This would be that "career" thing I've heard so much about...

Friday, June 25, 2004

An Interviewee's Nightmare

I have a couple of friends who are currently looking for jobs. This means they are going out on interviews. So I remembered this:

So I was graduating from college and didn't know exactly what I wanted to do. I saw an advertisement for English teachers to go to Japan. I thought, "I've always wanted to go to Japan, and I don't have anything planned for the next couple of years... why not apply?" I filled out an extensive application form, submitted all the required paperwork, and apparently met their basic requirements because they called me to set up an interview. Now, after applying for this program (and forgetting about it) I had applied for several graduate programs in acting. It just so happened that I was able to schedule the Japan interview in DC on the way home from several days of auditions in Chicago for acting schools. I'm traveling with two other friends from undergrad who are auditioning for acting schools. We do the auditions, have a lot of fun in Chicago, and then head back to DC for my after-thought interview.

I get to the Japanese Embassy. I should note here that all the months of preparation for this week has been spent on acting prep. I mean, they liked my Japan application, right? What would I need to prepare for? Go through some security checks, and make it into the waiting room. On my left is a guy talking to the guy on HIS left about the latest Sumo match and who the superstars in the Sumo world are. I though he was joking, then realized no - he's a true enthusiast. I get a little sinking feeling in my stomach. On my right is a girl talking about how she first learned Japanese when her missionary parents took her to live in Japan for a few years when she was in elementary school, and how she's always wanted to go back. That little sinking feeling has become a pit in my stomach. I briefly consider walking out the door and running away. I say "briefly" because at that moment my name is called.

Now, interviews are never comfortable. You're on display, you're being judged, it's just not comfortable. But for this interview, they ushered me into the poster-child equivalent of a hellish nightmare interview room. I sat in a lone plastic chair in the middle of an empty room. Across from me was a long table. Three people sat at this table: A crusty old British woman, a very nice but almost silent Japanese man, and a blond girl maybe two years older than me. The British woman did most of the talking. And this is even too painful for me to recant, but here's some of the questions.

"Why do you want to go to Japan?" My dad speaks highly of it?

"What makes you think you'd be a good English teacher?" I like English? I'm an English major?

"What have you done to prepare for this interview?" Uh? I don't understand the question?

"What have you done to prepare for going to Japan? If I learned I might go to Japan I'd do something to prepare. Read some books, study up on the language... what have you done?" Oh, I've read Shogun.

Part of me was screaming "SHOGUN???" but that part - the part which wanted to politely stand up, apologize for wasting their time, and walk out with whatever remained of my dignity - was watching in a stupor as more and more stupid things tumbled out of my mouth. I think around this point in the interview, some other force was possessing me. I couldn't think of anything to say, and the silences were growing more and more excruciating.

At this point, throwing me a life line, the blond American girl says "I see you've done a lot of theater." Yes, I gush, yes, I love theater.

"So, do you think any of your experiences in theater would help you teach English?" Yes, I say with absolute confidence.


"How?" Well, (and that confidence shrivels into a little raisin and poofs away) I could help the students write skits in English and... perform them?

At this point in the interview I start getting angry. Angry at them for letting this pitiful charade continue. I mean, if they had to keep me in the room for a certain amount of time, couldn't we have just amicably agreed to sit there in silence? It was obvious to everyone that I wasn't going to be allowed within 100 feet of a Japanese person seeking a better understanding of English. So why pretend we were having an interview? Why?!

I left the interview, and though I didn't pass any mirrors on the way out I'm fairly certain my face was at least beet red if not neon pink. My friends, excited to hit the town, weren't due for another 45 minutes. They were going to pick me up outside the Japanese Embassy. But I knew deep down that if I so much as laid eyes on anyone from that interview again I would fall down dead of shame. So I walked across the street and hid behind a tree. My friends drove up 45 minutes later, I came out from behind the tree, and we drove off.

When they asked me about the interview, I suggested we never broach the subject again. After a moment of silence, someone turned on the car radio.

The one good thing about this experience: I know I will never have a worse interview.


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