Thursday, May 22, 2008

Portrait #7: Job Interview

This afternoon, as I sat in a bookstore cafe attempting to convince myself to work on revision (in fact, I still sit here, relieved at a new excuse to put off revision for a few more minutes!), I overheard a job interview taking place at the table behind me.

The interviewer was a young man in his late twenties. The interviewee was an East African-looking woman who appeared to be in her thirties. By the time the interview ended, I decided that immigrants to this fine region really are deserving, and in need, of job-search training.

The manager admitted that he is a new manager and inexperienced in interviews. The applicant admitted that she is in the U.S. to learn English, though she has been working at a restaurant here for six months now. He did most of the talking. She said perhaps a total of fifteen words which were barely audible even though my head was no more than a metre from hers.

He asked her why she wants to work at Barnes and Noble. She replied with one brief sentence that I couldn't really hear.

Then he asked if she was specifically interested in the cafe. She must have nodded, as I heard no answer.

Then he explained that in fact most new employees start in the cafe, for three months or so, before introducing them to books - it's best for all employees to know all the different departments in the store - and, though the cafe is sometimes quiet and slow, on weekends it can get quite busy.

He asked her if she was here in the country to study - to learn English. I think she nodded again.

So he pointed out that because the cafe gets quite busy, her limited language skills could be a problem. On the other hand, he said, she would be doing similar work to what she is currently doing in her restaurant job. Then he told her what the starting salary is, and asked her how it's going (I think he meant her life in general, or her adjustment to America, ?). Without giving her time to reply, at least so far as I could tell, he said that he'd definitely show her application to the other managers and if there was interest, she'd hear from someone in a week or so. Then they got up and parted ways, I believe without even a handshake. I then was able to catch a glimpse of her - petite and a bit bewildered, walking quickly away from her interrogator who wouldn't hear her speak.

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