toxic jobs

Personal stories about toxic jobs and workplace woes.

June 02, 2012

cracking the final job interview

Michelle is newly graduated and married and is very nearly newly employed, too. She has passed the preliminary interview for stacks of jobs with flying colors, but she has yet to crack the final interview and get the job she wants.

"I have the luxury of my husband’s income to support me while I find my dream job," says Michelle, "so I'm not so desperate for money that I'd accept any old job."

Jobs that hire immediately after preliminary interviews are not the type of job Michelle wants. She is going after a top job and in that type of job a second interview may not even be the final interview.

"For one job," says Michelle, "I actually made it to the third round of interviews before getting disqualified, but in most cases second interviews are usually the final interviews."

"Before I got married I never volunteered my marital status," says Michelle, "but the final interview is where I was always asked subtle questions to determine my marital status, family responsibilities and sexual proclivities."

Despite huge changes in the fabric of society, the family structure is still considered to be its basis.

Ironically, the modern workplace breaks up more families than it brings together yet employers still prefer to employ a family-minded person.

Michelle has discovered that being married is definitely in her favor. She’s getting a lot more second round interviews since her marriage than she ever got before. However, she finds that employers are more interested in married women with children at school.

"Married women with a couple of school-aged children," says Michelle, "are the ideal applicants at the final interview for top jobs. They always seem to be given preference over a married woman, like me, without children. However, a married woman without children will be given preference over a single woman. It is thought that marriage confers stability and commitment - the two attributes that employers prize - and this is really ironic, because workplaces these days are anything but stable and committed to employees!"

"Unfortunately," says Michelle, "if you are divorced you may not be favorably treated - especially if you have children. You will be considered a risk."

Also, Michelle points out that if you are single then subtle questions will be asked to determine whether you have a partner; whether your partner is of the opposite sex; and whether you are co-habiting.

"Nobody is going to come right out and ask you: 'Are you gay?' or 'Are you living in sin?' but that is the sort of thing some employers want to know," says Michelle. "Yes, I know, we’re supposed to be living in the 21st Century - and there are laws to protect our privacy and rights - but many employers toe the moral line."

Michelle thinks that being quite frank about who you are and what you believe in may be a factor in your favor. Not all companies practice subtle discrimination.

She has found, though, that marital status and sexuality is definitely a factor in the final selection process.

"If you are starting to gain the impression that the final interview is more about morals than anything else then you are absolutely right," says Michelle. "If the company has not done so already, then it will definitely run a security check on you before making a decision to employ you, so there is no point in trying to hide some minor - or even major - infringement of the law in your past."

The questions, once again, are going to be very subtle. Michelle circumvents them all by saying outright that she has an unblemished record.

"Traffic fines are not going to penalize you too much," says Michelle. "And believe it or not, neither are minor assault or drunk and disorderly type charges. What the company really cares about is your probity. Property theft; embezzlement; forgery, computer hacking - that sort of thing. This is especially the case in finance and banking type positions, but it goes across the board that companies want to hire honest people."

"If you are a smoker and you have made it to the final interview without detection then you might find that this is the end of the line for you," laughs Michelle. "My husband smokes and I'm tolerant of the habit, but I know that most companies have a covert if not overt policy against employing smokers. If you slip through the 'smoke detection' police and get hired for a job with such a company, you're likely to be given such a hard time that you end up quitting."

"If they don’t ask you outright whether or not you smoke," says Michelle, "then it could be something as subtle as finding an excuse for you to open your handbag in the hope that you will reveal the telltale cigarette packet."

"Presuming you are not a smoker then the next hurdle is drugs and alcohol," laughs Michelle. "Subtle questions will also be asked to determine your moral fiber, but unlike smoking, companies are reasonably tolerant of minor drug and alcohol addiction. However, if you had a habit of coming to work stoned or hung-over in your past employment they will know about it. It may not be stated on your written references, but employers have networks that pass on such information."

Strangely enough, though, Michelle was actually asked at one of her second interviews whether she enjoyed 'liquid lunches'.

"I replied, quite truthfully, that I did not," laughs Michelle, "and I suppose this went against me because I didn't get the job. It would have been a very bad fit had I been offered the job, so I'm glad that I wasn’t. I don’t want to work with a bunch of boozers!"

Michelle believes that it's important to be yourself at interviews, and not to overstate or underestimate your ambitions.

"It doesn't pay to be too ambitious when applying for a top job," says Michelle. "The preliminary interview covers the basics of your ultimate ambitions but at the final interview you will either face a formal panel of superiors or an informal gathering of them, and they will want to know whether you are going to fit in with the management team or be a threat."

"The young girl who walks into her first job interview and says: 'I want to own this company one day' is going to be seen as cute and will be hired on the spot," laughs Michelle. "For someone like me, nearly 27 with a post-graduate education, saying something along those lines is going to be seen either as a threat to those next up the ladder, or too arrogant for words."

There is a fine line between being too ambitious and too subservient, and Michelle is doing her best to find it.

"I feel that this is the area in which I'm being marked down," confides Michelle. "It’s always tricky knowing exactly what level of ambition they want in their employees. Of course, I’d love to own the company one day, and probably will, but I'm not going to play all my cards at once!"

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