Interviewing the Heart
Well... because I just finished reading Valerie Bertinelli's memoir 'Enough Already' (other thoughts here). Rich, sweet relatable stories inspire me. So, you may want to hop in a cozy chair. This post might be a minute...
#1 - A Diamond in the Rough
Once upon a time the Classified section of newspapers was where most job seekers found employment. That's how I found out a major department store was looking for sales people. I wasn't yet 18 and hadn't worked a real job yet, but working for a blinging business doing respectable work I could proudly to add to a resume caught my attention instantly.
I got all cleaned up, pulled my hair back in a ponytail, squeezed into a pair of Sasson jeans and strutted into the store wearing a bad pair of South Street heels. I looked good if I must say so myself, until l got to looking around at men dressed in suits and ties, and women... like the one who pointed me to the HR department... wearing the tailored dresses, pearls, and Maybelline from forehead to chin.
I made it up the escalator but my confidence was shot. By the time I approached the woman sitting behind the sole and only desk in the HR office, reminding me a lot of Diahann Carroll, I knew I read that classified Ad wrong. "Can I help you," Diahann Carroll's look-a-like sort of snapped.
I totally choked. "I was going to ask for a job application," I probably muttered, before blurting, "...but I don't think I'm qualified to work here."
No sooner than I turned on my heals, the HR woman called me back. "Look here," she started. "You don't tell me what you're not qualified for. Now go in that room and fill out that application and I'll tell you if you're qualified or not!"
I'm not sure if I was hired due to that exchange, but this marked the beginning of not wanting to disappoint the people who gave me a chance.
#2 - Take the Compliment... and Get Back Out There!
I was at the top of my game... or so I thought... when it came to applying for this particular customer service/cashier job 'conveniently' located across the street from where I lived. Once more, I pulled my look together, (this time more conservatively) and coolly arrived at the interview only to be greeted by a man who sat in front of me with his arms criss-crossed over a barrel of a chest. He reminded me of the sheriff in the 80's movie Porky's. My first thought was, this man was not hiring me, though I went through with interview anyway... answering his first question. "So why do you want to work here?"
I explained, sparing no detail. 'Oh, I can count, work a cash register, and I love people and customer service (and I really did). I'm upbeat, friendly, very helpful,' and on and on I listed all the ways I could sell cigarettes and coffee.
The man looked at me, arms still criss-crossed across his chest, and said... or sort of like snarled, "I would never hire you!"
Unbelievable. My heart dropped and my eyes flip-flopped. I wasn't sure whether I should run or call the Freedom Riders. I was so stunned that I just sat there, looking at him, with my lips parted I'm sure.
"I would never be able to get the men out of this store if I hired you," he said.
Yeah, I smiled...and left the convenience store forever reminded about first impressions and assumptions.
#3 - One Foot in the Door
The Ad said (among other prerequisites I checked); 'Be Able to Type 35wpm!'
So I showed up for what turned out to be part one of a two part interview. All be darn if the first thing I was greeted with was a typing exam!
Honestly, I was asked multiple times if I could type. But, in my defense, I didn't know how fast I could type. From my lens, it didn't sound like a very fast speed. I mean, when I hit the highways, I thought driving 55mph was pretty slow.
I played it cool, hoping the other prerequisites (which I met) would overrule whatever my typing speed. If all went bust, I was a pretty fast talker. I could chalk any discrepancies up to nerves. So long as I wasn't watched... which lo and behold if I wasn't ushered into the biggest room where the only furnishing was one lone desk on which a typewriter sat.
Gulp. Couldn't turn back then. No amount of fast talking was going to explain why I was typing with one finger. ONE FREAKIN' FINGER!
I sat down at the desk and followed instructions, giving myself a small pep spiel when the timer started. 'Girl, laugh and have fun because you're about to be kicked out of here!'
And that's just what I did, typing and laughing, and even spinning in the chair as my finger went to work. My ONE finger!
An audience appeared behind me. The woman interviewing, or rather testing me, had summoned a crowd. On one spin I saw a half dozen spectators, half with hands covering their mouths. When the bell sounded the woman hurried over to the typewriter and without bothering to roll the paper out, she snatched it out and took it over to the crowd to check my work.
Incredible. She returned to me as shocked as I was. One foot in the door, I got the second interview!
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