14 September 2009 – another interview disaster

Do I really want to go back to the phones?

Do I really want to go back to the phones?

Another week another pound off. It seems a pound a week is becoming the norm, not that I’m moaning. Eleven stone nine is great. In fact it’s wonderful, two stone four pounds off since I started all this back in January. Thirty two pounds in thirty seven weeks is hardly setting the world on fire but there have been a few blips along the way and I’d probably have done a lot better if I’d not bothered with those silly fad diets I did, the cabbage soup, Atkins. They made me drop lots of pounds at the time but I put them all back on again quick smart. Oh well lessons learned and it is new territory each weigh in at the moment.

Interview day had arrived and for once I felt I looked quite good in my smart suit. Amazing what a difference a few pounds can make to my self esteem. Gina, the HR woman was making small talk when she asked “did you come by bus?”
When I told her, “actually, my boss dropped me off,” she looked a bit surprised. I guess it’s not every day your boss drives you to an interview for another job. Once again I was feeling rather good about myself, this is becoming a Monday morning habit and it’s all thanks to my scales. Suddenly I don’t hate them any more, I actually love them. When they told me another pound had gone forever I could have kissed them.

There were ten of us in the waiting room, twiddling our thumbs waiting to be called. To pass the time I chatted to the other victims and found that one man was a teacher who wanted something less stressful. He obviously knew nothing about call centres, give me a room full of hormonal teenagers over angry members of the public on the phone any day. The rest of us were women, the youngest straight out of university, looking to make a dent in her student loan, the oldest, about my age, a veteran of several call centres. She looked tired and fed up.

Eventually we were ushered through a turnstile, into a lift and somewhere towards the top of the building by Gina, who’d probably been off having a coffee while we waited. I wouldn’t have put it past them to spy on us in the waiting room but at least I showed my talking credentials by initiating conversation.

First we all went off into little booths for one to one interviews. My interviewer was called Mary, she was in her sixties, by the look of her, and a kind, smily sort of woman. It was less of an interview and more of a chat about what I’d done before, where I lived and why I wanted to work in the Mad House. The last was the most difficult question, I lied and told her I just loved working in call centres and talking to people on the phone all day. This was pure desperation, after all I’m running out of time to get a job, any job. She was very solicitous about my cough and even got me a glass of water after a particularly nasty bout of hacking my lungs up.

“I’m going to leave you with a little form to fill in” she said, passing me a huge sheaf of paper, “and then we can move on to the role play. If you’re successful in this stage of the interview we will give you a little tour of the building.”

The form was just more of the kind of questions I’d already answered during the online application. Generic psychological profiling type multiple choice questions, designed to find out if you are the sort of person who can work in a call centre without throwing yourself out of a window or stabbing all your colleagues with a pair of office scissors. Half of them were the same thing phrased in slightly different ways to try to catch you out. I wondered if they’d compare them to the answers I gave on the online form. Hopefully not because I had no idea what I’d put then.

The role play was horrible. Mary gave me a laminated sheet with information about some of the Mad House products, specifications, prices, payment plans and the like, and said I had five minutes to study it. There was a phone on the desk and someone would ring me on it when the five minutes was up, I was to answer it as if it was a real call. Thanks to Mac, I already knew the most important thing was to try to up sell, so I was sort of prepared. When the phone rang I did a pretty good impression of a real member of staff.
“Thank you for calling the Mad House, my name is Fatgirl, how can I help you?”
It was a test call to see if the phone was working properly, which sort of put me off my stride a bit and made me forget all the information I’d just read.

The real call, a few minutes later wasn’t too bad. My ‘customer’ was way more accommodating than any I ever had on a real call and happily accepted my advice to go for the most expensive option. Things began to unravel a bit when she asked about a payment plan. I’d been given a calculator, which was handy, but in my panic, I got confused and gave her completely the wrong price. As soon as I’d said the figure I knew it was wrong and so did she. “Are you sure?” she said. “That seems a little more than I’d expected?” Well, I didn’t want to dither about trying to work it all out again so I told her it was and thanked her for calling.

When Mary came back, still smiling, she led me back to the lift for my tour. After the pricing disaster I was convinced I would be ushered out of the building never to return. I was even more surprised to find just myself and the call centre veteran on the tour. Obviously all the others had made more of a balls up of the role play than I had, goodness knows how.

As soon as I got outside I rang Mac. He was supposed to be doing a leaflet drop in town while I was in my interview. I was pretty sure he had actually spent the last four hours either shopping or eating cakes.
“How did it go?” he asked.
“It was going all right until I had to work out a payment plan, then I messed it all up. I did sell though so all might not be lost.”
“Come and meet me in Starbucks for a coffee and a cake,” he said, thus proving me right. He’d probably been in there all afternoon. “If they don’t hire you they need their heads looking at.”
Bless his heart for trying to make me feel better. I just wish it didn’t have to always involve cake!


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