Interviewing For A Job I Never Applied For

Please allow me to continue my semi-regular thread documenting the impact of my impending redundancy. Next Sunday’s blog will be a cheery story of how the whole thing came about – I wrote it a few months ago, and I now feel able to publish it, replete with its own perky post-script – but this week I want to recount a more recent anecdote. One so absurd it should never have been allowed.

My first instinct when I am having a bad day at work is to look for another job. In all the twelve years I have been doing the job I am no longer needed for it has come up every few weeks. I feel that that is normal, but unsatisfactory. I am, however, reasonably au fait with many job searching and career development websites, particularly LinkedIn, which I rate very highly indeed. Also, Indeed. Cool.

I have had virtually no experience of recruitment agencies, save for a brief and disappointing dalliance after graduation where my inability to pick up the phone and check in led to me being left out of the loop. Plus, I had no experience: who was ever going to employ a Maths graduate with no experience outside of a greasy restaurant kitchen? Now I have a lot more experience of recruitment agencies.

A good while before I was invited to plead for my continued employment I applied for a job doing Market Research for a global shipping company. I saw the job on LinkedIn, and hit apply. Then I saw that it was up twice, once with an agency. Without a second thought I applied with them both.

I was very happy that I was selected for an interview; I was less impressed with the fact that I had to meet with the representative of a recruitment agency as part of the process. I put it in to my mind that she was working for me, and that this was not a job interview; I did not appreciate having been summoned to her glittering city centre offices, however. I chose not to wear a suit, in sheer protest.

The concerns began to creep in when she couldn’t understand that two unrelated jobs on my CV were in fact unrelated. One was a tax clerk position; the other was a market research role. One was me leaving university and trying to find anything paid; the other was the career I chose to pursue.

She guided me through the process and dutifully disappeared when I failed to get the job. And that, I naively thought, was that. I would never hear from her ever again. I am such a bloody fool at times.

We were driving through idyllic French countryside when my phone rang: the recruitment consultant.

I was sitting in the gite, on holiday in the Dordogne, when an email pinged through: a follow up from the recruitment consultant. “I tried to ring you; please have a look at the attached job description.”

It was a great job, but one for which I was massively unsuited. I replied as such and thought nothing more about it. Then I was made redundant, so I emailed the recruitment consultant to tell her so.

Two weeks later the phone rings: the recruitment consultant. She tells me that a company has seen my CV and would like to have a phone interview. Would I be up for it? Of course I bloody would. She would send the job description through that day: I should read it. Can you guess which job it was?

Yes, I had told her that I was not interested, but somehow they had seen my CV. Being the focus of interest is very seductive. I put my doubts to one side; they saw something in me I’d clearly missed.

Except no. The conversation started with “so, you applied for the job with us…” I didn’t have the heart to tell him that we had both been lied to. I didn’t want to drop her in it. That looks bad.

The conversation with the research manager went well enough: he was a nice man working in a prestigious organisation. It led nowhere because my experience of doing any of the work he was recruiting for was sketchy at best. I took him through all of my experience with honesty, and the call ended politely. I did not expect to hear from him, her or them ever again. Again with the naivety.

Of course he wanted to bring me in for an interview. This was the Thursday; the interview was for the Monday, and I had to prepare a presentation. In which case it could be moved to the Tuesday.

I was not fit for the role. I feared getting the job. I had never applied for the job in the first place.

I texted the recruitment consultant to tell her that I did not want the interview, nor did I want to be considered for the role. She was offended; she was shocked; she couldn’t understand why I didn’t just do it, even if it was a waste of time. Why didn’t I just do it? Yeah, why not just do it? What was my problem? Why didn’t I just do it? It was only a 20 minute presentation to two important people.

I didn’t mention to her my paralysing fear of talking to people; she wouldn’t have understood me.

Instead, I accepted her idea of a second call with the research manager. He was quite confused; I asked him what he had seen in me that I had missed. It was a certificate on my wall: theoretical knowledge, rather than real world skills. He explained the crux of the job to me; he described a set of tasks which I recognised well. I knew that I could only perform them poorly; that they made me very uncomfortable: I felt that my inability to perform them had contributed to me being made redundant.

I explained, as honestly as I could, that such work filled me with dread. That I had no aptitude for interviewing customers or holding focus groups. That I had no desire to do a job I was scared to turn up to every day. That I had never applied for it in the first instance. He seemed to understand me.

Cue Monday morning, and my phone is ringing before I have even had my first cup of coffee. It is, of course, the recruitment consultant. I let the call die, and carry on making my breakfast; a text, then another call, then another text. Her hounding continues until I summarise the meeting in a text, in which I praise her hard work, in order to spare her feelings. I praise the company and apologise. Silence.

I very much doubt that I will hear from her again, but if I do I will be very wary of her assurances.