Stupid answers to snappy interview questions

It’s easy to find information on what to do when applying for jobs and how to shine during interviews.  What about the job you apply for but really don’t want?   How can you be sure to come across poorly, but in a way that isn’t obvious?  Maybe your folks are paying the rent and you really don’t want that to stop, or perhaps you’re holding out for that dream job but need to look busy in the meantime. 

I’m here to help, based on my on-the-job experience in reviewing applications and participating in interviews.  Where I work we add a kind of essay requirement to the higher level job listings.  Nothing too hard, just 2 or 3 questions that give the applicants a chance to address direct expectations of the job.  People who do well at the first interview are asked back for a less formal peer interview.

I need to mention that these hints apply only to high-level positions with expectations of strong skills in written and verbal communication and the ability to do well leading groups of people.

  1. Blow off the essay by answering “check resume” for each question.  If your potential new employer wants to know anything more they can ask you.  Besides, writing is hard work.
  2. Answer the questions but submit a very poorly written essay.  Look, just because you’re applying for a job where writing skills are expected is no reason to proof read what you submit.  Include spelling and syntax errors, ignore basic grammar, and  make sure that apart from stylistic concerns what you write doesn’t make sense.  Bonus points for having similar errors in your resume.
  3. Ignore the questions in the essay.  Write what you’d like to say and just forget about what was being requested.   The more bizarre the better.
  4. Come across like an arrogant jerk.  I can’t emphasize enough what a great strategy this is, and it works equally well in written materials and interviews.  Be sure and tell everyone how you can’t wait to show them better ways of doing everything they are currently doing.
  5. At the end of the first interview ask what the salary will be, and be sure and mention that you would expect to be on the high end of the pay range for the position.
  6. Act surprised that an interview is going on.  As each question is asked, appear puzzled and somewhat offput that you were questioned.  Mumble answers while looking down.
  7. During the peer interview, talk down to the people who just might be your co-workers.  Make sure they get how superior you are to any of them.
  8. Trash talk your current employer, past employers, the company where you’re interviewing, and pretty much everyone and everything.  Putting other people down always reflects well on the person doing the insulting.
  9. During interviews pay no attention to what the interviewers are asking; ignore requests for specific information and just talk about whatever you feel like.
  10. When given a chance to ask questions of the people doing the same job you might be hired for, ask questions about everything but the actual job.  Ask if there’s a softball team, or where people go after work, or how easy it is to leave early.

Daily Prompt: Learning about choices in life

Tell us a moment or an incident that you treasure – not necessarily, because it brought you happiness, but because it taught you something about yourself.

She was wearing a cheap coat and clothes that were worn thin from wear.  She talked quietly with my mother, reminiscing about family members and discussing current events.  She seemed sad.

My parents had her over for dinner several times, but I never saw her at larger family events.  My father would pick her up and bring her back to her apartment, and when she left to go home my mother always packed her a bag of food and books.

This was my great-aunt Clara, the sister of my mother’s father. My mother was the oldest in her family, followed by twin brothers and a much younger sister.  Clara and her husband also had two boys.  Where my grandparents had moved to a rural area and lived the small town life, she and her husband stayed in Chicago, near the large, close-knit families on both sides.

Many years earlier, when her children were the same young age as I was, Clara’s husband had died.  This was devastating to her, and she was not able to cope.  She turned her 2 young sons over to an orphanage and walked away.   Years later, after both boys had grown up in that home for abandoned and orphaned children, she wanted back in their lives.  They were not interested.

We lived near one of her children, and I remember back yard cookouts with his family.  Coming from such a large family, I had learned that by sitting very quietly when the adults starting talking they often forgot I was present, and I was able to overhear a lot through that technique.  This was how I discovered the story of my Aunt Clara.

The idea of a parent abandoning their child was terrifying to me.  I thought about what she had done, and tried to reason out why.  The only answer that made sense was that she just didn’t care enough, that she was weak.  I knew my great-grandmother had been widowed at a young age and left with 8 children, and I knew that she had stayed, had made sure those children had a home and food and love.  She did not walk away.  My great-grandmother was strong and competent.  My great-aunt Clara was not.

I knew I could choose which way to be, how to live my life.  I knew that at 8 years old.  I chose to be strong .  I would never walk away from anything or anyone where I had given my word.   And I never have.

