Thursday, December 15, 2011

Creative Interview

The idea came suddenly to Joel, as he sat contentedly on the toilet seat. In that moment he knew it was a winner. Ten seconds later, some unsuspecting soul wondered into the Gents', and let out a moaning, retching type of sound. Whoever it was, left in a hurry. Joel smiled to himself, and finished up.

He looked at his face in the mirror as he carefully washed his hands, and decided that there would be no problem. He felt confidence flow into him as he headed to the waiting area again.

Joel's trouble was that he never did well in job interviews. He was a solid worker, he felt, but he just couldn't think of the examples and stories they wanted in interviews these days. And even if could drag up a story, he'd always down-play his own role in the drama, or the significance of the solution; mostly because he pretty much always was a minor player, and generally very modest. Modest and mediocre: that was Joel.

That was all about to change, as Joel strode down the hallway. Why not take the skills from his hobby of creative writing and apply them to job interviews? The writing itself hadn't yielded the blockbuster novel or critical acclaim he'd dreamed of – for he'd come to realise he was mediocre at writing too; but, it was a hobby that he enjoyed.

Eventually he was called into the interview room. It had white painted walls and ceiling and glaring fluro lights. The HR lady shuffled her papers and kicked things off. “We're going to ask you some behavioural questions,” she said. “We're looking for specific examples, where you can tell us about a situation, what you did, and then what the outcome was. Is that okay?”

Joel smiled; that was going to be perfect. “Sure.”

The lady smiled back. Even the grizzled old manager beside her seemed to soften a bit.

“Can you tell us about a time you came across a situation or a practice that was unsafe; what you did about it, and what the outcome was?”

Joel took a deep breath. “Sure,” he said. “When I arrived at the place I currently work, I found that people had to walk across the roads on site a lot, which involved lots of interactions with light and heavy vehicles.”

Which was true; but of course, he'd gotten used to it, like everyone else. Grizzly and HR lady both nodded, starting to scrawl notes. Joel smiled; he was about to get his creative writing written by dictation. He continued, “So I conducted a traffic study, and based on my analysis and my research into Australian Standards and the Coal Mining Health and Safety Act and Regulations, I wrote a draft Traffic Management Plan for the site, which included quite a few changes.”

They'd stopped writing now, and were watching him, awestruck. Joel didn't miss a beat. “I costed all the changes, and then facilitated a semi-quantitative risk assessment around the major changes I'd identified; using a cross-section of the work force. I then presented my findings and recommendations to the Senior Management Team. They approved the plan, and further approved nine-hundred-thousand dollars in out-of-plan capital to make all the proposed changes.”

Joel smiled, as if at the memory. “I project-managed all the changes, though I was given a few resources to help out, of course. We now have a system of well-lit and signed pedestrian crossings, as well as segregated traffic flows and hard barriers in the higher risk areas.”

HR lady was back to scribbling notes now. The manager looked stunned.

“Was that the sort of answer you were looking for?” asked Joel, trying to sound as innocent as he could.

“Perfect,” they both said together, then laughed.

He nailed the rest of the interview, of course, and heard promising noises at the end about “progressing things to the next stage”. The job was his – he knew it – his first senior engineering role. It was his, until that grizzly fool had to talk to his boss for the reference check, and started to blubber on about how impressed he was with the traffic changes, and the increases in plant yield and the reduction in site costs.

This was first published in Shift Miner Magazine.

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