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Week 13: 22-28 February 2010

There are several ways to tell when a job interview isn’t going well, and in the course of the last few years I think I’ve experienced most of them.

So, for instance, when you find yourself gazing into the eyes of one of the panel from underneath, having tripped on a concealed step on the way into the interview room, staggered across the room like Frankenstein’s monster, lost your balance and swallow-dived into their lap (Leicestershire Record Office).

Or when a member of the panel says, in response to your answer to one of their questions, “Oh! Oh dear! Oh dear!” And stops the interview while they make a laborious note on their assessment form (Guildhall Library, London).

Or when you discover that their laptop is running an older version of PowerPoint so your carefully constructed presentation can’t run, and you hear yourself suggesting that you do it with sock puppets instead, a la Sesame Street or Sooty and Sweep, and proceed to demonstrate how it might work (“What’s that you say, Mr Talking Fist? You think we should start with an information survey leading to business process analysis…?”) (Liverpool Council).

The latest – though by no means so extreme as these examples – came on Thursday, when I went for a job interview in the south of England, and the head of department leaned over the desk and said, “To be honest, what really worries me about you’re saying is…” Which is nature’s way of telling you you’re not on their wavelength. Ah, well – I’d have liked the job, but I also know there’s more fun to be had in the future I’m going to experience now. (Maybe also in retrospect I shouldn’t have proposed, when they explained that the layout of the building was basically triangular, that for the next family history fair they could cover it in green tinfoil and invite people to guess which Quality Street sweet it was supposed to be.)

Modest progress this week, what with interview preparation and then travelling down to the south coast to be put to the question, as the Inquisition used to quaintly describe their charming techniques for getting at the, ahem, truth. But hopefully you can see the yoke pattern in a bit more detail this time (with apologies again for the poor photography). I’m trying to get my head around knitting back-and-forth, which in a pattern of this complexity, as I’ve said before, is a bit like trimming your beard in the mirror. Blood all over the place. (Not that all my readers have that problem, of course.)

You may be wondering how the cat’s been behaving after my complaints last week. Well, after I got up at 4am to get a flight to take me to the interview on Thursday, she got her revenge for being left on her own all day by being sick 4 times the next night – at approximately 2.75 hourly intervals – causing my route to the bathroom the next morning to resemble nothing so much as a game of hopscotch. Anyway, here’s a picture of her in regal mode, in her default nocturnal position: standing on my chest and sneering down at me in a “your ass is mine, puny human” sort of way.

Speaking of job interviews, none of the ones I’ve undergone are quite as bad as the case I witnessed as part of the interview panel one time many years ago. The county archivist studied the candidate’s application form closely before asking, “Would you say you were the sort of person who paid close attention to detail?” The candidate looked as sincere as possible and said, yes, he rather thought he was. Only to be crushed utterly by the county archivist’s follow-up question, “Then can you explain how you came to make an elementary spelling mistake on page 3 of your application form?”

He did not get the job. In fact, he may never have worked again, and I picture him in later life expiating out his sin in a remote Indonesian island, like Conrad’s Lord Jim, forever trying to regain his honour and live down his shame.

13 comments to Week 13: 22-28 February 2010

  • =Tamar

    It is axiomatic that nobody can proofread their own work perfectly. Even I can’t do it, and typos seem to jump out at me in other people’s work.

  • Gordon

    Hi Tamar,

    it’s weird, isn’t it? Something to do with the brain reading the word and not the letters – we recognise shapes and patterns. In my case, once I’ve written something, I know what it’s trying to say and so that’s what my brain supplies. Only when I look at a draft after a week or two do I look at it with fresh eyes – at which point I’m usually horrified at how ghastly it is!

    Gordon

  • Nigel

    I wonder of the archivist had ever seen this?

