One man's attempt at literacy

Tag Archives: Jobs

If there is one thing I know, it’s that getting a job is hard. Not only do you have to show them in a brief cover letter and resume that you’d be a good fit for the job, but even if you get the interview you have to be both more professional, personable, sociable, and huggable than all the other candidates. One wrong move, whether it be wearing assless chaps, pulling out and eating a burrito during your interview, or asking to compare the color of each others mucus, could immediately end your prospective career at Blinds to Go.

As someone with too much experience interviewing and making common mistakes like saying my potential boss sounds terrible to work for, I am using all my excessively wonderful knowledge of the interview process to create the most comprehensive and wonderful guide that was made by someone who is terrible at interviewing and proud of it. Following all of my steps will ensure interview success and the beginning of the career of your dreams, regardless of how lame your dreams are!*

Please accept my humble brain juices.

Greg’s Ultimate Interview Prep Guide:

Identify whether the company likes Obama or thinks Obama is a Kenyan: No matter how much people say they want to avoid politics, everyone has a strong feeling on the topic of Obama, and identifying a company or interviewer’s opinion of our current president will be incredibly helpful in not only identifying a great topic to converse about (“Oh man, that Obama! What an upstanding dude!” or “Oh man, that Obama! I can’t believe he and his shadow czars fool everyone!”); it’ll also create the basis for much of your interview prep.

Get to know your interviewer: Your interviewer will be looking at your resume, your cover letter, and — potentially — your social media accounts and what comes up when they google you. The thought of them knowing so much about you, like that time you tried to smuggle a panda from China, might get you a bit nervous, which is the biggest interview faux-pas, no-no, and don’t-do-that-Jack. As such, you need to even the playing field. Start by looking at them on Google, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter, but remember that that’s just going to give you a basic idea of who they are — and that’s assuming you can find info on them! In order to make sure you are thoroughly educated about the person you will interview with you should hire a private detective to follow them and root around in their past. If you discover something like their secret family or IBS that’s also a perfect topic to casually bring up during your conversation and bond over.

Photo Property of The Magazine

The best part is you can bring cookies into the interview and offer them and one of your sleeves to a would-be employer.

Wear only hemp/milk-based or wool clothing: This part is open-ended, based on the answer to the previous question. If you’re going to work for a progressive company, it’s important to show your love of the environment by only wearing hemp or, if it won’t offend their senses, trendier milk-based clothing. Meanwhile, if they fall into the more conservative bracket, you should be sure to wear traditional clothing like wool, and never mix fabric types lest you be labeled a sinner. Your dedication to their values in either instance will show that you truly know and care about the company’s goals, even if you truly don’t.

Practice the interview as much as you can: As good teachers say, “Practice, practice, practice, nyah!” The best way to ensure you’ll do well is to practice until when someone asks you how you’re doing you respond by quickly reciting your professional history. In this vein, practice until the last possible moment before the interview: that is, when you’re waiting in the company’s lobby. Don’t be worried if anyone sees you talking to yourself or gesturing emphatically, as this will only show your dedication to concisely convey your love and dedication to not being unemployed and poor. Some people also warn against sounding mechanical, but really, doesn’t every company want to hire more robots?

Look exceptionally involved: Once you start the conversation, you need to always stay focused on the interviewer. Being disinterested is the kiss of death for a job seeking stallion such as yourself, and the easiest way to look involved is to never look away. Ever. As such, consider this quite possibly the most important rule: you must never break eye contact with your interviewer. To do so is to show weakness, and you might as well just yawn or scratch your armpit in caveman-like ignorance. Even letting your eyelids flutter half-closed for a mere moment would convey a lack of enthusiasm for your future cash dispensing overlord. Blinking = dying. Literally.

“Where he sees himself in five years is unsatisfactory! Finish him!!!”

Prepare answers for standard questions: The most basic, predictable, and blasé part of the interview process is actually being interviewed. It is during this intellectual gladiatorial bout that you will practically-but-not-quite compete to the death with other people you’ve never even met for the chance to be the next Uniqlo Second Floor Greeter (yes, that’s a thing). It’s always good to have a number of stock stories ready for the day of reckoning, like that time you guided baby ducks across the street or when you successfully got to 99 points in Boppit. Preparing specific answers for specific questions is also a good idea, for instance: when I’m asked about my greatest strength I say, “Powerful thighs that allow me to stand for long periods of time and kick down doors,” and when I’m asked about my greatness weakness I quickly answer, “I do so much work that my coworkers don’t have anything to do and give me too much affection.”

