Monthly Archives: February 2012

How to Survive Extreme Interviewing

Hunger GamesFor those of you like me who were ashamed to admit they were reading the Hunger Games trilogy, you can put that shame away. The story it turns out is not fun fluff; it is a serious guidebook for how to survive job interviews today… without blood… yet. Employers are finding more extreme ways to mess with the jobless, which may be fun for them, but for the unemployed looking for a way to pay for food and rent, it’s a fight for their lives. According to the LA Times article “Job Interviewing to the Extreme” there is still a glut of job seekers in the market. As a result, employers are able to take extra precautions to hire the right people while having some fun at the expense of hopeful candidates.

After watching enough reality TV, recruiters are learning that resumes, references and regular interviews don’t give them all the information they need; it’s better and more entertaining to throw job seekers into unexpected obstacle courses with no tools or preparation. After all, work life is like a reality show–you are always given random deadlines, everything is made out to be a bigger deal than it is and there is always someone who is waiting to throw you off the island. So what can we–the desperate for work–do to get back into the workplace? Train yourselves job seekers–we have become contestants in our very own reality show with amateur producers.

Be Creative

Companies like Google and Zappos know you’re expecting the one dreaded question, “What is your worst trait as an employee?”  But are you expecting questions like:

What’s your theme song? What super hero would you be? How weird are you on a scale of 1-10? Out of 25 horses, pick the fastest 3 horses. In each race, only 5 horses can run at the same time. What is the minimum number of races required?

Did those throw you off? Don’t let them! Believe it or not, you’re the one in control in the interview. Recruiters will try to tell you that these questions are a way to learn how creative you are and if you’re left-brained or right-brained. But like every amateur reality show producer, they just want to know if you thought their challenge was creative and clever, so treat it as such and play the game.

As you would for any contest, arrive prepared and have a simple answer that will work for every random question that doesn’t pertain to the job, like the word oneOne is a perfect answer for math problems and personality questions because although it’s not always right, it’s just as random. After saying, “One,” make sure you have a reason for your answer should they ask for it. I advise coming up with something that takes as much effort as they put into making your fun senseless question. This is where one really shines. With so much implied meaning behind the number, the bullsh** possibilities are endless!

My theme song is “One” because I’m a passionate team player that believes we should all work as one for your mission here at X Company and because I’m as amazing as Bono and I will save the world.

Or…

The minimum number of races required is one because I run the track and I said so!

When creativity is what they think they’re looking for, try thinking like a kid who has gotten into trouble. Kids come up with the worst excuses but always have the most entertaining stories to back them up.

Think On Your Feet

People love talent shows. That’s why we love America’s Got Talent and Top Chef. So before you go in, think about your special talent and have it in your bag of tricks. Should you get a question like:

Just entertain me for five minutes; I’m not going to talk.

Easy peasy. Sing your favorite karaoke tune. Dance a jig while sitting down. And if you’re greatest talent is throwing back things in people’s faces, hold up a mirror to the interviewer for five minutes. I’m sure he/she will be entertained. Just be sure that no matter what you’re good at, only present it with as much enthusiasm as your interviewer is showing you. No more, no less.

Sociology Experiment / Work Well Under Pressure

Sometimes recruiters want to see how you play with others and take the interview process out of the office and into unexpected environments like a restaurant or bar. Then without notice they add other candidates to your interview time to see who may turn out to be catty and who plays well with others.  What?! You might be thinking… This isn’t what I was expecting. I’m already run down and scared because I haven’t had a job in over two years and these interviews mean more to me than just a silly game. I don’t know if I can handle this. I don’t know how much longer we can afford rent and I just want to be able to feed my husband and kids. And now I have to face other candidates for the job who may be more confident or have connections I can only dream of?

SNAP OUT OF IT! Extreme Interviewing is always waiting for one psychological breakdown. Of course you can unravel with other unemployed people because they feel your pain, but those with jobs never will. After all, interviews are about making the other person believe you’re one of them, so be psycho for a day and pretend you’re like them: employed, well-off and with little regard for how much this job means to you.

The Truth

In the end, there is one thing all of these interview processes that are meant to keep you off-balance can’t do, and that is determine which applicant will really flourish in the company. So to see how well someone will do in the job before they get the job is nothing more than a game for game’s sake. Some job applicants who excel in playing “Choose Me!” are great at interviews, but once given the security of a job and paycheck, may spend more time on Facebook than delivering top-notch ideas and productivity. And who knows, if you offer a job to that person that wasn’t as interview savvy but had great references, you may find yourself with someone who will give you more than you asked for once they can stop worrying where their next paycheck will come from. Does approaching job seekers this way sound fun, exciting, challenging or mind-bending? No. But neither should it be. Messing with people’s minds is a great way to find other people who are good with messing with people’s minds, but during this recession, it would be considerate of recruiters to stop messing with people who feel messed with enough as is.

