Job hunting is a competitive sport, and representing yourself accurately is not the winning strategy. Truthful responses fall far short of rehearsed ones. And it is your responsibility to know what trick questions might come up, and how to navigate them. You can flatline your chances with mere honesty.
Frankly, it is difficult to even get interviewed without combing your applications to remove any implicit signs of humanness, of age, or of gender. I’m lucky. I have a unisex name so I can at least evade the latter bias up until the moment they see me. Nonetheless, I resent the existence of a bias I need to carefully evade, not to mention the look disappointment on the interviewer’s face when first meeting me. Not only am I young and female, but my clothes aren’t beige and pocketless, I rarely wear makeup, and my clothes resemble those of a Dennis the Menace who grew up to become a garbage man. It’s not that I’m unclean but simply that I can’t afford to buy a blazer or pencil skirt to impress an executive with a big head and a small mind, nor do I think it should have any bearing on my employability.
As you can imagine, my job search ain’t yielding much love.
It’s illegal to discriminate, but I can’t exactly call the emergency services just because a man who interviewed me looked me up and down, asked, “Did you know you were coming in for a job interview?” then wiped his hand on his slacks after I shook it. Ultimately, they are not only hiring a person, they are hiring an image for their brand. I know I’m a hard worker, but I also know that comes second to my ability to portray myself as bland and pant-suited. From what I have seen, even in creative or presumably progressive companies, the person rich or powerful enough to decide what the company values is often someone who has no interest in what it is meant to serve. Some non-profit companies are run by people extremely interested in profits. Services intended to help people may be owned by those who are completely absorbed in helping only themselves. I think this is part of the reason why outdated aesthetics and work lives are still the majority – because the fat cats up the top haven’t changed very much either.
There is something particularly obsolete about this process of acquiring a job. All opportunities suddenly hinge on factors that aren’t supposed to matter anymore. The advice people give sounds reminiscent of that once offered to young women trying to catch a beau in the 1950s. Wear high heels. Don’t tell them your age. Don’t ask questions about money. Be confident, but not too confident.
Oh, my stars! They might as well hand me this nifty guide:
It feels like I can only score myself a job if I first score myself a selection of lipsticks. Or perhaps if I become well-versed in the art of lying by omission, lest I actually dare to admit that I have any flaws other than working too hard, or that their company is not necessarily better than every other, or that I am afflicted with the zest of having a personality. Although I like to express my admiration for a company if they offer particularly good services or uphold ethical values, I can’t pretend like I’ve followed their business dealings since I was a toddler. I can’t pretend that I want to make a blood oath to live and dream customer service. My pale eyelashes and sincerity seem no match for the eyeliner tricks and blood oaths that others seem to be purporting in their interviews.
Until then, I will just keep sending out applications in the hopes that somehow one of them will not get lost in this space-time glitch that seems to corrupt the job-hunting process, where suddenly people once more work in cubicles, wear nude low-denier stockings and gossip at watercoolers, and where equal opportunities are an empty promise.