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Interview nightmares: No crop tops here

RHIANNON PHILLIPS
Last updated 05:00 16/11/2012

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Job interview nightmares

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What does an unqualified 18-year-old self-confessed poser punk do when they finally get to leave school? They get a job.

With that said, my first job interview was at a call centre that was known for its notoriously high turnover.

I donned my best interview gear - which was an old shirt borrowed from my mother and a pair of black pants. I arrived at the venue and sat down in the reception area waiting for the interviewer. I twiddled my thumbs, took a token sip of water and pretended to flick through a snore worthy home and garden type magazine.

And then I looked down at my feet. One word: Adidas.

Instead of my hardy Doc Martens from my school days, I was wearing a pair of Adidas skate shoes. I must have forgotten to ... think.

The interview actually went well, but I couldn't stop thinking about the shoes - had they noticed? What if they had? What had they thought? Panic mode ... I needed a job to appease nagging parentals!

Something needed to be said, so I decided to make an all-important announcement to the panel: "I'm not sure if you've noticed, but I accidentally put on the wrong shoes this morning. I do have a smarter pair of shoes, I promise you!"

And, despite the unplanned Adidas appearance and my unprofessional (but much needed) announcement, I ended up with the job.

A few years later I left my job so the application and interview process began again, and I was more prepared. Well at least that's what I thought at the time - gotta love hindsight.

I will never forget my first full-on panel interview - the expansive boardroom, a table that, at the time, seemed longer than the Great Wall of China. The glass of water. The handshaking. The feeling of dread.

Now, this was an entry level job at a petrol call centre, so I was a bit surprised by the atmosphere. It was a nightmare from the very start.

On my CV I had listed computers as one of my hobbies, and one of the interviewers probed me on this. I told him that I had been a computer user since I was six, and that I dabbled in web design, graphic design and programming as a hobby.

He asked me why I hadn't taken this hobby further and taken up a job in that field. I was taken aback by his question, and replied with a pathetic, "ohhh, ummm ... it's just a hobby, I've errr...I...I'm self-taught, I don't have any qualifications...."

He then asked why not. By this time I knew that I had blown it, so I simply shrugged my shoulders. A fail of epic proportions that will forever haunt me, but nowadays I prepare myself for questions I may not be expecting. Plus I've removed "computers" off my list of interests on my CV - it's just easier that way, going forward. 

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My second boardroom-style interview was not much better. I was interviewed by a panel of three domineering, rather intimidating men. I was hopelessly nervous, and found myself fiddling with a scab on my knee. I will let you use your imagination to realise what this would have looked like from their side of the table.

I asked about the dress code, and was answered with the standard answer of "business casual, no strappy tops, no crop tops".

"No worries there", I said. "I don't wear crop tops, I don't want anyone to see my guts hanging out!"

Silence.

I had inadvertedly created a grotesque visual image for the panel. I took a large sip of water and realised that I had mucked up again because I was so nervous. I put the glass down, now half empty instead of half full.

Despite my many interview fails I have had my fair share of wins too - the key is to be prepared - something I have definitely learned the hard way.


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