Before I went on exchange a few years ago, I blew through most of my loan and grant, and forgot to apply for the scholarship I set out to receive. So, I decided to apply for a job, but, like any young person, I knew this would be a difficult feat. It’s difficult to get a dignified job without experience, because how do you get experience without a dignified job?
My dad told me to ask my neighbours if I could mow their lawns or help out in the garden; I dutifully reminded him that he’s held the same job for the past thirty years, and before that he milled around on the farm in a feudalist Bangladeshi village, and as such had no real knowledge of youth unemployment in an advanced capitalist society. The most terrifying thought of work was not the work-study-alcohol balance, but the job interview.
I sat through the heat as I awkwardly wore a suit, gladly utilising the glasses of free water and abundant jugs of further free water. I always conceded that I wasn’t going to be around longer than a month or so. The worst was after a Coles interview: after a group interview about the values of Coles (read: capitalism), I was set up with a one-on-one with a burly, disgruntled Coles manager, unaware of our interview, who finished the interrogation with warning me that if I quit before a year, he’d lose his bonus and he’d “get me”. I withdrew my application.
Earlier, I had applied for a job at Apple as a Specialist. I arrived at the Hilton Hotel where the session was held; I wore a t-shirt and jeans, as the invitation said: “Dress casual, no need for a suit!” I milled around with some others, signed a confidentiality agreement (hence: anonymous), and waited.
The doors burst open, and two lines of Apple employees created a tunnel for us, clapping us as we entered a large room. I saw how nervous everyone was in their excitement. I knew Apple was a brand that created cult-like behaviour, but I thought this was only in their consumers. After the interview, it became apparent it was an aspect of their workplace culture.
After some more clapping, we sat around and watched videos of Apple employees all around the world, standing in front of Apple Stores, clapping. Then we were asked about why we love Apple so much. People clamoured: “it changed my life!”, “it revolutionised my life!” Afterwards, we had to talk about our favourite things about Apple; I heard tired slogans, about industrial design, about Steve Jobs and innovation, about how groundbreaking it is. My contribution: “it’s pretty and you get to wear t-shirts at work.” By the time we were being clapped out, after simulating examples of ‘good customer experience’ under the constant surveillance and smiles of the interviewers, I knew I couldn’t build the energy to get this job.
But this was only the second least traumatic job interview I’ve ever had. My brother-in-law proposed a cushy, public servant job at Australia Post. I got a call back, and a few days later was on my way to their HQ, situated in a gigantic building in Strawberry Hills.
The interview was fine. I was confident, but lost my nerve when I knew I wasn’t going to be around Australia in a short time. I carried on to the next stage, the quiz. I breezed through the logic puzzles, and solved the maths problems with ease.
But then came the personality quiz. It started with a few simple questions: do you like x, how do you feel about y, etc. The questions kept coming like rapid fire, but took a disturbing turn.
“Were you ever beaten as a child?”
“Do you hate your parents?”
“Have you ever hurt yourself?”
“Do you hear voices?”
“Have you ever felt like killing anyone?”
Deeply personal questions, ranging from self-abuse to sexual fantasies to mental illnesses to brutalised childhoods, flew at me as I instinctively continued to press ‘no’, visions of imagined and hypothetical traumas building until they felt vivid and real, and I began to question whether these things had happened to me.
I left the interview shaken. I did not get the job, I assume due to my availabilities as opposed to some camera that filmed my bodily reaction to being psychologically probed by Australia Post.
I asked my parents for money.