Do I have to?

By the end of my 4 hour, grueling interview, up against at least 10 other candidates for a administration role at a rather prestigious university, I walked up to a seemingly unperturbed, Asian bus lady starting her Marlboro light.

‘Uh, excuse me,’ I politely asked, clasping my hands in gentle prayer. ‘Could I scab one of those?’. She looked a little unsure, at least to me anyway under those massive sunglasses like as though I’m asking her for loose change.

I quickly added: ‘I just got out of a really stressful job interview.’

And she seemingly understood, with a small smile. I thanked her, asking for her lighter, and in her awkward attempt to be polite, she asks me ‘Where?’

‘Right here.’ I gestured at one of the most prestigious universities my city offers. The role itself was front line customer service, but at the same time, at a highly revered institution for tertiary education, teaching the future leaders in science, medicine and engineering. I of course didn’t tell her any of this because I could feel we were mildly world’s apart in terms of age, dress, professional industry and language.

She looks at me, almost seemingly attempting to either console me or break the ice while I was slowly and deeply pacifying myself to ease my nerves, she asks, ‘Did you have to?’

I honestly thought I misunderstood her. It was likely considering I barely slept and ate the night (Tip #1: Do sleep and eat the night before) before for this intense, 4 hour, 10 manned, group interview with 4 person panel and 2 recruitment officers facilitating the whole thing. Tip #2: if the recruiter notes in the email: ‘you aren’t competing with the other participants’, that is completely unrealistic. 

I quickly nodded at her and said ‘Yes. I had to’. I smiled at her, again spooking her by extending my hand to shake her hand, thanking her graciously for the concentrated cancer that may be inevitably prolonged in my body.

What did she mean, ‘Did you have to?’. Was she asking if I had to put myself under the stress of being professionally scrutinized and judged on my ability to handle a telephone inquiry with a clueless student? Tip #3: Be humble when you mess up on the phone, fuck what other’s think if you’re apologizing for your own ignorance on information you’re unsure of, it doesn’t mean you’re incompetent.

Or, whether my state of dress matched with their idea of professionalism; I was professional enough with a cheap, pantsuit jumpsuit with a button clasp on the nape of the neck. Tip #4: Wear an outfit with a zip that allows you effortlessly disrobe in the bathroom without dangerously contorting your body and risk pissing yourself.

Or, the way I interact socially independently and during group interactions, maybe I appeared too blase like I was having too much of a great time (Tip #5: Determine the level of professional outgoingness at group interviews so to not appear like you’re having cocktails on a Friday night with strangers.)

Or, have a quiet, anxiety attack within my own head during the whole arduous process, constantly picking self-depreciating scabs, leaving my already emotionally raw ego sore and bloody. Tip #6: Don’t do this, remind yourself you are a strong, sensual woman and this was your first time doing an intense 10 manned, group interview, with 4 person panel, and 2 recruitment officers facilitating the whole thing.

Maybe she wasn’t trying to make sense of it all, maybe she was just trying to be nice and reassure herself I wasn’t a completely crazy person on the street who was on the verge of a on and off 6 hour crying fest.

I’ll never truly find out.


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