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Obama Plays a Game of “Piss Off The Catholic”

Obama vs CatholicsBeing a Catholic right now is so exciting–it means I get to be outraged because my bishop told me to. Now don’t get confused, bishop outrage is different from the Catholic League’s everyday outrage. The Catholic League makes a big to-do over anything that can get them press, like their recent huff over Nicki Minaj’s Grammy performance and Pope accessory. As scandalous as it is for Catholics to see someone perform with a priest, monks and altar boys to O Come All Ye Faithful, the Catholic league does not speak for the Church nor is it endorsed by it. This is because the Church has been dealing with human beings for 2,000 years and knows that the outrage card is only powerful if used sparingly. So imagine my surprise when President Obama decided to play a game of “Piss Off the Catholic” with the entire Catholic Church and the Church took the bait. If you’ve never played before, “Piss Off the Catholic” is a side-splitting pastime that even Catholics partake in, where one person says traditionally outrageous things at a conservative dinner party such as “Gays should marry,” and, “Women should be priests.” It’s such a good time and one I look forward to at every family holiday.

For this round of the game, the President chose the topic of contraceptives. The Catholic Church condemns the use of contraceptives and has been sure to reiterate this since 1967–just in time to cock-block Catholic hippies during that year’s Summer of Love. Why does the Church say no to contraceptives? I still don’t know, but the delightful read can be found in Pope Paul VI‘s Humanae Vitae. There the deceased Pope explains how it’s okay to prevent pregnancies using the Natural Family Planning method, but not through the use of a lowly relationship-crushing condom. If this doesn’t make sense to you, then you must not be married. After all, how could a single person understand what a marriage is all about.

I was so excited when Obama went for it and from out of nowhere told the Catholic Church that their employee health plans had to provide contraceptives for those working in their hospitals and school (not churches). Oh man, the faces on those bishops must have been priceless! Not only did he piss off the church but he got pro-contraceptive people calling into radio stations yelling because they thought the Catholic Church was preventing women from their right to use a pill. It was the best game of “Piss Off the Catholic” I’ve ever seen. Secretly I hoped Obama would even venture into “Piss Off the Lame Boss” and tell an old employer of mine that he needs to provide his employees with a less strict dress code. After all, it’s our right to freedom of speech to wear what we want, and my old boss who left corporate law to open up a coffee shop, continues to make all of his employees dress like corporate lawyers against their wills.

So then after all was said and done, President Obama must have spoken to Susan G. Komen, because as the rage grew, he rescinded his proposal this week and came to a compromise with the angry bishops. Now Catholic Institutions no longer have to pay for contraceptives, instead it’s their health insurance companies that will have to.  That’s it?! A compromise? Not just one more jab from either team to keep the press going? Is it just me or does anyone else feel like they were watching the best episode ever of their favorite TV show and it all turned out to be a dream. Or worse yet, an unaired episode of Punk’d.

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Ageism, Madonna and Why We’re All Too Old

I feel bad for Madonna. People have been making fun of how old she is ever since she danced during her Super Bowl halftime show in an unflattering black short dress and long black cloak. Everyone knows only young people can dance in bad-looking clothes and make them somehow look good, so what was she thinking?! Still it’s ageist to say so. In fact it’s ageist to criticize anyone because of their age. We’ve all been through it, yet we can’t help but carry on this cruel practice to generations that follow.

At the age of five, I too was a victim of ageism on a daily basis: in school I could only have lunch with kids my age and on the playground, eight-year-olds laughed at me when I asked to play with them. “You’re a kid,” they’d yell, “play with someone your own age!” During my sister’s high school ragers, her teenage friends would put me in a closet and not let me out. Back then I thought it was because I was Catholic, but in hindsight I realize it was because of my age.  Then like a bad cliché straight out of a psychology textbook, I took what I learned from my experiences and turned into a practicing ageist myself. When my little brother asked to play with me and my friends, I rejected him solely based on his lack of years and experience in playing. I should have stopped the cycle of prejudice but I was too weak. Some would even say, too young.

In elementary school girls my age would gush over Ricky Schroeder, but by this time I was a full-time ageist. I made fun of them and anyone who liked him. “He’s just a boy,” I’d say, then I’d proudly declare my love for older men, in my mind “real men,” like Han Solo and Indiana Jones. This way of thinking limited my dating possibilities.  In High School I refused to date anyone younger than me and I was so blinded by my bias, that I could only find older guys attractive. My first boyfriend was a senior when I was a freshman and my second boyfriend, though not quite old enough, was at least one year older. After we broke up, a hot blonde kid with a body like young Brad Pitt was interested in me and asked me out. Alas, he was a year younger. But it wasn’t his fault that he was born a different year than you. True, but I could not compromise what I saw as my principles at the time. So like a nasty ageist, I told him I couldn’t date him because of his age. Still I let him take me to his homecoming dance.

But ageism is tricky. Just when you think you’re the one calling the shots on who to be with according to their years on earth, ageism comes to take you down. Years after college, a talent agent I interviewed with once asked me my age. He kept prodding until finally he coerced me by saying, “Well if we sign you anyway we’ll find out sooner or later.” I told him I was 30 and immediately he pushed back his chair and smirked as if there was nothing he could do for me. In his eyes I was 500 years old and not in a cool Vampire way. He told me I was too old for this business, rolled his eyes and thanked me for my time. If this agent had been around, he probably would have passed up Phyllis Diller when she first started doing stand-up, since she didn’t get to doing it until she was 37.