Letting go

I’m a mother, a daughter, a sister.  I’m a reformed book worm who still reads a lot, especially science fiction.  I love baseball and hope to see a world series game some day.  I think ice cream is nature’s most perfect food.  There’s always sauerkraut and beer in my refrigerator.

There’s more to me than being a widow.  I don’t want that one sad fact to dominate my life and dictate my future.   Right now, this tough, difficult year, it does; but that will not continue.

Rick and I decided we were going to live together within a few months of meeting.  If we had been younger we’d have waited longer, been more prudent and hesitated before deciding to make a complete commitment to eachother.

We didn’t do that.  We both knew how rare it is to find someone, and we were also aware of our middle-aged status.  When we got married we figured we’d have 20 years together, maybe more, maybe less.  Neither of us thought there would be less than 10 years from first date to last goodbye.  I’m glad we didn’t spend several years cautiously dating, deciding if we were really right for each other.  We decided to bet on life.

I’ll still take that bet.  I loved our time together, and what made it so wonderful was that both of us were willing to move forward and try new things, new experiences.  We were both open to what life could bring.

Right now I’m heartbroke and sad and mixed up and not sure what’s going on.  But I’m not going to stay this way forever.  I’m not going to put on black shapeless clothes and retreat into the “widow woman” role for the rest of my life.   I am going to go out and live whatever life I have and do a damn good job of it.

Chapter 3: Proper Weight Management

The best way for a newly widowed spouse to show their bereft state is by withdrawing from life, but of course only in ways that are tastefully genteel.  Losing weight is a perfect strategy to gain credential as a widow.  It works on so many levels. Loss of appetite is a subtle metaphor that you are no longer enjoying any of the physical pleasures of life, and abstaining from cooking and dining out reinforces your new status of being alone and a social outcast.  Of course, when you do lose weight, make sure to keep wearing the same clothes.  Do not, and I cannot stress this enough, go out and buy a new pair of skin-tight jeans to show off the weight you just dropped.

Preparing and consuming food is enjoyable.  That is why it is so important to lose weight.  As a newly widowed individual, you should not experience any of the sensuous side of life, and that includes food.   Scarfing down a hot fudge sundae really makes it hard to keep up the image of the grief-stricken widow no longer able to find any pleasure in life.

Helpful tip:  if you’re not losing weight, go out and buy dowdy clothes that are a size larger than you wear.  Choose unattractive styles and colors.

Sadly, this is not happening for me.  During those periods of life when most people lose weight, I gain.  Years ago in college my skinnier girl friends were “too busy to remember to eat” during finals, a concept I found as incomprehensible as the statistics course I took and ended up dropping.  I interwove food with study, parsing out a set number of Oreos for each term paper page and using a trip to the vending machines as a study break.  At the end of each semester, I crammed in both food and knowledge during finals.  One stuck with me longer.  A few years later, pregnant at the same time as my best friend, I watched her spend the first trimester desperately ill and trying not to lose weight.  Me?  I was never so hungry in my life.  I would actually wake up at 2:00am and eat a big bowl of cereal to hold me until breakfast. 

I lost weight the month Rick was in the hospital, when my days were spent drinking coffee and waiting.  When he died and I went home to a dark and lonely house, I filled it with frozen pizza and ice cream.  By the time winter hit I still couldn’t cook but I was baking: sweet rolls, pies, and popcorn.  Now, I realize popcorn is a not a high-calorie item, but I’ve been making maple-bacon, honey-ginger, and chipotle-chocolate popcorn.  Lately I’ve been obsessed with developing a hot fudge sauce recipe, testing batch after batch.  Of course, there’s only one way to test fudge sauce – ice cream.

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The weight I lost last summer was gained back, and then some.

Warning number one came at the end of April.  Last fall I started wearing Rick’s jeans instead of my own.  It was nice to have a part of him close to me, and they were comfortable.  There were 2 pairs I really liked, one loose and comfy, the other just tight enough to look good.  One day, wearing the tight pair, I decided to switch to the looser pair.  Turns out I was already wearing the looser pair.  Uh oh.

Warning number two happened at the end of May.  It was a cold spring here in Wisconsin, so I waited until Memorial Day weekend to swap clothes.  There’s no betterfeeling than pulling those bulky sweaters out of the dresser and replacing them with tanks and Tees.  At least, it seemed great until I decided to try on a few things.  Those capris that fit so comfortably last year no longer buttoned. Cute little tops didn’t look that cute when they were stretched out across my new girth. 

