Sunday, March 11, 2007

Interview hell

I've had a few interviews recently. Well, no one is prepared to call them interviews: they're just quick chats; a get-together over a coffee; an informal introduction. If you're not offered a job, then you can't be disappointed because it's never made clear whether there was any job to be offered. You're just left asking yourself - 'was that an interview?'

When Sara was looking around for jobs, she'd come back from interviews and say "I thought it went really well - like we agreed about a lot of things", but I've never had an interview like that: it's always excruciating. I leave the interviewer to do a lot of the digging and I'm pitiful when it comes to selling my CV. It's not that I have low self-esteem. In fact, quite the opposite - I have a very-high opinion of myself. It's just that, in front of strangers, I'm incapable of talking in glowing terms about why I'm so wonderful. At the back of my mind is a voice shouting 'come off it, big-head'.

On Wednesday, I had my worst interview to date. I'm never too hot on introductions - I speak too fast and never know what to do with my non-shaking hand, but in this instance I also managed to criticise the interviewer's choice of school for his child. We were chatting (the awkward bit after shaking hands, but before sitting down) and it just came out. He asked - 'I hear you have a son - have you got him settled into a school yet?' I replied, rambling, that we'd been applying to schools, and there were basically three that were any good, and hopefully we'd got into the one that was within easy driving distance of the compound. Inevitably, his child's school was not among the three. I dug myself deeper - 'well, not to worry' I said.

It went from bad to worse. The first interviewer was American, but his Aussie boss arrived after about 10 minutes and asked me about what I could do. "Well - I'm basically a coder. I'm not bad at Perl, but I can get by in most languages. Most of my work has been on Unix, but I hear that there's no jobs for Unix coders in Doha, so I'll do anything really." He gave me a look that said 'no way, mate' and then asked "when you say you're a 'coder', do you mean that you're a computer programmer". He then did a mental calculation of how long he'd have to talk to me before leaving. I got another 15 minutes, during which time I told him that I hadn't done any real work in three years, and didn't have any salary expectations. At one point I said "really, most of my skills are outdated, and it's difficult to match my CV with any current job". The most embarrassing part was that we both knew how awful it was, and I'm sure he was trying to avoid laughing until I'd left the room.

When I met up with Sara afterwards, she asked how it went. 'Not too bad,' I said. The horror was still sinking in.