Excruciating Graduate Interviews You Will Have (And How Not To Go About Them)

The Start Up

The Social Network bears a lot of responsibility for the scores of pajama-clad would-be-CEOs who, having rented some cheap office space in a decaying industrial area, hire scores of interns to tweet odes to their magnificence and fan them with sheets of 90gsm A4.

The advert for the internship will be vague, contain a couple of spelling errors, and make unreasonable demands in a confrontational style, but you’ll be seduced by the promise of a “work never starts” culture with “unlimited Coke zero” and their promise of being “not your ordinary workplace”. You’ll fire off your CV and 200 words on “why you and us”, and receive a reply in what, ordinarily, you’d think was a worryingly short amount of time, but you’ve not got a minute to think too deeply about this. Poverty is gnawing at your critical faculties.

On the day of the interview, you’ll walk past the shabby 70s prefab office a few times before you realise that it’s not been condemned, and it’s not the set of an apocalyptic dystopian sci-fi film someone’s filming in the area. Knocking awkwardly on the unmarked door, you’ll wait a little while, wondering when and how the receptionist died, and, perhaps, why the wall clock next to the over-stuffed mailbox is frozen at twenty-past eight as if to resemble a permanent sad clock-face.

A self-styled “bro” wearing a heavily laundered alumni hoodie from a college you’d never have been able to afford the fees to go to will answer the door. You’ll feel awkward when you go to shake his hand while he’s already going in for a pound-hug with the requisite growling exhale.

The only real chair in the room will belong to the “bro”, so you’ll have to perch on a milk crate or a miniature plastic chair that was pilfered from a skip outside a local primary school. He’ll excessively clear his throat while pointlessly shuffling the two combined pages of your printer-fresh CV. The questions will be meandering and will all end up with the “bro” breaking into drinking-related anecdotes and grinning in an insanely self-satisfied way while saying “amirite?!” and nodding furtively to confirm that yes, indeed, he is.

After he’s done his best to prove “he’s a real human being too”, he’ll explain that you’ll need to bring in your macbook to “do your own shit”. When you ask what you’ll be doing, the bro’ll shrug and loaf over to the fridge in his smelly Havaianas. He’ll open the fridge and crack open a multi-pack can of Coke zero. You can see there are at least two cans left, alongside mountains of packaging and some aging milk. He won’t offer you one. “SEO shit,” he’ll mumble, “Google shit. You just gotta pick up the ball and run with it, amirite!?”

Finally, you’ll shake his sticky hands. He’ll explain that he’s got one more interview today, but he’ll let you know by the end of the week. You’ll stand up and take your unopened bag which contains a portfolio of your work that you now feel is burning a large, embarrassing hole through the canvas. He’ll lead you to the door and slap you on the back as you open it.

On the other side of the door, slunk against the wall of the tatty corridor will be a bulky presence, sinister in its relaxed heft. He must be the other interviewee, you’ll twig. Looking him up and down, you’ll recognise his clothing. It’s the hoodie. It’s the same one as the “bro”. Horrified you look round at your interviewer to confirm, but he’ll already charging towards the other candidate beginning to yell some disorientating chant that the other candidate joins in, building to a crushing crescendo. They’ll embrace loudly and enthusiastically. “Bro, I haven’t seen you in TIME. Spence said you might be coming in! Bro! BRO! We gotta talk! You still nailing that Dianne piece or what!?”

Meekly, you’ll say goodbye, but no-one takes any notice. Crestfallen, you’ll wend your tragic way home. You’ll never come back here.

image - Shutterstock
image – Shutterstock

The Not-For-Profit Arts Organisation

As a sensitive soul whose favourite advert was that “I’d like to teach the world to sing” one from Coca-Cola, you’ve always fancied making your money from making the world a better place. Having consistently found nothing on idealist.org, you’ll have started checking arts sites and less-than-reputable classifieds sites where, disconcertingly, you can get a lawnmower for £30 and organise a m4m casual encounter, as well as launching the career of your MLK-scale dreams.

The advert will sound ridiculously worthy, with absurd mission statements that sound like they’ve been written in the blood of only the most organic bleeding heart liberals. All the stuff you were forced to read for that awkward Gender Studies elective where you were the only heterosexual male, and those passages from the prologue of a used copy of Dorian Grey you bought to impress that girl, will suddenly re-emerge in your mind. Filled with a sense of purpose and outrage that you could’ve prostituted your talent to a corporate giant and neglected your gentle soul, you’ll hit apply and wait with your fingers crossed. You might spend the rest of the day humming Sigur Ros and making daisy chains while contemplating the three or four sentences you understood on the Wikipedia entry for Das Kapital.

Three weeks later, you’ll get a call. A woman with a European accent will invite you in for a “little tete-a-tete.” On the day, you’ll debate what to wear, eventually settling for jeans, but with a smart shirt, and a questionable accessory that shows your “true personality.”

The offices will be in a converted warehouse in a fashionable district. It is most likely that you’ll’ve almost been run over by an unhelmeted cyclist at least six times on your way there. In reception, Antoine will sit you down in an over-engineered designer chair. Needing to look occupied, and not wanting to look like someone who spends money in the App Store, you’ll reach for one of the magazines arranged in front of you in a fan-shaped scattered pile over the glass table. They’ll all have names like Aesthetica or NEW BLU REVIEW, and for no reason half of it will be arranged so that the text is upside down. Invariably, you’ll open it at one of these pages and feel instantly self-conscious.

At this precise moment, Antoine will pipe up and say, “Vivian will see you now.” After a brief journey in the lift, under the delicate flickering of a Video Painting that you could never hope to afford, the doors will open and you’ll find yourself at the end of what appears to be a banquet table designed by someone who never learnt to colour in the lines, and who evidently had never been given a ruler.

Vivian will be sitting there in a vintage charcoal-grey suit, nonchalantly tipped back in his chair with a notepad in front of him. It will be opened on the first page and contain nothing but a solitary game of hangman. The line of questioning will mostly revolve around abstractions. In listening to your answers, Vivian will alternate between sighing, looking stricken, grinning and laughing as if at some private joke, and then finally closing his eyes and clenching his temples, like a paedo in the dock. Despite your efforts to mention your preprepared answers about why you’d be the ideal candidate for the role, Vivian will insist on driving the conversation back into the realm of philosophical speculation. You almost think that he’ll start rolling a joint, so you lean back in your chair, but instead he suddenly snaps, “What did you think of the video painting?!”

You’ll know it’s over before you’ve even left. You’ll smile at Vivian’s distant gaze, but you both know that your critique of the Video Painting relied too heavily on unfashionable theories you picked up in the corridor outside Cultural Studies 101. You’ll be disillusioned and pay for a taxi home and noisily eat a Twix. Tomorrow you’ll be on the careers section of the Goldman Sachs website. TC mark

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