My friends are all decidedly unimpressed, saying it’s dangerously close to the universally hated world of advertising, but I tell them that the company is ethically minded and works with clients who produce mail-outs for charities. I have no idea if this is true or not.
I walk into the overly-chromed reception, which is staffed by people who seem uncomfortable dealing with anyone who isn’t good looking enough to at least be considered for catalogue work. The girl I talk to is visibly panic-stricken at my physical appearance. “Just…take a seat…” she stammers.
I feel very out of place and a palpable sense of tension fills the reception area, but then I deal favourably with their knowingly cosmopolitan choice of coffees, and I tell myself that through this, they at least recognise that I understand their world. My confident coffee choice noticeably calms everybody.
I’m called in and the interview begins. The woman interviewing me is even better looking than the receptionists. Instead of asking me anything, though, she starts telling me that she’d been an air stewardess on Concorde in the 1980s. She talks about this for quite a long time. I start to wonder when we’re going to get to me.
Eventually we do, though it’s mostly her telling me that I don’t really have the right skills for copywriting. I try to argue that thinking of English words to express an idea was something I could probably make an attempt at given a chance, but she doesn’t seem to believe me.
She then starts to probe me about working as a freelance travel writer, something I have some very limited experience of and is listed on my CV. She tells me it was something she was “thinking of doing”. This is an unexpected twist. Not only does she want to deny me a job, she seems to want to take away the remedial employment opportunities that I have as well.
Now I’m thinking that this woman has put me on the interview list just so that she can ask me about ways to break into travel journalism. This is the opposite of what is supposed to be happening. It’s like she’s stealing a life coaching session or career advice. I have so little career advice to give, and here she is, siphoning the tiny pool off me against my will with her corporate straw.
I can’t very well say I don’t know anything about it because it’s right there on my CV as work experience, but on principle, I really don’t want to give any information to her that might be in any way helpful. But then maybe I actually AM on the shortlist for the job and if I’m helpful, I’ll get to work here among the exotic coffees and models.
Realising it’s an unwinnable situation, I default to an M.O. that I’m comfortable with: vague cluelessness, and I mumble something about there being “limited entry portals”. I note to myself that this is probably the first time I’ve ever used the word ‘portal’ in conversation and that she knows nothing about my skills as a copywriter. She looks a bit deflated and dismisses me. I kind of want to reassure her and tell her not to worry as I’m not being successful at that either, but she doesn’t even lie and say they’ll let me know, so I keep quiet. She can discover my professional limitations on her own time if she’s so inclined, I think.
On the way out, a job having seemingly never even been on the table, I also remind myself that the company doesn’t really produce charity mail outs and that it is basically the unethical, hateful advertising industry and that I am a better person for not working there. Well, probably.