It was time to get serious, and that meant establishing a starting metric for my weight.  Now, many people use scales but I’ve never seen the value in a number that pops up between my toes.

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For many years, I’ve used a wide selection of jeans as my personal weight guide.  Arranged in order, my jeans span every possible weight level from “Damn I look good” to “What the hell happened.”  Last week it was time for the denim scale of fate.  I took out 4 pairs and ceremoniously laid in them in order:  Lucky peanut jeans, the loose pair from Rick, a newer pair of denim stretch skinny legs, and an old pair of Mom jeans. I took a deep breath and then tried on each pair in front of a mirror, with a hand mirror to check the back view.

Turned out I was at the denim stretch level, but not that far from the Mom jeans.  Which means that pretzels at lunch have been replaced with carrot sticks, I’m going to 4 exercise classes a week instead of 2, I’m cutting ice cream down to twice a week, and salads are replacing french fries.   I’ll try the jeans again in a month and see what progress has been made.  Stay tuned…

Daily Prompt: In good faith, or my one moment of spirituality. Ever.

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Describe a memory or encounter in which you considered your faith, religion, spirituality — or lack of — for the first time.

“One more push” said the doctor; “Hang on, you’re almost there.”

A few seconds later, I saw my daughter for the first time.  Her eyes were open, looking at me.  I could feel the pulse of blood that still moved through the umbilical cord to her body, and then back to me.  We were one; joined through the cord and placenta; we were separate people.

I’ve never forgotten that moment.  It’s the closest I’ve ever come to a spiritual epiphany.  I’m not religious or spiritual; I don’t believe in god, life after death or reincarnation.  I don’t think there are guardian angels, or woodland spirits.  While there are many, many good people in this world who use religion as a way to funnel their essential good to help others, I also believe that overall religion has done more harm than good.

But that moment – that one moment – I felt and experienced the greatest connection that can exist between two human beings.  The epiphany I had was that we are all connected, that we need to take care of each other, that the actions each of us take are not isolated, but affect everyone.

Happy birthday to my daughter, who started teaching me that very first moment back in 1982.

Daily Prompt: Ripped into the Headline – Wild Wisconsin weekend; dairy debauch and brew bash

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Dateline: Madison.

Sources report an outbreak of dairy and beer consumption occurring in and around the capitol city of Wisconsin over the weekend, with unconfirmed sausage sightings.

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The consumption incidents took place on the Memorial Union Terrace, along State Street, and at several privately owned brewpubs.  Witnesses stated seeing the alleged perpetrators at various locales throughout the weekend.

“I saw them eating cheese curds and cream puffs at 9am at the Farmer’s Market, and then later having ice cream at the Terrace.  My god, how much dairy can one person ingest,” said bystander Jon Jonson.

Nutritionist Ima Buzzkjill stated “A diet this high in dairy and alcohol is irresponsible and definitely not recommended.  I sincerely hope they can’t zip their jeans up; that’ll show them.”

An unnamed source claimed the incidents were triggered from a family visit, and that the only regrets voiced by the participants were that the brats didn’t have enough sauerkraut.

Time is elastic; time is plastic

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Time is elastic, stretching out or snapping back. My 7th grade algebra class was the final period of the day. I would watch the clock, tracking the slow tick of the second hand making the full circuit for each minute, watching the minute hand click down until school was finally over. It took years, eons, for the 40 minutes to pass; I had entered a time warp where the world may have been moving through space but that classroom was not.

Reviewing the years of my marriage, of the relationship I had with my now deceased husband, glowing faintly is the linear trail that goes back 9 years, to that June day of 2004 when we first met. There, at the very tip, at the end farthest from my now, is the first email I sent through the internet dating service where we met. A few klicks down the road was the first time I met his family, and he met mine. Following along are other landmarks, large and small, but all lined up properly in order like eggs in a carton.
There is the nice path, all sunshiny and bright, filled with warm, happy memories.

Another path through our shared life exists; one darker, more treacherous. It charts the negatives, all the bad times, the evil portents, my attempt to logic out what happened, how it happened, to find the roots for the terrible crop reaped last year. Both paths have clearly defined steps, in a specific order; many of them intertwined. That is the elastic, linear, time-bound view of my marriage.

