Saturday, 26 October 2013

What Not to do at a Job Interview

Below is a short story from the world of my first novella Crash. It’s a post apocalyptic series, although this story is set before the world fell apart. It's a job interview with one of the main characters of the book. I hope you enjoy it. 
What Not to do at a Job Interview

Dean sat at the round table in silence, his mouth dry. On the other side, the interviewer studied his notes. Circular placemats were randomly scattered over the highly polished surface. Lifting his glass of water from one of the mats, Dean took a sip of the chilled liquid and placed it down again. The cold gulp soothed his throat but landed hard in his anxious stomach. Staring at the orbs of condensation rolling down its side, he focused on his breathing to calm his nausea and only looked up when the interviewer spoke.
“Mr Brown?”
Dean laughed. “Mr Brown was my father; please call me Dean.”
The man stared for a second, his moon face blank. Looking back down at his sheet, he cleared his throat.
The muscles in Dean’s back tightened and his shoulders lifted to his neck. Sweat left his armpits and rolled down the sides of his ribcage. Who does this cunt think he is?
“So you’ve been unemployed for the last eight years?”
A hot flush burned Dean’s face. Pulling at his collar did little for his tight throat. Staring at the man, Dean ground his jaw and nodded. “Yes.”
“Do you mind if I ask why?”
The reaction jumped from his mouth. “Because I can’t get a job, can I?” Jesus, pal. It’s not fucking rocket science.
The door to the office was behind the interviewer, and Dean stared through its porthole window. There were several women in the adjoining office taking turns glancing in at him.
When he looked back, the man’s eyes and mouth were spread in wide Os.
Letting the tension fall from his shoulders, Dean raised his hand. “I’m sorry.” Coughing cleared the wobble that threatened to ride his words. “It’s just… I’ve been through this process so many times.” He looked down and picked a flake of wood away from the desk. The top may have been polished, but the edges looked like they’d taken a battering. “I want a job, which is why I’ve come to so many interviews. But it’s a bit of a kick in the teeth always being told no. It’s not like I’m trying to become the fucking prime minister or anything.”
The man flinched when Dean swore.
“I know I didn’t finish school, so my CV looks like shit, but if no one will give me the chance, how can I prove myself? Besides, they’re only crappy jobs.”
“You think this is a crappy job?”
“It’s Biffa. Not NASA.” Dropping his right hand beneath the desk so the man couldn’t see it, Dean clenched his fist so tightly his arm shook. The fury put a shimmer in his voice. “I mean, it’s only picking up bin bags.”
Straightening in his seat, the interviewer stared at the part of his desk that had been ever so slightly vandalised and pushed his round glasses up his button nose. “This job is actually quite hard, Mr Brown. Physically demanding. Early mornings, etc.”
“You saying I ain’t got the strength to lift bin bags?”
Showing Dean his palms, the man said, “Firstly, you need to calm down.”
A heavy frown crushed Dean’s view.
“Also, I’m not saying that at all. I’m sure you have the strength, Dean, but can you get up in the mornings? Can you handle having a boss tell you what to do?”
“I can,” Dean’s lip lifted in a snarl, “as long as the cunt don’t mug me off.”
Glancing at the round clock on the wall, the man sighed and said, “Right, we’re going to run through some scenarios. Is that okay?”
The tension fell from his back and Dean stared down as he ran his finger in circles on the desk. “Fire away, chief.”
The man straightened his papers. “Okay, it’s three in the afternoon, and your shift is due to finish. However, it’s been a long day and you still have another hour’s worth of work to do. Do you, A—”
“I’ll stop you there, pal.”
The interviewer paused.
“I’ll do whatever extra hours you need me to do. As long as it’s on the overtime sheet, that is. I’m not one of those people that work for nothing. If you have too much work and not enough staff, that’s your problem. But keep filling my bank account, and I’ll work like the fucking Energizer Bunny.” Dean’s throaty laugh bounced around the room.
The man kept his eyes lowered. “It’s the night before your day off, and you get a phone call asking you to work. What do you do?”
“It depends what I have planned for my day off. If I can change it, I’ll do that and come into work.” Laughing again, he added, “As long as it ain’t winter. Who wants to get out of bed in February?”
Putting the paper down, the man closed his folder. “Thank you, Mr Brown. We’ll be in touch.”
Dean’s jaw fell. “That was a joke, man.”
“That’s fine. We’re done with the interview though.”
“But there are more questions there.”
“Um…” the man paused. “There are, but we don’t always ask them all.”
“Why don’t you just tell me now that I haven’t got the fucking job? I’m a big boy—I can handle it.”
“To tell you the result of the interview now would be unprofessional and against company policy.”
The deep breath did nothing to still Dean’s rampaging pulse. “Unprofessional my arse. You just haven’t got the stones for it, pal. Telling a man to his face that he doesn’t have the job ain’t unprofessional; that’s the excuse of a coward.”
The man stood up. His round belly pushing against the buttons on his shirt. “Thank you, Mr Brown. We’ll be in touch.”
Remaining in his seat, Dean stared up at the man. One well-timed jab on the chin would knock the cunt sparko. “I’m not going anywhere until you tell me straight. Have I got the job or not?”
The man lifted the phone on the table. It was an old rotary phone—maybe he thought he was retro. Sticking his finger into the hole for the number nine, he spun the dial. “I’m going to call the police unless you leave now, Mr Brown. I will not be held to ransom in my own office.”
Standing up so quickly his chair scooted out behind him and fell over with a loud crash, Dean stared at the man. After a few seconds, he left the room and slammed the door on his way out.

