I know I have written a post about interviews before but I want to throw this out there so you can all read and take some comfort that not all interviews go smoothly but none can go as roughly as this one did.
Interviews are nerve wracking at the best of times. But one of the first interviews I sat after graduating was awkward, lengthy and embarrassing. I think that you can’t really get as bad as this when it comes to interviews (falling short of any slap stick scenarios I might add).
So I was told about a job opening, that was technically internal in a local school/college for a teaching assistant position. I was given the interview questions but only skimmed over them having recently sat an interview for a similar position I thought I would be as natural as possible without having rehearsed answers. The job advert simply stated that they were looking for a teaching assistant to occasionally work with disabled students. I thought that this was standard and that any inexperience they may see in me would be easily corrected if they were to train me (which is a pretty standard thing to expect anyway).
So I went along to the interview in my usual smart dress code and spoke to reception who said someone would be out to get me shortly. After a length that felt like ages I was taken into a teaching room with three or four people sat around it (it was a while ago now) they were from varying positions around the school/college in HR, teaching etc. They asked me some basic HR questions and then proceeded to give me information about the post.
They showed me pictures of pupils/students in class and doing activities. However they told me that I would be working solely with disabled pupils who were of a similar age to myself who could not communicate. They told me that they could sometimes be known to click or clap as a response to something but with someone new that would only happen after they were comfortable with me. Now first up I’d like to point out that I have nothing against the disabled or the handicapped (or whatever they wish to be called) but they then went on to tell me these people could not “feed or toilet themselves”. They asked me how I felt about that role and how I’d feel having to perform those duties.
My mind was awash with phrases and taking on all this information all things that were designed to keep up the appearance that this interview was going well and I was personable and willing to learn. I nodded and said that I acknowledged I would have to go through some training but I would be willing to take on the role. But that was a lie. A total lie for sake of appearances. This was not what I had applied for. And with all due respect to those disabled people I could not see myself taking on the role of what was effectively a nurse – not a teaching assistant position!
With hind sight I can see that the moment they told me how dependent they were and the depth of the tasks I would have to do (which, by the way, I think are incredibly difficult and full credit to people who do those things!) I should have said something. I should have, without fear said “I’m sorry I don’t think this is the role I applied for”.
I wish I had had the guts to do that because to this day I wonder whether I was taken to the wrong interview for the wrong role. Or maybe, if I was in the right place for the right role they could have heard my feedback about the advert I had seen (which had not gone into this much detail). Their recruitment strategy was either wrong or I was in the wrong place. Afterwards they sent me a letter which contained a rejection – which I was relieved but not surprised to get. I wish someone had called me from there so I could explain to them what I thought had gone wrong. But alas they gave me no such chance and no feedback. To top it all, towards the end of the interview they asked me whether there was anything preventing me from accepting the role immediately, should I be accepted. I said NO! WHY? WHY DID I SAY NO? Inside I was screaming – “YES! YES THERE IS! I feel like you lied in your job advert or at least didn’t accurately advertise the post or I’ve been sat in the wrong room for nearly 2 hours!”
Usually this would be the part where I try to summarise some of the main lessons I learned from this into a nice list for you. But I just generally want people to know that you can say “Hold up, this isn’t what I thought it would be”
I regret not taking that chance and saying that because I sat in that interview room for an hour and a half being grilled, feeling stupid and feeling as though I had somehow generally insulted or let down huge group of disabled people. A little bit of me wanted to cry. But I didn’t. My inexperience with interviews was what led to that down fall – don’t be a twonk and do the same as me! Be honest, speak up and by golly don’t take a job for the sake of it! (more on that another time maybe)…