Actually, the interview went pretty well. There were awkward moments, but awkwardness has followed me around since I was a babe, and we’ve become quite comfortable with each other, so I was able to breeze right by them with a smile and a barely-there shrug.

They say you’re supposed to stay comfortable and confident during job interviews. This is of utmost importance. The only thing is I’ve been told – several times – by various people – that “comfortable” on me looks suspiciously like “indifferent” or “frigid, sarcastic bitch”. So I made an extra to appear comfy without being cold, and interested without being vapid. I won’t be bothered if I don’t get this particular job, though, because I can always shrug it off as only my first real job interview and move on breezily to the next (and the next, and next, and next).

Here’s how the thing went down: I get to the mall. I realize I have no idea how to find the specific doors I’ve been instructed to wait at and run into the bathroom and flail privately for a few moments. Then I decided I looked better with the shirt tucked in after all, adjusted pantsuit accordingly and calmly wandered over to the only other soul in the building (that I could see, anyway), glad to have come twenty minutes early, after all. I ask him where the south doors of Generic Department Store are, and he replies intelligently with, “Uh…” Now, immediately his New York (I want to say Brooklyn, but I don’t know why so will just leave well enough alone) is obvious, and I fall a little in love. He explained that he doesn’t actually work here, and I fall a little more in love even while stepping subtly away and taking note of any exits and potential weapons. Turns out he works at a different mall and was sent here for the morning by his company, and has no idea where he is or what he’s doing. I want to pat him on the head. He points me in the direction of a woman working in a nearby store and says that’s where he’s been sending everyone with questions. I feel a little sorry for the woman.

But she was pretty knowledgeable and sent me quickly on my way, yay. It turns out I have to wander outside to find the Mystery Doors. As I get closer, I see two young guys Dressed for Success loitering, and figure I’ve made it, and that I’m not so special after all. One guy looks me up and down, raises an eyebrow and says “South doors are on the other side.” And then promptly bursts out laughing because apparently my face did all kinds of wonderous things. I remember to try and have some kind of control over my expressions.

Now, I was expecting to be led seriously into a quiet and overdone office where an obnoxious middle aged man would ask me ridiculous questions (actually, I didn’t even get “what’s your greatest weakness”, for which I offer thanks and a nickle to the interview gods). Instead the group of hopeful interviewees outside the Department store swelled to about eleven youngsters and an older woman before an obnoxious-looking twenty-something opened the doors and let us inside.

We were given a speech, check-listed off, handed applications which were mostly filled out already, and sat in the restaurant to be given another speech. Then a line of managers and such came wandering in – one for the each of us – and it was just like having lunch in a real, open restaurant with a friend. Who was interviewing you. Without food. While surrounded by other people being interviewed. Still, the chatter made things feel casual and I rather liked the format.

Mistakes I may have made include:

– Because I had already filled out an online application and send them my resume, I figured it would be redundant to bring another one. So I didn’t. I didn’t even have a pen (which was more of an accident and a sign I should have woken up the first time the alarm went off). So I got to watch with rising apprehension as people wandered into the waiting area clutching their giant purses and their fancy, transparent folders, cursing myself. When the twenty-something left us alone for some time before the sit-down I got to awkwardly say, “Um, sorry? Does anyone happen to have a pen..?” The answer is no, no one did (which I’m not sure I would believe, but there was a general shuffling around murmuring of apologies, so I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt). Once we got to the tables, though, there were pens laid out waiting, and they never did ask for my resume or anything else so – ha, suckers. I win. Then I spoiled my win by accidentally stealing the pen they had provided when the interview was over, thinking we were only moving somewhere else and that I might need it. I know this was a mistake because my interviewer (who was a girl, score) looked at me a bit oddly when I took it.

– A few of my answers to situational questions stretched reality. Nothing unbelievable, and I rather left it all a bit vague (which I know was a mistake in and of itself, because they want you to be specific, even if you’ve only worked for a couple of months near three years ago and don’t have any goddamn examples of that particular situation). I prefaced all my lies slight exaggerations with “Um. Let me think…”

– My application says I’m applying to be a table busser. *headdesk* This happened a few weeks ago. I did apply to be a busser, yes, but I had planned to also apply to cashier and sales positions, and then Baltimore came up (much more about that later!) and I never got around to it. Fortunately, they did ask what other departments I was interested in, and I was quick to list children’s wear, women’s wear and yayjewlery.

All in all, it went OK, I believe. I even remembered to smile and make eye contact and be at ease in general. The main thing I kept in mind though, as it occurred to me late last night, is that I’m simply a girl, a rather nice girl who will work for whomever she works for, and that all of my would-be interviewers, supervisors and co-workers are themselves only boys or girls or men and women of perhaps a little more experience but probably not too much more intelligence or goodness or whatever else it is that makes me rather intimidated by people sometimes. I had spent the night before looking at interview questions, answers and tips, and then decided that I would completely ignore all of that in favor of acting natural. The one piece of advice I liked was this: you are also interviewing them. Which I took to mean, “hey! department store! it’s not all about you!” I figure into this somehow too, not just as a tool used to stock merchandise, but as a (rather wonderful and witty) human being who wants to make some money and get along in life. Who’s looking also for the job that’s right for her. If they truly believe I’m too soft-spoken or not quite fashionable enough, then why in the world would I want to work there anyway – to have to pretend to be rather louder or more fashionable than I really am every day? Best to just let it go, then.

 

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