Cumbria Times
A Voice of the North
Sonia Price
Features Writer
4:15 AM 28th August 2021

Interviews With The Vampires

Interviews are always joyous occasions aren’t they? We gen up and scrub up and put our best foot forward. Unless we are very privileged or unusually sorted, most folk approaching middle-age can regale us with at least one lousy interview.

Photo by Tim Gouw on Unsplash
Photo by Tim Gouw on Unsplash
Of course we only put ourselves through them because we have to. A bit like enduring a date with someone we could never fancy but still have to put on a good face .

I am old enough to have put myself through a number of excruciating interviews - but no longer.

If you want to interview me you can come around to my place if you want to talk rubbish to yourself about your low-wage ‘opportunity’. I’ll be in the kitchen dancing to Thin Lizzy, while you psychographically appraise me. Don’t ask me to talk - I’m thirty quid an hour - OK twenty nine pounds fifty (six hundred in my own head) and you can’t afford me. I really am too old for that lark! Everyone is and it’s time we treated one another with more dignity.

Being interviewed for a job ought to be a two-way affair in a civilized society - which I still think Britain is. Somehow this lofty concept got eroded along with the management of Britain’s economy after the 2008 crash. It was around this time when it seemed to became a case of: ‘Don’t ask, it’s the basic wage.’ That means minimum wage, but that’s an awful thing to say out loud to anyone. Why don’t they just say: “ We are paying as little as we can legally get away”.

Image by hudhummy from Pixabay
Image by hudhummy from Pixabay
Sadly many of us have become inured to it. Sentiments such as: “There’s more to life than money” are usually promoted by people who are quite keen on acquiring the stuff. The truth is low incomes reduce life-expectancy so we should more accurately say: “There’s less to life when we don’t have enough money” Long-term unemployment is a known killer. I know this because Brad Pitt told me in the excellent film about the collapse of Lehman Brothers “The Big Short”. If you want the exact statistic watch the film. It’s a shocker.

Of course societies have always mangled the language to make it more palatable for the foot-soldiers. As Frederick Bastiat said: “When plunder becomes a way of life for a group of men in a society, over the course of time they create for themselves a legal system that authorizes it and a moral code that glorifies it.”

On a lighter note for the weekend, let me tell you about two of my most memorable interviews. One awful, the other wonderful.

The first was with a woman who managed a very pretentious national magazine. When I worked in publishing in London I recognised that the wages were invariably in inverse proportion to the opulence of the offices. This daft person asked me to role-play selling her a theatre ticket to a West End show. I wouldn’t have minded but I only wanted a job selling media space, I wasn’t auditioning to be Andrew Lloyd Webber’s P.A. Furthermore I had never seen a West End show in my life and was unlikely to on the money this magazine was offering. I asked her what the salary was to assess if it was worth the humiliation. She looked at me like I was insane. Believe me this could not be compared to that Tom Cruise moment in the film The Firm where the top brass at law firm Bendini Lambert and Locke challenge Mitch to guess his salary package. It was just that the wage was unutterable.

My other memorable interview was a happy and funny one in a sunny place, during a bull economy on the other side of the world. It was with sane people who recognise that people are healthier, happier and more productive when they are fairly rewarded. More on that in a bit.

Photo by Amy Hirschi on Unsplash
Photo by Amy Hirschi on Unsplash
The asymmetry of the interview scenario is a travesty or a hoot (depending on your humour and patience for this guff). Whilst I’m at it we would do well to do away with the word ‘interview’ in the context of assessing people for a job. In my humble opinion it is one-sided and sounds too much like interrogation. I can’t come up with a replacement word just now but I will give it some thought at some point. For me this word has definitely out-lived its utility for these changing times. Whilst I am on this theme, how is it that ‘respectable’ companies offering someone a job can ask them to state their last salary on an application form? How on earth is this a negotiating position? Oh, I see, it isn’t is it? Silly me.

Civilization and human dignity would move forward a pace if this question was universally deemed uncouth - which it is. In any circumstance and in any language. And this extends to you Miss Recruitment Consultant of the Century - that’s 19th Century. Do the decent thing and get the tip-ex out and get that box off your miserable application forms.

Why is it beyond the wit of the average middle-manager to assess the candidate sitting before them and state what they are prepared to pay for their experience and talents ? This way wealth would circulate more fairly and people would have more money to spend. Is that too unwieldy a concept? Perhaps it is a step too far and would lead to a recession. Hmmmm.

Image by Oli Lynch from Pixabay
Image by Oli Lynch from Pixabay
By far and away my favourite interview was with Annie, an excellent publishing manager for Bride-to-Be Magazine in Sydney. After a congenial talk (not interview), which lasted no more than half an hour, about whether I could be counted on to meet their advertising targets. I survived and even enjoyed this good humoured and equitable exchange between two competent adults, about a job. Happily we got through the process without any mention of KPIs, PMTs or KFCs. I think money was mentioned at some point too without any awkwardness. It was a world apart from my London experience. I am sorry to say that I know some adults living in England who have several degrees and have held professional jobs, yet who are shy about asking what an employer is offering in exchange for their labour.

I loved my job in Sydney and the people I worked with. Especially Annie who is a very generously endowed, beautiful lady with a killer sense of humour. She clearly warmed to the idea of having a fellow pommy on her team and assured me that she had confidence that I could do the job before landing an unsporting question on me. Dead-pan she assured me that I had performed well but she had one final important question before she could offer me the job. Cheeky Annie asked me: “Do you think I am thin?” Of course my answer was an unflinching “Yes.” Annie winked and said with a grin “You’re hired.”