As some of you returning readers may know, I am a bookseller with a quest: To acquire a job remunerative enough to support my tragic addiction to selling other people books.
That’s right: I love my job at the book shop like Romeo loves Juliet, like Homer loves a doughnut, like… Steve Martin loves the way he is unable, though he abase himself right into the orchestra pit, to avoid upstaging Alec Baldwin. And yet, these affectionate feelings do not pay the light bill.
So I’ve been looking for a better-paying job. Fear not, dear readers – I will remain firmly ensconced at the shop nights & weekends should more lucrative employment present itself.
But that’s really the problem, isn’t it? Even if I manage to tackle an HR director in the street and charm them into giving me an interview on the basis of my fiercely marketable talents, not least of which is the ability to recite Byron’s “Epitaph on John Adams” from memory, I will have to actually Go on That Interview. And then someone, or possibly more than one someone, will ask me the question feared and hated by every interviewee:
Where do you see yourself in five years?
This was a silly question when I graduated from college and sillier still when I left grad school, but in today’s economic climate it has attained the status of Truly Inane. It’s right up there with asking, “Read any good books lately?” above the din of a thrash metal concert.
For most of us seeking work these days, it is precisely our own, Wall Street’s and the world-at-large’s inability to predict what would happen five years down the road that has landed us in our present economic pickle. I should know better than the average investment banker what the future holds?
Hark back to your last interview. Did someone ask you this same question? Did you, in response, say something along the lines of: “I see myself right here, giving my all for the Impressive Corporate Giant of which this company is a part”? Are you still there, doing just that? If you are, how did that happen? Are you sacrificing a virgin every solstice, or what?
Now, I’m not knocking interviewers here. They get paid to ask that question. And really, how are they supposed to know anything about what we potential hires are like from a resume and a 40 minute chat? Do we have ethics? A sense of responsibility? Any skills at all? Are we basically decent to our fellow human beings when we aren’t all dolled up in our Interview Suit, laying the nice on with a trowel? What else are they supposed to ask?
I suggest drawing randomly from a sample of questions asked of beauty pageant finalists. Consider these ever-popular options used to grill the young & cute:
Tell me something about yourself.
Describe a recent goal that you achieved.
Sounds good so far, right? Here are some more:
If you could play god for a day, how would you change the world?
That could be a useful one – definitely weed out some psychos…
And – asking,
If you could be on the cover of any magazine, which one would you choose and why?
will keep you from accidentally hiring Sarah Palin.
Of course, there’s always:
Do you prefer a love marriage or an arranged marriage?
Popular at pageants held in parts of Indonesia, I am told… This question has infinite comic potential when used in job interviews, and will keep the legal department on its toes. But don’t let pageant questions limit you. Why not branch out? Try:
What is your favorite color?
to identify Monte Python fans, and:
Rock, paper or scissors?
when you need to make a quick decision.
What is the sound of one hand clapping?
if you need a sec to go and grab a cup of coffee. Leave your interviewee to think about it for a while. You could even take lunch while they mull.
As I fling my resume, along with various carefully crafted cover letters, out into the void, I look forward to encountering new and exiting interview questions. Any takers? I await the adoption of the Mary McDonald Interviewer’s Guide as a standard for hiring practices sometime soon. Possibly on April 1st.