And there you go! Using Greg’s Ultimate Interview Prep Guide™** you’re guaranteed to make a lasting impression.

*Note: Greg does not claim any liability for restraining orders or sexual harassment claims filed against less successful interviewees.

**Note: We guarantee nothing.

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This week I’ve decided to revisit a topic I know well: awkward smalltalk. Specifically, I am excellent at awkward smalltalk because I either refuse to engage in it (“So, what are you studying in college?” “Politics.” “Oh?” “Mm.” “Okay…”), but I also know the quickest ways to ask the most important questions. For this edition of how to use smalltalk and seemingly unimportant questions to quickly get to the heart of any matter, even if they make the answerer cringe, I focus on something I’ve been doing more and more of: job interview questions.

Now, the interview process is already generally an awkward experience. The interviewer is trying their best to find out about the strengths and weaknesses of the candidate and the candidate is doing their best to make sure the interviewer thinks they are a flawless human being. In an effort to streamline this process for the interviewer (and any candidate who is asked these questions), I bring you How to Make Awkward Smalltalk: Interview Edition.

1. So… Bacon?

I mean, there’s no right answer… But there is.

Anyone who’s anyone has an ardent opinion on bacon; that smoky, salty meat is the king of a carnivore’s dreams and the bane of a vegetarian’s existence. Opening an interview with “So… Bacon?” immediately makes them take a stance and defend their position. Do they love it? Hate it? Do they think there would be peace in the Middle East if they could just eat bacon? Regardless, this question forces someone on a side and makes them tell you about their core values.

There is only one true failing answer to this question — though if someone told me they didn’t like bacon during an interview I would make them leave my office with any shred of dignity they could muster — and that is by not having an opinion. If someone can’t solidly think about and reflect on the godliest of meats, how could they ever be a good employee?

2. How would I look in a cravat?

It’s hard to look this classy.. Or this awkward.

This question is incredibly difficult to navigate for a potential employee; not only does it address their ability to balance honesty with tact, but it is also a good way to judge their tastes. If someone says you’d look “God awful!” you know they’re crazy because – let’s be honest here – that cravat would look pretty snazzy. If they say you’d look “Sooo great!” they’re a suck up, and you don’t just want another yes man.

The one way to correctly answer this question – to show tact, honesty, and good fashion sense – is to say, “I think you’d look good, but it depends on the color.” Not only do they acknowledge your good looks, but they show they can think beyond the initial problem and address other issues, like whether it would clash or not. It takes a truly exceptional candidate to weave through all the aspects of this difficult situation and come out a victor.

3. What do you find appealing about the Amish lifestyle?

Quite unlike bacon, the Amish are often overlooked, to the extent that when you mention them a person might stare off blankly for half a second and try and remember what that word means. Immediately, this means that inquiring about the Amish requires them to have a good ability to recall facts quickly. If they say, “Who?” Bzzrt! They’re out! No passy for them! Other disparaging remarks, etc.

The second benefit to this question is it requires them to stay positive, no matter their true feelings, and focus on the goodness in another group. It also shows you a candidate’s ability to BS, as they might find no redeeming qualities in the Amish lifestyle but can’t answer that or they face metaphorical career flogging. Overall, this question is the most powerful way to end an interview, as it is a strong barometer of their ability to recall facts, stay positive, and make stuff up.

Those beard and suspenders look good, but they’d look better with a cravat.

Job interviews are always hard, and they are always awkward. Hopefully this guide will help you make the process a little bit easier, a little more straight forward, and a lot more awkward. Good luck.


Hi people. Isn’t it weird that my most productive month of blogging ever, December, was followed immediately by six weeks of silence? I swear it’s not that I’m just an inconsistent nincompoop — though that may be part of it. See, I began doing something I despise again; searching for a job. AP Image

As of the last week of January I took another internship the day before my first ended so that I could technically have zero days of unemployment. Now I [insert a lot of complaining about how I like money and being able to feed myself]. Wahhh.

