Friday, October 1, 2010

An (unsuccessful) Interview

Even if you have earned a Masters of Arts in Teaching and (as my Grandma B points out) you have some experience, which is wonderful, moving as the school year begins isn't fortuitous for finding a teaching job. As of yet, I'm still unemployed and half-heartedly searching. It's a half-hearted effort because my Praxis score won't be available until 10/19, so I can't get certified to teach quite yet, so I'm not actually very employable. In light of that, I took my mom's advice to look up the closest Ann Taylor store. I happen to love Ann Taylor's clothes -- well made, versatile, and a perfect staple for a teacher wardrobe. Lo and behold, I found one about 20 minutes away, and they were actually hiring!

I drove over about 2 weeks ago and discovered that it is located in one of those new-fangled shopping areas, designed like a small town and with limited (parallel) parking spots which are all metered. Not only can you shop there, you can live there (gasp!) so you can shop whenever you want.

Not exactly my cup of tea, but a job is a job. And the associate's discount is 50%. So I was pretty psyched.

I filled out an application and completed an online survey to determine my "hirability" (their words), and soon after got a call from a manager to come in for an interview. Sweet, I thought. I'll wear some nice (AT) dress pants and the job will be mine.

On the day of the interview, I arrived about 10 minutes early and then flubbed parallel parking. I think I need to go practice with my Dad again. Then I only had one quarter, which only bought me 15 minutes, but I figured it'd be a pretty quick interview. After all, it's a job in retail. It is not rocket science. The customer is always right. That's the main rule, correct?

The first part of the interview was filled with typical interview questions. Tell me a little bit about yourself, tell me about a time when (insert scenario). All of the questions were relatively easy to answer. Although I wasn't thrilled about committing to work the day after Thanksgiving or the week of Christmas, I was cognizant of my need for a paycheck and the perk of filling out my wardrobe.

And then the interview took a turn for the worse.

Interviewer: Imagine a valley-girl, cheerleader*, ditzy voice. "And to work in retail, you have to be a fashionista. So, now I'm going to ask you some questions about your style."

Me: Seriously? Fashionista is a made-up, pop-culture word, you dummy. Okay! Great!

Interviewer: In two words, describe your style for me.

Me: Shoot! I'm not trendy, for sure, and I really only wear comfortable things. Ok, comfortable is a decent word. Comfortable, like, I don't like to wear heels and um..... Oh no, what else can I say? Should I say modern? But that's kind of a lie. What other words describe style? Ugh. Outdoorsy? No no, that's not a good word for AT. How about like organic or natural? Natural! Noticing the woman's strange look, I attempt to explain. Like I like organic fibers and not a lot of synthetics. Sort of. Whatever. That was so the wrong answer.

Interviewer: Slowly says, Alright. Now, where do you find your fashion inspiration?

Me: Inspiration? Oh no. Well the Internet, of course.

Interviewer: Like where on the internet?

Me: You know, websites. And also magazines.

Interviewer: Which ones?

Me: I used to flip through People. Only at Grams and only because it was on the table, but she doesn't need to know that.

Interviewer: Okay. What is your favorite cosmetic product?

Me: Oh gosh, I don't know! I don't really use that much makeup and I just buy whatever happens to catch my eye and use it until it runs out! The only really branded thing I have is... My Clinique moisturizer. It's just so great, lamely attempting to give my answer some merit.

Interviewer: What is one style that you've wanted to try but just haven't had the guts to?

Me: What style? Seriously? I don't know! What IS in style? Anything, Hilary, think of anything that is in style. You haven't tried any of it. Like a flow-y dress with a wide belt around the waist. I think it looks really great on other people but I don't know how it'd look on me. Oh, that answer at least got some recognition. Yes. Maybe I'm redeeming it after all!

Interviewer: What is one product that you never home without putting on?

Me: Oh dear. Back to the slippery slope. I have lip gloss in my purse, or maybe I should say mascara because I do wear that when I do wear make up, but I really leave the house without it a lot of times. Like 90% of the time right now. I don't put anything on to take the dog out, and I sometimes see people out there. I just can't help but say the honest answer.... Chapstick!

Interviewer: Giving me a pitying smile, and no longer even trying to respond to my answers. What are you favorite stores to shop at besides Ann Taylor?

Me: Looking around the room, desperately attempting to recall some stores that are cool and that I own something from. Anything from. The only store I can recall purchasing anything from is Old Navy and Kohls, both of which are kind of like Wal-Mart when compared to AT. Even in my despair, I recognize that these are not stores I should admit to purchasing clothes from in this interview. I remember walking into Gap recently, and in the past I have purchased clothes there, so Gap! it is. And where else, let's see... Hmm, I can't even remember buying new clothes since I've been married**. Oh wait, I did buy something on super sale from Eddie Bauer, and that pops out and then I sink into the floor and disappear and relieve myself from finishing this embarrassing interview.

Oh wait. That didn't happen. Instead the interviewer explained to me that they like to be a "really genuine stylist" for their customers, making sure that they don't only have the top, they have the bottoms and the scarf to make the outfit and so on and so forth. (People actually buy entire outfits in one go? They don't just buy what they need to have a decent wardrobe? Hmmm. Maybe I won't fit in here.) She then ended the interview by saying, "I still have some other people to interview, so I'll be in touch." And then, as I picked up my brown purse, her eyes saw it and my black shoes and I was toast. Just like that.

It's been a week, and I still haven't heard back. I'm going to go out on a limb and say that my stellar interview really sealed the deal, and Dan no longer has to worry about me spending my entire paycheck at my place of employment.

*Just stereotyping, sorry if it offends.

**I really have purchased new clothes in the past three years. T.J. Maxx baby! And a couple of times I've visited various outlet malls and found some good deals, but none of this sprang to mind.

Moral of the story: When interviewing in retail, attempt to be current with something. Anything. It might not help you get the job, but it will save you some glowing red cheeks and laughter/tears as you explain your interview to your hubby.


Coal Miner's Daughter said...

Oh hunny.....If it makes you feel any better that would be me too. Exactly. Only it would be Chapstick firmly attached to my pocket knife with a hair tie...because thats how I roll.

I know at some outlet malls you get a discount everywhere if you work at any store in the mall. Maybe you work outside of fashonista land but still get a sweet deal on the clothes?

Adrienne said...'re hilarious. I loved the running commentary! I would be even worse off than you, so thanks for paving the way and letting me know I should never even try. I'll have to stick with EMS...maybe after hiking kili I'll be "qualified" enough, since years of working at outdoor camps aren't cool enough to put on their "look what our employees have done" board. ;)
love you!

Linnea said...

Oh, Hilary - that would be me, too! So sorry for the frustrating experience. Glad you're able to laugh about it a little bit...

Dan and Hil said...

Oo, I like the idea of outlet malls = discount everywhere. That'd be even better than just a discount at one store.

Thanks for empathy, friends. The real tragedy would be having this experience and NOT being able to laugh at it afterwards.

Joy said...

What a great post! Well, other than the whole not-getting-the-job part. :( I would definitely be in the exact same boat!! Chapstick! Any other answer and I would be lying, too. Sigh. What they don't realize is that you would actually be a great employee, and that you'd probably figure out how to match scarves and shirts with pants pretty quickly...Come on, Ann!!