Thursday, March 7, 2013
My good friend Kim Stiens asked me to do a guest post for her blog. Hers is about business (it's called Business for Good, Not Evil. There you can see this very same post, but in a different font! Oh, and also she writes stuff, too.). I’m just sharing some excellent examples of what not to do in an interview. Since I’m too lazy to write two blogs, I’ll post this on mine too (which you are aware of if you’re reading this from there right now). It shouldn’t matter much since I think Kim is the only person who reads both blogs, and thus the only person (aside from my mommy) who reads mine.
I’m going to talk about the last three applicants we considered at Hasdil, the school I work at. Like most language schools, the requirements are pretty much a passport from an English speaking nation and whatever minimum requirements the government has for a work permit/visa, unless there is an easy way around it. One language school in the Ukraine, for example, had no requirements because they were getting their teachers missionary visas. Obviously, having things like experience, extra degrees and sanity are a plus, but not required.
This is sensible, as the job is comparable to being a stage magician with really lame tricks (and POOF the sentence is now in the present perfect continuous tense). You have to be moderately amusing, and 90% of the students will hide amongst the herd every time you ask for audience participation (while one or two eagerly volunteer every single time). There is nothing about this job that really precludes an under-educated crazy person from excelling at it their first time.
I’m saying all of this to provide background. The job is damn easy, and there aren’t many applicants (in fact, we’re looking for someone at the moment, hit me up if you’re interested). I want to make it absolutely clear that to fail to obtain this job you have to be a pretty serious screw-up.
Let’s look at screw-up number one: This woman had a TEFL certificate (a good one, not a shitty online one like me), a degree in English (but not an MFA, like me) and at least five years of experience (not three months, like me). Then came the Skype interview. While many things were discussed, she repeatedly hit upon two points.
First, she repeatedly said, “I am used to a very high standard of living.” While it’s a bit different when you’re applying to a job where they pay for your accommodation, it’s still something you really shouldn’t say. It essentially translates to “The accommodation you provide isn’t shit, is it?” For a lot of ESL jobs, this is a pretty significant concern, as is the likelihood of being able to live off of what they’re paying. However, that isn’t the way to ask. If you have questions of that nature, ask in specific, objective terms; “What size are the rooms?” “How far are they from the city center (centre)?” “Do they have air conditioning?” etc. For the general ones about the city, just use Google. Don’t waste your interviewer’s time.
The second point she made was that every one of her previous employers ripped her off. Again, it’s not all that uncommon in this field, but still probably something you don’t need to tell your interviewer. It not only comes across as a premature accusation, but generally suggests something is wrong with you. The possible reasons that you’ve been ripped off repeatedly are:
1) You got fired and they didn’t pay you your last month’s wages, as you were being escorted out of the country.
2) You quit before your contract was up, so they didn’t pay you all of your last month’s wages.
3) They recognize that you’re a useless drunk/incompetent, and rather than firing you and dealing with the hassle of replacing you, they start paying you less with the intent to fire you if you ever say anything (only recently heard about this in Taiwan).
4) Just bad luck.
While having shitty luck won’t hurt your employment chances, it won’t help them. You might as well tell the employer about how each year in high school you developed a really big zit the day before prom. The first three things will definitely hurt your chances, and are significantly more likely than the fourth.
Generally speaking, in an interview, you should really keep the conversation about topics relevant to the job. It seems like a no-brainer, but yeah. Also, try to appear sane. We still refer to her as “the crazy woman.”
To further impress upon you how desperate we were “the crazy woman” was actually hired. Fortunately, she got to Istanbul and sort of wandered off or something. Consequently, Hasdil had the pleasure of interviewing applicant number two.
Applicant number two illustrates what you should do in an interview. He was a charming, brilliant and sexy teacher with an MFA in writing, a BA in English, a TEFL certificate (shitty online one) and basically no experience. In the interview he excelled by asking specific questions about the job and accommodations, and talking about his previous jobs only to show that his experience, little as it was, served to perfectly prepare him for precisely this job (Yeah, that was me). Obviously, they hired me (otherwise I never would have heard the stories about the rejects).
The most recent applicant sounded like a shoe-in. Number three looked great on his resume. He’s a Brit, and worked at the Brighton branch, for the same school. Then my boss got an e-mail from him saying that he would need private accommodation away from the school, because he’s a writer and needs privacy to write (obviously an amateur). Hell, we have private rooms, and except for during the children’s classes, the place is pretty quiet. Aside from revealing himself to be a pretentious douche, he effectively asked for a 50% raise, prior to the interview.
What really makes applicant three so entertaining is the fact that he only worked part-time for the Brighton school, for a few weeks, before being fired. If you’ve been fired from a job, and want to lie about it, you will get away with it, in many cases, especially when you’re changing countries. However, it’s probably not a great idea if it’s THE SAME COMPANY.
So yeah, hopefully this has reassured anyone currently seeking a job. Some of your competitors are idiots, and that helps your odds. Also, again, we’re hiring. I’d continue to dither until coming up with a decent ending (as I usually do), but I’ve got class in five minutes and I need to prepare (by which I mean put my pants back on, have a smoke and locate the book).