    I cdnuolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht I was rdanieg. The phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid, aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it dseno’t mtaetr in waht oerdr the ltteres in a wrod are, the olny iproamtnt tihng is taht the frsit and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae.
    The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it whotuit a pboerlm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Azanmig huh? yaeh and I awlyas tghuhot slpeling was ipmorantt … ‘

  • Hi Nigel,

    I bet the archivist if he had seen it would have immediately whipped out his pen and started correcting it. Like a Welsh teacher did once with the letter (in beginner’s Welsh) I’d received about a Welsh adult education class I was attending…

    Gordon

  • Hi folks, desperately sad news today. Our cat had a stroke last night and after a whirlwind taxi ride at 2am to the emergency vet’s, there was nothing they could do and she had to be put down. Feel like I’ve been kicked in the stomach today, and the flat seems awfully empty, but she had a good life standing on my chest demanding food and attention (a technique I tried on my father for a while as a lad without success) and 20 years is a very good innings. Pets, eh?

    Gordon

  • Suzanne

    Oh, Gordon,
    I am so sorry to hear of your poor cat’s sudden death. Somehow the Stockholm syndrome relationship that one develops with an older cat, catering to their odd whims and cleaning up all the little messes, makes the loss all the more devastating. Most unfortunate that this happened while Margaret was away. The flat must indeed feel very empty.

  • Gordon

    Hi Suzanne,

    Thank you. There’s a lethal song by Bruce Springsteen, written about the 9/11 attacks, in which the narrator, a wife, lists all the everyday activities that are carrying on as normal, except her husband isn’t a part of them any more. It has the line, “Everything’s everything, but you’re missing.” (I always knew pop music would do for me in the end.)

    Mind you, a part of her will still be around – there’s plenty of her fur has found its way into the stitches of this gansey, as she kept forcing her way onto my lap underneath the knitting, like Moby Dick breaching under a whalers’ rowboat!

    Gordon

  • Lynne

    My sympathy in the loss of your cat. They certainly leave ‘footprints on your heart’, and I’ve had the experience of that devastating loss.
    The gansey is looking wonderful and I’m getting inspired again just following your progress.

  • Gordon

    Hi Lynne,

    Well, we can’t complain after 20 years – even the vet was astonished when I told her how old the cat was, and assumed I was so upset I wasn’t counting straight! But it’s going to take a fair bit of adjusting.

    Thanks for the nice comments. The Hebridean patterns of Mrs Cath McMillan (illustrated in Michael Pearson’s book) have always seemed the most intricate ganseys I’ve seen, and the sheer profusion of different patterns build up to something pretty wild, don’t they? (In fact, the Western Isles are looking for an archivist for 3 years to establish a Hebridean archive…)

    Gordon

  • Lynne

    My U.K. geography isn’t great, so I’ll have to do a map search of just which Isles are the Western Isles, but it sounds like an interesting place to be and challenging work.
    I have just purchased, from Amazon, the Michael Pearson book (used, for $30 U.S.)and will start thinking seriously about another gansey. I love the way the white is working up, but will have to ponder further on that color as I don’t usually wear white in the winter. I have the other three popular gansey books and still love reading the history.

  • Gordon

    Hi Lynne,

    The Western isles are at the top left – that tells you all you need to know about my geography skills! I’m not sure about the job – it’s only for 3 years, and it would take me a very long way from my family – though it’s my kind of thing, no question. But I think I want to find somewhere we can settle and stay after 5 jobs in 9 years, not something that means we’ll have to up sticks and move again.

    $30 for the Pearson book sounds like good value. My copy is getting so thumbed I toy with buying a “library” copy for Sunday best! As a non-knitter, his is still the book I enjoy browsing for inspiration most, though I wish it was all about ganseys and had more pictures and patterns, instead of wasting all those pages on Arans and Fair Isles!

    White is good for going out on dark winter evenings too…

    Gordon

  • Lynne

    lol ! White – going out on dark (snowy) winter evenings ? This is Canada, that’s when the coyotes and cougars are out! (and I don’t mean ‘cougars’ in the modern sense, although they would be out, too, I guess). Yes, I’ve got some decisions to make in order for Sue to bring Frangipani over the pond in September.

  • Gordon

    …Over a chain mail vest, perhaps …?

    Gordon