articulate answers. Because when a question like, “List three adjectives that describe you and why?” comes up, any well-prepared schmuck could make up a whole book of flattering adjectives to portray himself and come up with examples to accompany them.

So is honesty still a factor? It seems as though honesty is a character trait that is highly sought, but employers have us playing the guessing game and doubting our morals when they ask questions that compel us to either exaggerate or flat out lie. What they ask can turn even the most honest of people into conniving, deceitful lying machines.

A seemingly innocent question like, “Why do you want to work for us?” could culminate with an answer that is as far off from the truth as Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny. Let’s take a look at the options we have for answering that question.

Honest answer: “I need the money.”

Correct answer: “Well, your company has a remarkable reputation for work ethic, and hard work is a value that I deeply cherish. Since we share that same value, I will not only be a perfect fit for the company, but we, as a team, can share in the principles of hard labor and achieve great feats that will take this company to an even higher level of success.”

And this gives rise to a puzzling inquiry. Since employers are supposed to be smarter and more experienced, shouldn’t they have already developed some internal sensor that allows them to detect signs of ingratiation and brown-nosing? Or could it be that they are seeking a member for the team that is as phony as the interviews they conduct?

Aside from all this, nothing quite chaps my hide like when employers ask for experience – which is understandable if you’re 40. But when you’re a freshman in college and you’re looking for a minimum wage job making copies in an office, there’s no need to sit through a half-hour interrogation of your work history. Maybe asking me to copy a few pages from a book should be enough qualification.

But perhaps the worst part of an interview is not the actual interview itself. It’s the days leading up to it that make you lose nights of sleep and have you lingering on the edge of insanity. Rehearsing lines like, “Whatever I lack in experience, I make up for with passion,” as you go about your day pretty much constitutes being crazy.

Now that I’ve pointed out how ridiculous job interviews are, you can sleep easy knowing that they aren’t as grave as you make them to be. In all seriousness, employers are just looking for someone who can carry themselves well and keep composure under pressure.

So if you get a question thrown at you from left-field like, “What is the capital of Mongolia?” confidently utter some gibberish. Then when they correct you saying, “Actually, the capital is Ulan Bator,” you will reply with:

“Yes. That’s what I said. I’m sorry my Mongolian accent got in the way.”

MICHELLE NGUYEN can be reached at michellen1990@yahoo.com.

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