The Interview

I was finally called in for an interview last month.


Thank goodness.

I may be of some use to this world after all.

It was a part-time office assistant gig. I had all of the necessary skills. And then some. It was close to my home, the hours would have allowed me to continue supporting my young family when they need me to be around. It was in a field that interested me. Perfect.

But not.

It’s amazing how quickly something can go off the rails. Even as I write this, a month later, I’m uncertain as to how I might have handled things differently. Or even if I should have.

I was blessed at birth with a loud face. After 21 years of marriage, my husband refers to it as my “big eyes face”. If you see this face coming, then something has offended me, upset me, or I simply think you’re wrong and you’re about to hear why. I’d love to change it, but I am what I am, and have mellowed to a reasonable level of diplomacy in my 40s. Besides, the threshold for the face is high – you’ve got to be pretty far out of line to get my eyeballs popping. So of course this is not even on my mind as I attend my first job interview in 10 years.

It should have been. Also, it probably wasn’t helpful that I’d just finished my coursework on Manitoba’s Employment Standards and how they apply to hours of work. But sometimes life just sets you up to win. Or not.

Office Manager: “So, when the Important Man of the Office is in town, you’re expected to volunteer in the evenings.”

Me: Cue eyeball expansion.

Office Manager: “You know, just come in and work for free at meet and greets and other events.”

Eyeballs have fallen from my head. Plop. Plop. While I watch them roll across the floor like meatballs that have fallen from on-top-of-spaghetti, I muster a response, something to the effect of how I’ve worked flexible hours in previous jobs, and have always been given time off in lieu of overtime, and am more than willing to enter a similar arrangement.

In my head there is screaming. I’m sitting in my Member of Parliament’s office. I am applying for a job I am overqualified for, and am being asked to work for free. This is my federal representative’s office. And his staff is casually informing me that working there would involve ignoring the employment standards that are in place to protect, well, people like me. There are legal ways to circumvent this legislation – a salaried position that dictates a flexible range of hours (paid at a lower rate, of course), or a flex-time agreement that gives me time off in lieu of overtime. But no. My MP’s office manager has asked me if I will work for free, and I have answered – incorrectly, it appears, as she proceeds to wind things up with chatter about her health concerns.

It seems impossible that the office manager hasn’t noticed that the office Pomeranian is snacking on my eyeballs under a desk. However, she asks me to come in the next day to meet the boss, Robert-Falcon Ouellette, with three letters of reference. There is hope.

Jump forward a day. Despite everything, I’m still optimistic. This job would work for me right now. I’d be great at it. It would be interesting. I’m confident that my MP would be lucky to have me on his team.

But within moments of sitting down, I know. The eyes spoke. He hasn’t even looked at my resume. He asks me questions that a cursory glance would have rendered obsolete. The only time I see him look at it is when I  mention that I have children, and he absentmindedly flips through my resume as though they are achievements I will have listed – after education, but before work experience?

It’s not a good interview. I spend most of my time listening to how difficult he believes this job is. The difficult people. I worked in customer service at Yonge and Dundas in the late 1990s. I’ve had people defecate in front of me. I’ve been verbally abused, threatened, pepper-sprayed, and spent two years serving women in crisis in one of Canada’s poorest postal codes. I get the opportunity to tell him none of this. By the time I rise to leave, the promise “We’ll let you know, either way” echoing in my ears, I know this was not an actual interview. Although I will spend the next few days mentally revisiting it, wondering where I could have saved things, I know.

Which is good, because in keeping with the integrity of the whole interview experience, I never did get called back. At two weeks, I sent an email, asking if there was a concrete timeline for filling the position. At three weeks, I left a voicemail asking the same. And after a month, I left another message, politely expressing my thanks for the opportunity, my assumption that they had successfully filled the position, and my disappointment that no-one had taken the time to get back to me as promised.

I guess my lessons from this experience are twofold.

  1. Wear goggles to job interviews to keep eyeballs in place.
  2. Once an employer has demonstrated a willingness to violate your rights, it’s a little silly to expect them to treat you with respect – even if that respect simply constitutes a 2 minute telephone call.