Then this morning I got that oh-so-sweet proverbial wake up call in the form of an email and a job offer. The job: “Check Assist Manager.” My response when I read that job title was, “What the frak is that?” I asked my friends and they seemed to have no idea themselves, and even sites like Glassdoor had no positions matching that title. I decided to find out more about this position, and this is the paraphrased description: we give you money and you transfer it to avoid bank fees and specific state taxation. So basically I’d be used as the middle man in cash transactions.

Given how I gladly admit to being an awful, dirty hippy, I felt that a job where the purpose is to legally evade taxes was probably not for me.

This got me thinking: maybe there are worse things than unemployment or working at a silly internship. Maybe I could be working as a Check Assist Manager, or some of the other job offers. After some retrospection, I present to you a list of some of the terrible jobs I’ve either had offered, could have pursued, or was rejected for and felt completely fine with that, which I call:

Welcome to the Second Floor

1. Check Assist Manager

2. Door to Door Salesman in New Jersey – I can’t remember the name of this job precisely, nor the company name, but that doesn’t matter. What matters is that I found a job that said, “Are you a recent college grad who wants to do marketing!?” And I said, “Uh, sure.” What I discovered was that “marketing” was code for “drive around in your own car in western New Jersey and try to get people to purchase things from our catalog.” I decided to opt out of that job because I’m pretty sure I’d be the worst salesman ever (“Oh, you should buy this. Maybe. Or don’t… I don’t care.”) and because I wanted to retain what little sanity I have left and expend it on trying to make gnocchi.

Also, New Jersey. Ew.

3. Cooler Specialist at Wholefoods – Here’s what this job is about: Go to places. Inspect and buy coolers. Move coolers. That’s it. Now, I could deal with working at Wholefoods — in fact, I’d be pretty happy with that for awhile — but not only am I not suited to a job where I move anything like that due to my puny arms, I think that my brain already has enough useless knowledge (did you know Billings is the only city in Montana with a population large enough to be placed on a map of the US?) without obtaining an encyclopedic knowledge of refrigeration systems.

Image property West Coast Blinds

Which shade of blinds do you think is the best to hide my misery? I’m thinking chartreuse.

4. Manager Trainee at Just Blinds – A few months back, my friend Maryann was discussing what would be the most boring job ever, and decided it would be working at a Container Store knockoff, like a store called “Storage ‘n’ Stuff.” Then I was contacted about a Manager Trainee position at Just Blinds.

As you can guess, Just Blinds is a chain that “produces and distributes window fixtures.” For the first week after hearing about this I couldn’t remember the name because even it’s unimaginative; I kept calling it “Blinds To Go!” Nope. That’s too exciting. And I wouldn’t even be a manager, I’d be a trainee.

I actually never heard back after an interview there due to my lack of sales experience, and I think that was okay because, well, I can’t even imagine a job more boring than that. Think of going to a bar and talking to strangers: “What do you do?” “Oh, I work at Just Blinds as a manager trainee.” “Oh, that’s… Uhhh, I’m going to go to the other end of the bar now.” Maryann and I pondered this when I told her about it and we were amazed at how, next to this job, even an accountant sounds exciting because at least they work with numbers.

Photo property fo the San Francisco Chronicle. Photo credit: Stephen Lam.

Do you think if you had this job you could dress up a mannequin and place it at the top of the stairs and anyone would notice you were gone?

5. Second Floor Greeter and Uniqlo – If you go shopping in Manhattan you might discover a Japanese clothing store called “Uniqlo,” pronounced very much like “unique low,” which is ironically fitting after discovering this final position. If you ascend the stairs you’ll be greeted by someone who might have the worst job in the universe: the second floor greeter. This person’s job is, literally, to stand at the top of the stairs and say, “Welcome to the second floor.” I feel like I don’t even need to say more on that.

—-

There it is; five of the most boring or awful jobs in the world. And they’re all completely true. So the next time you’re lamenting your internship, or having a lot of free time to crochet, or working for “The Man, MAN!” you should take a step back, breathe, and say, “At least my job isn’t welcoming people when they come up the stairs all day.”