Being placed back on the receiving end of this narrow-mindedness, I started to see how thinking this way even limits our appreciation of life. How much more attractive would the general population be to us if we saw people of all ages as beautiful. I once met Carla Laemmle at her home. A silent movie star and niece of Carl Laemmle (Universal Pictures founder), she opened her door and I was struck by how beautiful she was. She was wearing this intricately designed silk house robe, had stunning blue eyes with even white skin and a thick mane of hair that matched. I could not stop sharing with friends how gorgeous this woman was. No plastic surgery–at least no facelift or Botox by what I could see–just old-fashioned beautiful. But she’s old. So? She’s 102!Everyone I told looked at me like I was sick. In fact, people even seemed grossed out by the thought that a woman her age could be considered gorgeous. Finally someone made sense of what I was saying by adding, “For her age.”

I don’t fault anyone for their inability to respect the young or the old. After all, ageism in our country is ingrained and structured by law: DMV’s nationwide don’t let people drive until they’re 16 (unless you get a hardship license which always makes the driver sound young with a sad home life), our nation doesn’t let us vote or join the army until we’re 18, courts don’t  allow citizens to sleep with anyone over the age of 17 until they turn 17, discounts at theaters and amusement parks are given age markers of 21 and 65, and before you are finally allowed to drink alcohol at the age of 21, you are given the ageist name of “minor”. Still it’s something we can be aware of and another thing we should consider adding to our “Please Be Sensitive To This Subject” list.

Carla is on the left.

Now Madonna isn’t necessarily a champion against ageism herself–she seems more interested in being seen with young already established artists rather than older ones, but what she did do was make public a hidden discrimination. Madonna is not afraid to do whatever she wants at an age most people believe you should no longer think you can do whatever you want. This prejudice though is not just for those over 50, but rather people generally feel the need to stunt everyone and tell them what they can and can’t do at any age because of their age.

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The Single Life – Why Married Couples Shouldn’t Divorce

I love being married–it’s a blast! You basically get to play house everyday and get some while you’re at it. In theory, you are guaranteed as much lovin’ as you want any day you want, as opposed to when you’re single, you have to go out and hope someone wants you as much as you want them. Why do you think the gay community has been fighting to get legally married for years? Marriage is totally underrated by the straights.  Which is maybe why there’s been a recent slew of married friends of mine wanting to file for divorce. These halves that are complaining about being married have obviously forgotten what it’s like to be single. Here’s a reminder:

Break Up
What Breaking Up Feels Like

As you can see by these photos from my single days, my friends and I look miserable (well except for my roommate in the background who always showed up when we were depressed so he could get a good laugh and my friend on the right who couldn’t help but pose in photos–but trust me, she was sad before the camera came out).  Oh but you ladies must have been having a wild time, free from any burdens, could do whatever you want! Yeah we had all that and as a result we met guys we liked and as you can see, we all got dumped. What people forget and take for granted after they score in the love category is that being single means getting rejected over and over and over again. Not that it can’t happen when you get married, but at least divorces happen less frequently than general dating breakups. Plus, heartaches caused by divorce receive greater sympathy and give you permission to cry for years. Do you really think that Ms. Thing Under a Torn Poster of Madonna there would get that after being dumped by someone she dated for three days? No.

I’m bringing this all up in hopes of changing some minds of friends who have considered going single again. Should you quit your marriage, consider the following:

1. Countless hours you’ll inevitably have to spend coming up with embarrassing adjectives to describe yourself on every matchmaking site out there.

2. You’ve heard it before, but it’s true… The loads of money you’ll spend on meeting people at bars and restaurants.

3. Energy you’ll need to muster when meeting the friends and family of a new love.

Ugh! Having to make nice with a whole new set of people? What’s so sexy and exciting about that? Isn’t that a distraction to the exciting sexy time you could have with the person you already have and are contracted to enjoy?! Yeah but I’ve been with the same person for 20 years, shouldn’t I get to try someone new? See! If you remembered the single life correctly, out of the many people you may or may not date (single does not always equal desired), at least 80% of them are gonna be the same type of person anyway, just with a different name and birth place. I’m sorry to report, our tastes are not that adventurous. Don’t believe me? How many new foods, activities, or places do you try out each week? If you are like anyone else I know, you may want to consider divorcing yourself now too.

So stick to what you have. Ignore your need to sleep with someone else and find some new moves or fantasize; don’t ask your other half if you can see other people then get angry and feel he doesn’t love you when he lets you do it; and if you think your love is like a light switch that turned off, well flip it back on. Don’t be the Serena Williams of long-term relationships to friends who are still on the prowl; be grateful for what you have. After all, if you thought this marriage was such a good idea that you asked your friends and family to spend money and vacation time to celebrate it, shouldn’t it be something worth really trying to make fun? Marriage is not like the pledge you make over a toilet seat when you swear you will never drink again or the gym membership you sign when you get entranced by your New Year’s resolutions. You can’t quit it when you no longer feel like doing it, because what’s the alternative? See above.

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