The Interview

Her skirt was purple with bright yellow polka dots, and it was short enough that her knees flirted as she walked. It probably wasn’t job interview appropriate, but it had said good morning to her from her closet in such a hopeful way, she’d just had to wear it.

She wanted this job, but she really had no confidence that she would get it. She was not at all in touch with, or assured of, what she could do for others. She didn’t count any of her skills as valuable, in fact, didn’t count them as skills. And so, when the interviewer would ask that ridiculous question, “What can you bring to this job?” All she could think to say was, “My lunch.” But she didn’t say it, of course, and no amount of thought before hand helped her come up with the answer she thought they wanted.

So, she always hesitated, stymied by the shallow lunacy of such a question, and inventoried the responses she had rehearsed for just such a time as this. She decided not to list all the character traits and skills that would prove her to be a sterling candidate for the position because, of course, she thought every applicant before her had said the same things, and so, her saying them would not set her apart but only cause her to blend in. However, when the five second hesitation started feeling like thirty minutes, she usually blurted something like, “I’d really like to work here. I think I could do a really good job for you.” Those words would hang awkwardly in the air between them like children who have messed their lines in the school play, and the interviewer would pause for a second as that invisible curtain was lowered between them, and she knew she had been relegated to the “no potential “ side of the tally sheet. Then, there was the standing, the shaking of hands, the polite good-byes, thank you for coming in, and that they would be choosing someone in the next two weeks. No need to contact us, we’ll let you know if you have been selected. We have your contact information.

It was humiliating to stand there, both of them pretending that rejection hadn’t just taken place. She almost wished one of these human resource people would just say, “Look, you gave stupid answers to all of my questions. We can’t hire someone full of stupid answers.” It might break the cycle she was in. It might let her get angry. She might speak up and say something brilliant in her defense. At the very least, she might say the questions were stupid and deserved stupid answers. She might say, “Quit asking khaki questions and expecting neon answers. Anyone who gives an amazing, star studded answer to a doltish, ho-hum question is lying.” It might give her a chance to be a person, a real person, who exists–who has thoughts and emotions and value. At least, she could then turn on her heel and sweep out of the room instead of silently rolling out like a zero, acting like she didn’t know what had just happened.


This is my entry in the latest Trifecta Writing Challenge.


Made with real cheese for that melt-in-your-mouth flavor you can’t resist.




About paulajwray

I am a writer and I live in the Rocky Mountains of southwest Colorado with my husband and a balding black cat. I write humor, flash fiction, creative non-fiction, inspirational essays, and poetry. When I'm not writing, making lists, or forcing a family member to listen to something I've written, I'm reading, gardening, or laughing with my friends. I also, occasionally, sit and stare.
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17 Responses to The Interview

  1. Diane Turner says:

    You nailed the sense of hopelessness in this piece. Visual and lovely writing. Thanks for sharing.

  2. vivinfrance says:

    Great story, if frustrating. I ached to explain to her how it should be done!

  3. Debbie Brown says:

    As usual, love the pacing of your sentence structure. It calms me. I can go on the trip with you and know I will arrive at a satisfying destination.

  4. Misky says:

    I really enjoyed read your piece. I can certainly empathise with her! Most of these HR people are mindless robots with questions written by someone who claim to be in know. Pffft.

    • Paula J says:

      I remember an interview once where the guy asked me where did I see myself in five years. My first thought was “sunning myself on a boat at the lake.” I think I might have said it out loud. Didn’t get the job.

  5. Papparaci says:

    Great work Cheese doodles! I especially laughed out loud with your whole lunch bit! I used to be guilty of remaining quiet when I should have been bold, I think people respond to the unexpected. I usually go into a conversation with a smile and something half funny, half serious. I enjoy being the random type. It is one of my finer qualities. Good stuff.

  6. Loved – Loved the flirting knees, the khaki questions, and best off all, the thought about the lunch.

  7. Paula J says:

    Thanks. With all those inappropriate thoughts going through my head, it’s a wonder I ever say the “right” thing.

  8. lumdog says:

    Maybe I’m too optimistic, but I got the impression, from the last paragraph, that she figured out that most job interviews are a joke. I thought she was mentally rehearsing for the next interview. Anyway, she doesn’t have much to lose!

  9. Annabelle says:

    Oh, so many of those interview questions are so awkward. I like the khaki questions and neon answers thing — they really are khaki questions.

  10. jannatwrites says:

    I laughed at the lunch box line. Good one 🙂 I don’t do well on interviews either. I remember when I did a phone interview when my older son was just a few months old. The interviewer asked what I like to do for fun. I was stumped. Not much fun other than feedings and diapers. I’m shocked they never called me back.

  11. Cameron says:

    And there you’ve condensed my entire job-search down into a piece of short fiction. Sigh. Well done, though.

  12. brenda w says:

    This is great work. I was right there with her, nodding in agreement.

  13. Jester Queen says:

    Oh I just LOVE the descriptions. My favorite was the skirt “it had said good morning to her from her closet in such a hopeful way”. I love the way her creativity lies in analyzing the job search process and that it clearly has no place but SHOULD have a place in the interview room.

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