Wednesday, September 28, 2011

My first job interview all year...

...And I had to draw knowledge obtained from watching reruns of TLC's What Not to Wear in order to pass a test at the end.

Let me explain.

I recently grew desperate enough for money that I finally knocked myself off my college grad high horse and decided to apply for part time retail jobs in the area. I got a call back from the manager at a women's clothing store, asking me to come in for an interview. Since it was the first time in two years an employer had shown any interest in seeing my face, I was a little eager.

I wore my most fashionable business outfit and arrived with plenty of time to spare in order to demonstrate my knack for punctuality. The manager welcomed me and told me to go amuse myself for a while since I had waltzed in a half hour ahead of schedule, which was apparently too early.

...It was at that moment that I began to suspect my enthusiasm was starting to look like desperation.

Toning down the automated self-marketing front, I meekly made my way around the store and browsed through the merchandise. I was impressed with the collections this season, but the prices were daunting. The day I spend $50 on a blouse is the day I become just as successful as J.K. Rowling. Which is almost certainly never.

As I continued to stroll idly through the sales floor, I also saw some tops that came in highly questionable color schemes. I couldn't quite hide my grimace as I eyed a sweater that looked like it had been dipped in a puddle of melted crayons. A sales associate mistook my expression for one of interest and asked me what I thought of it. I offered a diplomatic answer.

Eventually, the manager flagged me down and led me to the back to begin the interview. Not surprisingly, the process was similar to interviews for entry level corporate positions ten years ago. With the ongoing recession (starting to gain fame as the Great Depression II), standards for every sector of the job market have been raised and even part-time retail jobs have become more selective.

...The 21st century thus far should be a demotivational poster in itself.

Anyway, the manager asked me about my educational background, my previous job experience, my qualifications, and what I would bring to an already crowded team of associates. My only other experience with retail had been working as a DPS associate at Office Depot (for which I had been hired on the spot) two years ago, so I told him I had learned a lot about sales and customer service...particularly that I have the patience of a saint when faced with very angry and even borderline violent customers.

He seemed impressed enough by the end of the interview and was jotting down notes to take to the district manager when he brought up the last request.

Store Manager: All right, I just need you to do one more thing for me.

Me (eagerly): Yes?

Store Manager: I have a test I need you to pass.

Me: ...?

Store Manager: You have two minutes to pick out three articles of clothing on the sales floor, bring them here, and explain why you picked them.

Me: Wait, so-

Store Manager: Time starts now!

I bolted out of the office faster than New York women clearing out a 75% off Gucci sale.

As I pinballed around the store in a panic, trying to figure out where to start, I noticed the sympathetic stares of the sales associates. I heard one whisper to another that she had never been given this kind of task prior to getting employed. Great. This was probably a recently implemented hiring practice specifically designed as a new way to mess with applicants, and I was the current guinea pig.

Fortunately, I've been into fashion since high school and so wasn't completely clueless about putting together an ensemble that wouldn't melt the manager's eyes. Determined not to be the laughing stock of the day, I slowed my pace and started pulling clothes as I channeled several episodes of What Not To Wear in my mind. All those hours of watching TLC in boredom were actually paying off.

Within minutes, I had an outfit picked out. I gazed at my selection in both pride and misery, knowing it would win over the manager, but wondering where my career was going at this rate.

I scurried back to the manager and confidently began blabbering on about how each piece was versatile and flattering for most body types, all the while inwardly cursing the recession for bringing me to this point when I'd worked my butt off in college for two bachelor's degrees.

At least I haven't had to resort to the world's oldest profession. Yet.

After I finished my rambling monologue, the manager applauded me and told me he would be in touch soon.

Nearly two weeks later, he called me to let me know I'd gotten the job. The hours and pay are sparse, but after five months of waiting for some discernible income source, I can't complain.


-J. S. Blancarte

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