Scrubbing up for that big interview

Matthew Reeves dishes out the advice on how to polish up for that all important interview

It's an amazing day when you get that call asking for an interview for that dream job, not least after you've spent days poring over, tinkering, tweaking and tarting up that application form. The one with the personal statement full of lies and semi-truths. That is, until you screw up the interview and you've made yourself look like an absolute berk for no reason.

My latest interview failure was for the earth-shatteringly dreamy job of being a dishwasher in a restaurant - the human variety, not the front loading type. I feel I should explain: I've recently completed an internship with a very reputable firm, but as a gentleman with the cash management skills of a French investment banker, I've found myself with a bank balance that is redder than an embarrassed alcoholic's cheeks. I've got liquidity issues too.

So here I was, facing a lovely young chap, oozing smarm. "At our restaurant", he managed to squeeze out through a tight smile, "we have a passion for exceptional customer service. Are you passionate about customer service?". He'd missed a huge clue - I hadn't been passionate enough to actually apply for a job where there was any possibility of me interacting with customers.

"Passionate, I am passion! When I was sixteen, Hospitality & Catering magazine was like FHM to me. I used to sneak down to Woolworths to buy it."

"Very interesting...tell me about when you first realised you wanted to be a dishwasher?"

"My fasciation with dishwashing started when I was a child. I was lucky that I was brought up in a house surrounded by crockery. My gran had plates on the wall, and for as long as I can remember, I've always eaten off plates. It seemed like every day I would be using cutlery. I didn't really think much about it - it just came naturally to me. I guess that when I got to my mid-teens, my interest really started to take hold. I just loved plates! Anyway, as my infatuation progressed, I started to wonder just how on earth they got clean. So I taught myself. Off my own back, I bought myself some Fairy Liquid and just started cleaning them. Usually just one or two plates at a time, a couple of forks. I've been doing that for a few years, and now I think I'm ready to make the leap to professional dishwashing. For a while now, I've been yearning to work with the best wall-mounted hot steam dishwasher, and this is the place to realise those dreams."

"You don't seem to have any experience". There it was, a very astute observation. This is what really angers me about the menial job market: the notion that you can only possibly manage whatever tedious task is at hand if someone else has paid you for it before. But being paid to do something is not a clear guarantee of quality. And there are plenty of things I do well every day which nobody has paid me to do. Putting on socks for instance - I'm brilliant at that. I hardly ever fall over now. Washing up is another - how wrong could it go? After years of quite successful efforts, am I really going to start putting plates through the freezer to clean them?

This kind of mindless CV-based character assessment is so wholly unreliable - and not solely for menial chimp work, but for real jobs too. Important ones with consequences. Is it really the people who are going to go all weak at the knees over a big account or an athletic derivative who are the most desirable? Certainly not. In fact, they should probably be sectioned. If I were a graduate interviewer, I would applaud the person who sits down and honestly says: "Look, I don't like the idea of this job. Just the thought of it brings me out in cold sweats and makes me cry, but I need the money, and it does seem to pay very well. What's more, I'll work really bloody fast, get my work done so I can drive back to my five bedroom, non-mortgaged home in my company car, and drink some decent wine in front of a massive TV." That person would walk straight into the job, and I'd double their salary. Think how efficient a company would be if the whole world operated like that. They'd deserve a massive bonus to blow on whatever they wanted. Personally I'd dine out every night: who cares if your working life is bleak and joyless - at least the plates would be gleaming.