If you’re in the mood for a good laugh, try to remember your first job interview.
Maybe yours won’t make you laugh like mine, but it’ll probably make you smile at the memory of a much younger, more callow and inexperienced version of you.
The details of my first job interview are a little hazy, but I definitely remember the gist of that day. I was heading into my junior year in high school. I was living in Houston, TX. Since I had no car, I could only apply to jobs within walking distance.
Right around the corner, Kroger, the grocery store. I applied for a job as bag boy, and I really wanted to get this job, not so much because of the prestige that came with it, but for the regular paychecks, which would help me buy food on weekends.
A woman called me in for the interview shortly after I filled out a one-page application with references, experience, and location.
All my references were either friends or family. I had exactly no prior experience. But at least I lived right around the corner, so my hours were about as flexible as could be, and I could show up for the job on short notice, it being summertime.
These were my selling points: flexibility and proximity.
On the day of the big interview, I wore khaki pants, tucked in collared shirt, and brown loafers. My hair was combed. I was freshly showered and scented with ivory soap and suave shampoo.
Acne was starting to mottle my cheeks.
My glands were beginning to spew an inordinate amount of sebum.
Adolescence. At least it’s over with, right?
To get to the woman who called me in for the interview, I had to walk upstairs. I never knew this Kroger had a second floor, so a bag boy had to point out the way.
“Up there,” he said.
He afforded me no smile, offered me no good luck. He got back to his post at the end of the conveyor belt, got back to bagging. I looked at him with deep envy. If only I could be him, I thought, if only I could bag people’s groceries for a living.
But to realize my dream, I had to get through my first job interview.
I knocked on the door twice with my index finger’s middle knuckle.
I turned the knob, shut the door behind me, and said hello,
“I’m here for the job interview.”
The lighting was abysmal. The kind of lighting that makes you scared for your life.
“Yes, please sit down.”
By nature, I’m obliging. Always thankful to be offered a seat. Always smiley.
I didn’t carry anything with me. I did, however, consider toting my backpack equipped for every contingency, but I had no resume or other proof of competency.
That said, I could have brought a backpack full of nothing, just to have the semblance of business, but I decided to come empty handed, carrying only my good intentions.
I didn’t even have a velcro wallet for the simple reason that I didn’t own a wallet.
I had no money, no credit card, no driver license.
I had no school id, no passport photo, no coins, no ticket stubs.
What would I have done with a wallet armed for nothing, not even evidence of my own identity.
Remember those days, when you were nothing more than a walking miracle?
Those were the days. The days of honesty, vulnerability. The days of beauty, sun. The days of forlorn walks to the jungle gym to sit on a swing and squeak, feet dragging in the mulch.
“Lastly, would you consider yourself an introvert or extrovert?”
I was sitting on the chair, my feet directly under my knees, and I had answered all of her questions satisfactorily until this one, which happened to be her last question for me before she made her decision that would, in turn, decide my fate.
“Introvert or extrovert? Hmm… I don’t really know what those words mean.”
And I really didn’t. My vocabulary was extremely limited, having lived the previous four years outside of the country, in Barranquilla, where I learned no new English words.
“Well, an introvert prefers to be alone, and an extrovert likes to be around people.”
“In that case,” I said, “I’d consider myself an introvert.”
Perfect answer, right?
The bag boy who pointed out the way to this room – “up there” – seemed to be alone on the job. He didn’t seem to do much talking. He was paid to bag groceries. There was no time for talking, for socializing on the clock.
But that’s not why I told her I was an introvert. I wasn’t trying to humor her, or lie just to get the job. I told her I was an introvert because I really did prefer being alone. People drained me.
She nodded, wrote something down, and said,
“It was a pleasure speaking with you. Thanks for taking the time to come out. I have a few more people to interview before making a decision. You should be hearing from me early next week.”
I shook her hand, smiled, and quietly left the room, shutting the door behind me.
I never stepped in that room again, but only because I never received her call.