Time is plastic, malleable like Silly Putty, capable of creating new shapes and meanings from the same materials. My daughter loves music from the 1960s, experiencing it all as a whole, where I see a carefully laid out chronological and cultural map. Rubber Soul goes before Jefferson Airplane; mods and hippies exist on separate planes, and it’s just not possible to like both the Beatles and the Monkees. Unless, like her, you were born years after; in which case my carefully constructed linear path is balled up, crumpled like an old piece of paper, ending up with the writing placed on straight lines forming entirely new sentences with different meanings.

The plastic, non-linear view of time is dynamic, pieces connecting and forming in different ways, offering new insights and visions. The plasticity of time allows me to grab specific moments and events from the 8 years we had together and smash them together to create single whole views, each one different and distinct.

Look: there is the picture of all the good and the best we had. These aren’t links in a chain, starting and ending in the same places, each piece always in the same order. This view is a gestalt of all the best we had; it is a quilt made from individual memories. I can see each discrete piece; here is the first night we spent together, there we are driving route 66, over in the corner are all the calls I got at work just to say hi. The meaning isn’t in the individual moments, but the in the whole that they make up; the sure knowledge that there was someone there, who would always be there, a person to turn to at night after a bad dream, to share in life’s good and bad times. That is plastic time; only when all those separate pieces come together is the meaning of the whole seen and recognized.

The elasticity of time keeps a linear order even as some events speed by and others take forever; the plasticity of time enables a constant reordering of experiences to come up with new constructs of reality. Both are correct, both happen simultaneously.

Why I write this blog

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I started this blog the evening I became a widow, and published the first post the next day. That first post is shaky and unsure; it is an accurate reflection of how I was that day. The writing helped; it let me spill out what was in my soul, good and bad, without worry. I didn’t share this with people I knew; it was my personal space. I was surprised to get comments and likes from other people. Gradually I realized there were many people in similar situations, and that was both sobering and comforting. In November of 2012 I had a post added to the Freshly Posted website, and the increase in readers was astounding.

Around this time I realized that writing this was doing more than just allowing me to state my personal issues; it was helping me feel better. I started caring about what I was writing, started realizing there were things other than grief in my life.

People aren’t like trees; we grow the most in the hardest of times, not when things are going well. I’ve grown a lot this year.

There are different kinds of thinkers. I categorize, classify, and prioritize. I’m great at trivia questions that require placing events in the order they happened. For me this first year has been a series of steps, a path I can physically see in both directions. I move along it, noticing the view at each stopping point. Viewing what’s in the rear-view mirror, peering ahead of what’s coming up, all while keeping an awareness of the present.

Last year around this time, I began to feel that my life was spinning out of control. My husband looked and acted in a way that made me (and others) feel something was seriously wrong, but he was still in denial. It took until mid-July to get a name and a recognition of what was actually happening. The initial prognosis was not rosy but it wasn’t dire, either. In a weird way, being diagnosed was comforting; it provided a reason for a myriad of symptoms and issues. We humans like to name things; words bring power. Having a name, an identification, brought relief. It was short-lived.

Coming up over the next 3 months are the anniversaries of when we met and started dating; our wedding anniversary, and finally, the one-year marker of Rick’s death.
We met online; I saved the email I sent him that day in early June, and his response. Every year I resent these on the same days, and it was a special way to remember how we met. There are other memories coming up; our first date, first time he stayed over, meeting each other’s friends and families. All took place over the summer. A year later we were married at the tail end of August.

This year, those formerly sweet memories will be intermingled with memories from last summer. Our first date in June will be overlaid with the memory of my realizing how physically frail and sick Rick was, and of his visit to the doctor where there was finally some confirmation of what was wrong. Remembrances of meeting each other’s families will be intertwined with memories from last year of doctor visits and diagnoses. August will be the worst, reliving the slide down from life to death. On August 1 of last year Rick was newly hospitalized for what was envisioned to be just a few days. On August 31, I was driving home from the hospital alone, a brand new widow. Our 7th (and final) wedding anniversary was 6 days before he died. It will not be an easy month.

To everyone who has walked with me on this horrible journey, I say thank you. Thank you to everyone who has read my posts and responded positively. Thank you to those who have actually followed this blog. Thank you to everyone who has posted a comment; the amount of insight, wisdom and just support I’ve received is amazing.