From The Idler magazine and Clerkenwell Literary Festival, to The Idler Academy in Notting Hill: the coffeehouse and bookshop opened by Tom Hodgkinson and Victoria Hull in 2011 is a magnet for creative entrepreneurs who want to turn dreams into reality. It is a wonderful place to enjoy a snack and a browse in convivial surroundings, learn how to play the ukulele, or master business for bohemians. Their special events and book launches where you can meet fellow idlers constructively idling are well worth the effort. James Reed’s Why You? 101 Interview Questions was launched there yesterday evening.
How to . . . eat, work, love, play, give birth, get real, get spiritual, get a guru, die . . . the plethora of How to books on the market is dizzying. Within the genre is a subset which addresses the question, “Why didn’t I get the job?” This is something with which I am less familiar, maverick bookblaster that I am, now out of the corporate game. The other idlers at the launch did not come across as being obvious buyers for the book other than for their children, perhaps, who hope to get work in a cold economic climate.
Reed opened his brisk and entertaining presentation with a “rude Twitter joke” about interviewing: interviewee is asked the classic question, “What is your greatest weakness?” Answer: “Honesty.” The interviewer looks puzzled and disagrees. To which the interviewee answers, “I don’t give a fuck what you think!”
He said it was a fun book to put together and the result of crowd sourcing, since thousands of interviewers and interviewees were surveyed. The book includes the most frequently asked questions at interview and is one hundred per cent relevant to NOW.
Divided into sections, Why You? 101 Interview Questions covers the essential top 15 questions, followed by those covering goal, character, competency, leftfield and creativity. The question is laid out followed by what is really being asked, the tactic to adopt, and a ‘how to’ deal with it paragraph. Here is a sample – perfect for idlers!
“29. Talk me through (the gaps in) your CV/work history.
“The Real Question: Did you stay at home watching TV for six months? Were you in jail? Is there something wrong with your mindset?
“Top-line Tactic: The best defence is offence – use your time productively when you’re out of work. If you have a gap, be prepared to explain it.
“The studies on how employers view the long-term unemployed make for grisly reading. One recent bit of research, out of Northeastern University in the USA using fictitious CVs, found managers would rather hire someone with no relevant experience than someone who has been out of work for longer than six months. This is only one study among many that reached the same conclusion.
“Given the recent economic troubles, it is hugely unjust that some firms see people who have been long-term unemployed as potentially lazy, embittered or out of date, but some do. It’s not fair, but there it is. So when an interviewer is probing long gaps in your work history, they’re really trying to find out whether you’ve a flaw in your work ethic, or your mindset.
“The only way to counter these worries is to prepare for the question. If you have a gap, it will come up. Many people have perfectly acceptable reasons for gaps in their employment record such as:
• Taking time out to raise children.
• Caring for an ill family member.
• A medical issue or accident.
• Education of further training.
“If any of these apply to you . . .” buy the book to read on!
Whether interviewing, or being interviewed, the book’s key message is: be prepared, be yourself and be aware. Appropriate for much of life in general. As is the underlying psychology of being interviewed. What will the follow up be − Why You? 101 Media Interview Questions for Movers & Shakers, perhaps?
“It’s a life changing read” Reed said. As he’s The Boss of one of the UK’s leading recruitment agencies, no doubt he knows what he is talking about.
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