October 9, 2001
Audition Value


It's easy to interview for a job you don't really want.

It's like test-driving a car you have no intention of purchasing, or flirting with someone you have no intention of dating. Without fear of rejection holding you back -- after all, how can you be 'rejected' by someone or something you didn't want in the first place? -- you're free to relax, and to enjoy the experience, and to be your most direct, natural, charming self.

And best of all? You're free to be painfully honest.

"How would you rate your Excel skills?" asked the interviewer yesterday morning.

"Excel is the weak spot in my résumé," I promptly replied. "I haven't used it in two or three years, and even then I was self-taught so I never really figured out some of the more complicated functions." And I smiled pleasantly at the faces sitting across the table from me.

They looked back at me, expressionless and unblinking. The office manager scribbled something on his notepad.

*Please Hire Me Or I Will Cry* Secra, of course, would never in a bazillion years have dreamed of answering a question like that so frankly. She would have responded with something purposely vague, like "One of my goals in the short-term is to update my Excel skills" ... or something borderline deceptive, like "My Excel skills are as current as my QuestView-XPL 2002 skills." But *No Fear of Rejection* Secra, who views this interview as a rehearsal for the real thing  ... who appreciates the audition value of the situation, but who has no intention of taking the job, even if offered to her  ...  doesn't feel the need to make herself sound more knowledgeable or experienced or fabulous than she really is.

Nor does she feel the need to bullshit.

  • What office tasks do you dislike most? Filing. I'm good at it, I've got a lot of experience doing it, I understand the need for it.  But I don't enjoy it.

  • You've looked at our corporate website. What did you think of it? The link to your FAQ page is broken.

  • What three things would you bring to this position that other candidates couldn't? I'm not sure that there IS anything unique, skillwise, that I could bring to the job.  But I do believe that an individual brings his or her own unique energy and vision to the workplace. My energy and vision would be different from that of any of your other candidates. Not better, but different. (Well ... OK. Maybe she'll bullshit just a LITTLE.)

At the end of the interview I shook hands all around. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I appreciate your time. I look forward to hearing from you soon. Have a good day.

And then I got on the elevator and thought Thank god I'm never going to set foot in THAT place again.

So why go through all of this effort and pretense, you ask, if I'm not really interested in the job in the first place? If I got an immediate sense that my skills were not a match to the position? If the vibe in that particular office seems creepy and tense? If it looks like I'd be doing three times as much work for about a third less money than I was making at The Totem Pole Company? Because I feel that the only way to get good at something is to practice, practice, practice. This goes for journal-writing, marriage, bike-riding, bruschetta-making ...

... and interviewing.

Occasionally this strategy backfires, of course. Somebody else buys that car you were test-driving, and you realize too late that this was something you really wanted. Or else you flirt too well, and the next thing you know you've been married for sixteen years.

Or else you come home from your Monday evening bike ride and the little red light on your answering machine is blink-blink-blinking like crazy ... and you already know what the message is going to be before you even listen to it.

throw a rock