The job interview I wasn’t prepared for… 170



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Looking back to my teens, it is amazing how much change in my thinking there has been. Back then I didn’t ask questions for fear of looking foolish. Now I ask, and if I’m ridiculed for not knowing it is the other person’s problem, not mine. This has been a slow process, not a sudden change. I didn’t wake up one day and decide to no longer be shy and fearful. It came with life experience.

I sat the last Intermediate Certificate in 1966, then went to Business College for a year. Those were the days when your parents determined when you would leave school and what sort of work you did. Being female it was usual, in that era, you didn’t continue past the most rudimentary education.

The business college guaranteed they would find employment for their students. They didn’t make clear this would be through an employment agency where they had an agreement. So upon completion I found myself at an agency. “Do you have any objections to working in a ‘cremation’ environment?”, I was asked. I had no idea what cremation was, and not wanting to appear ignorant said, “no objections”. My interview was the following day, and since I didn’t know my way about Sydney that well, a friend went with me. He waited downstairs while I had the interview.

It wasn’t until the interview that I put the pieces together as to what cremation was. I was interviewed by a surly elderly woman. No-one smiled and they talked in hushed voices. Of course I was too shy to say I didn’t want to work there. The woman said she would let the agency know, who would in turn let the Business College know whether I was successful. I hoped so much that I wasn’t successful as I had no idea how to turn a job down.

As luck would have it, I was hauled into the office of the principal of the college. The principal was very angry with me. They had complained that I’d taken a BOY with me to the interview. For that reason I didn’t get the job. These days I’d stand up for myself, but to tell you the truth I was just so relieved I failed to be employed in such a severe, cold atmosphere that I let it go. If my mother had gone with me would I have been employed there? The boy could have been my brother so what right did that old hag have to be so judgemental?

If I went for that job ten years later I would certainly have been more confident and told them it didn’t suit me.

Have you ever had a job interview where you knew straight away it wasn’t for you? What did you do? Tell us your stories!

Jeanette Southam

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