by Colin Varney
The interviewing panel was arrayed before me like a firing squad that couldn’t be bothered to stand. Three against one is usually considered bullying. The woman in the middle had an uncanny resemblance to Judge Judy.
Everybody stresses that the key to success in a job interview is meticulous preparation. I desperately needed this position as a university librarian, so I prepared in the best way possible – by visiting a medium and learning how to be possessed by spirits.
Entering the room, I wanted to appear capable and confident, yet amiable: somebody accustomed to pressing the flesh before knuckling down to serious business. I called upon the spirit world to be possessed by a President, hoping for JFK or Woodrow Wilson. I got Nixon. The panel reacted badly to my clammy handshake and unctuous condescension. They seemed troubled by my propensity to flash double peace signs.
I had to say something about myself and knew it should be fulsome self-appraisal, so I called upon Kanye West. Realizing he wasn’t dead, I switched to Muhammad Ali. I think the panel was impressed by my ability to rhyme “sting like a bee” with “work ethically.”
When they requested that I define the importance of libraries I called upon Aristarchus of Samothrace, the keeper of the Great Library of Alexandria. They were bemused by my talk of illuminated manuscripts and exile to Cyprus in 145 BC, so I sought other famous librarians. I got Casanova and began coming on to Judge Judy, so I switched again. Being inhabited by Dorothy Porter did the trick. They nodded encouragement while scribbling copious notes.
When invited to describe the qualities I could bring to the position I decided to channel a philosopher. It was a mistake. Bertrand Russell began by extolling the virtues of idleness, before riffing on the irony of my desperate attempts to land a job that I’d quickly grow to resent. He decried the identity politics of job interviews, proposing that it encouraged applicants to suppress their true selves. Once he latched onto a theme I couldn’t shut him up, so I brought back Ali to punch his lights out.
Next, the panel posed one of those impossible work hypotheticals: while I am completing a time-sensitive task, several under-grads approach the desk requiring urgent help with referencing, the phone rings, a colleague self-combusts and several philosophy students barricade themselves in a study room until somebody definitively solves the conundrum of a lone bear defecating in the woods. How would I prioritize my responses? I sought assistance from somebody versed in nightmare scenarios and was inhabited by Franz Kafka, who advised me to metamorphose into a cockroach. Thankfully, Napoleon intervened and instituted some brilliant stratagems involving strategic retreats and pincer movements.
I left feeling positive. I’d managed to convince them I was knowledgeable, resourceful and diligent without allowing any trace of my real personality to sully my chances. So why didn’t I get the job? It may have been the rocking back and forth and moaning as I induced each new trance-state. Or was it the brief moment in which I’d been possessed by a demon and my head swivelled 360 degrees?