The revolving doors ushered him into the warm, stale room. The hot choking smell of old photocopiers caught in his throat. Walking over to Martha’s desk, Dean sat down.
The pad of Post-its she was scribbling a note on were small suns. They were yellow, circular and had happy faces printed on them. Smiling, Martha asked, “So, how did it go?”
Dean looked around. “This room stinks of piss and desperation. I ain’t like these mugs in here, you know.”
“What do you mean?”
“Take a look around you. The carpet’s filthy, the job boards are emptier than a Tory’s heart, and half of the people in here look like they’d struggle to spell their own fucking name. This is a place for alcoholics and losers.”
“And the unemployed,” Martha reminded him.
Turning away, Dean caught the eye of a man at the desk next to him.
Clenching his fists, Dean tilted his head to the side. “What the fuck are you looking at, pal?”
After holding his glare for a second, the man then looked away.
Too fucking right!
“This place is full of arseholes.” Dean sipped his lukewarm coffee and screwed his face up at the muddy taste. Lifting the round Styrofoam cup, he said, “When are you going to stop serving this instant shit?”
“This isn’t a coffee shop, Dean. Anyway, the man said you swore at him in the interview. He said you were openly hostile.”
“Like fuck! We were having a bit of banter. A joke about overtime. Okay, maybe I did swear, but the rest of it was all good fun. Until he asked me to leave.”
“Do you even want a job, Dean?”
“Of course I want a fucking job! When those Conservative arseholes get into power, I won’t have a pot to piss in. Why do you think I’m going to so many fucking interviews? But if no one will give me a fucking chance…”
“You’ve got to stop swearing for a start.”
“Don’t fucking tell me what to do!”
Martha’s jolly face turned stony. Pointing a wrinkled finger at him, she said, “I’ve been doing this job for thirty years, son. I think I’m qualified to tell you what to do. You need to stop swearing in interviews, and you need to tone the aggression down. Otherwise, you’re never going to get a job.”
Returning the gesture, Dean pointed his finger back at Martha. “You’re sending me to a bunch of shitty job interviews and telling me to jump through hoops. I’m doing that, but I’m still getting told to fuck off. Do you realise how fucking demoralising it is for me to be rejected so many fucking times? To repeat the process knowing I’ll just get turned away again. I know what’s on the horizon—we all do. It’s a political party that want to force us out to work by fucking us up the arse. I ain’t afraid of work, but what do we do when we can’t get a fucking job because no one will employ us? It’s a vicious circle. Give me a job, and I’ll fucking do it. I’ll go every day.” After a heavy exhalation, he said, “I’m fed up of being mugged off by clueless twats who think they know how to run a fucking country.”
Sighing, Martha said, “Dean, you’re the only person that can get yourself a job, but you have to work on your interview technique.”
“I’m trying, Martha. But where do I start? There’s no fucking funding and every job has over a thousand applicants. I’m climbing a greasy fucking pole here.”
Spinning the wedding ring on her finger, Martha then flicked through her Rolodex and removed an index card. “Here. The council are looking for litter pickers in the town. They have an open day tomorrow.”
Looking at the card wobbling at the end of Martha’s outstretched arm, her bangles hanging down, Dean snatched it away. “Here we fucking go again. See you next fucking week for some more shitty coffee and another fucking lecture.”
Exiting via the revolving door, Dean crossed the street without looking and was ushered across by a cacophony of horns. Flipping the bird in the general direction of the noise, he entered the local pub.
Frank, the bartender, lifted his head. “The usual, Dean?”

Sitting on the round stool, Dean nodded. “The usual,” he said as he slid the coins across the bar.

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