Friday 28 October 2016

An exercise in humiliation

Published 29/01/2013 | 17:00

• The interview season will soon be upon us. The job interview is one of the last surviving forms of unchallenged humiliation of others, matched only by 'The X Factor' and 'Dragons' Den'.

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The purpose of this ritual is to collude in the attribution of psychic powers to the interview panel as they presume to out-perform Mystic Meg, reaching conclusions about a person that would take a psychoanalyst years to unearth.

Interviewing panels invariably generate at least one self-styled expert in non-verbal communication, claiming to see, behind the slightest nervous twitch, deep levels of potential trouble.

In the presence of such psychic power, never fold your arms as it reveals defensiveness; as for women, moving any part of your body is an assumed revelation of a sinister abuse of feminine seductive competence.

The interview questions are underpinned by various levels of pretentious banality.

"What persuades you to think that you could meet the demands of this post?" does not require the answer "I need the money", but the more grovelling "I have always been a great admirer of the academic excellence that you have sustained over the years; my interests are very closely related to yours".

The question that I remember most is: "Who has had the greatest influence on your thinking?" When the real answer happened to be "My father", I struggled to repress it and offered "Hegel and James Joyce", the questioner's accent being a subtle blend of German and Irish.

The most threatening member of the panel is the one who can interpret hairstyles and dress.

Jedward have done us no favours in embedding the view that hair that defies gravity shows a lack of gravitas.

Baldness is a safer bet as it does not have its provenance in any deliberate posturing.

The killer enquiry is "Are there any questions you would like to ask us?" to which the natural but career-ending response is: "Which is the fastest way out of here?"

Philip O'Neill
Edith Road, Oxford, OX1 4QB

Irish Independent

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