1 stack of fake résumés
1 white shirt
1 pseudonym (Willis Drummond-Willis from Diff'rent Strokes)
1 firm handshake (crucial for the interview process)
1 strong-eye-contact ability (also crucial for the interview process)
1 minty-fresh breath!
Job Applying For: Management position for sports promotion company.
Résumé Lies: All jobs last no longer than two months. One job begins and ends in the same week. My education background lists six different colleges in three years. Also, a mysterious five-year gap in between two job positions.
I'm wearing a tie. People respect you if you wear a tie. It puts you in the category of "tie-wearers." This is the perfect interview "costume." I walk into a sterile office with a loud radio playing bland Top 40 music. This is the kind of working atmosphere that drives people to drinking. The reception area is filled with nervous job applicants, all dressed similarly. Immediately, I steal a pen.
In groups of three, we are brought in for an interview. I wait for my fake name to be called. A bubbly woman leads a well-dressed man, a well-dressed woman, and myself into a private office. The bubbly woman gives us the speech: The position is a managerial training program that teaches you how to promote ski areas in Lake Tahoe. My mastery powers of strong, direct eye contact are utilized, occasionally with an attentive nod.
"The key to this job is being a people person," she says. "The kind of people we hire are the types who were class clowns and are maybe a little cocky! How do you rate yourself as a people person on a scale of one to 10? Don't be modest."
The question is thrown at the well-dressed man. He answers with a modest eight. Then the well-dressed woman answers with a 10. No modesty here! The bubbly woman looks at our résumés, asking various questions about our work history.
"Willis, how do you rate yourself as a people person?"
I pause for dramatic effect.
"Does the scale go higher than 10?!"
I let out the loud laugh of a creepy high school janitor. Can I push her buttons or what? She eyeballs my résumé.
"You sure worked many jobs in the last few months."
"Yeah, I like to jump around. It keeps things exciting." I momentarily get serious and again utilize direct-eye-contact skills. "I'm trying to find the right job, which I hope this will be. A place where I get to work with people!"
This answer pleases her. She goes back to my résumé.
"And what did you study in school, Willis?"
"I switched around a lot. I started in chemistry and ended up in interpretive dance."
She first dismisses the well-dressed man, hinting at the prospect of being in touch, and she does the same for the well-dressed woman. She waits till they both leave and leans forward in her chair.
"Willis, I like your attitude! I want to book you in for tomorrow! That way you can see the daily operation and decide if the job is right for you. Be here tomorrow morning at 9 a.m. Wear a shirt and tie!"
Conclusion: Well, fuck me sideways! My flaky résumé got me hired! Being a master of direct, attentive eye contact must do the trick when a job requires being a "cocky people person." Maybe she thought I was a "class clown" type, seeing that my résumé was a joke!
Epilogue: The next morning when the bubbly woman calls to see why Willis didn't show up for work, I tell her that he's spontaneously decided to leave the country.
Job Applying For: Salesman for a bakery supply company.
Résumé Lies: My education background says I graduated with a 4.0 GPA from Cambridge University in England with a degree in quantitative physics. My first job is listed as a computer software salesman for a fictitious high-tech company in Silicon Valley. My work experience digresses to selling used cars, with a five-year gap between that and my current job, which is working at Kentucky Fried Chicken. At KFC I'm responsible for "chicken sales."
The key to sales is selling yourself to the interviewer. The address given to me over the phone takes me to a doctor's office in the middle of Chinatown. There's nothing resembling bakery supplies, only medical equipment. An old man with his sleeve rolled up points animatedly at his elbow, howling something in Chinese to the receptionist. Then he passes gas.
"Excuse me, I've come for an appointment concerning something nonmedical. Have I come to the right address?" I beg.
"Aah, yes, have a seat," says the lovely receptionist. I wait for a half-hour, watching sick people come and go. Finally, a very tiny Chinese man wearing a stethoscope appears. He is no larger than a child!
"Be right with you."
Then he disappears. I wait another half-hour. Finally, the tiny man reappears. I follow him into his office. I hope he doesn't make me get into a hospital gown or turn my head and cough. The doctor explains he just started a business that needs a salesman. He studies my résumé like it was a broken femur. He notes my Cambridge educational background.
"Aah, you're from England."
"Yes I am, mate," I say, conducting the rest of the interview in a fake British accent. Then he explains the nitty-gritty.
"The job involves selling cheesecake. We only sell cheesecake! Also cheesecake products."
I lose it. I'm openly laughing. I try to stop by thinking of bad things.
"That's so funny, because I used to have a job similar to that," I smirk, trying to cover up my giggling. Are cheesecake and cheesecake products like propane and propane accessories? Is this a joke being played on me?! Egads. I'm sitting in a doctor's office in the middle of Chinatown, being interviewed for a cheesecake sales job by a very tiny doctor!
The tiny doctor explains that the job requires selling cheesecake to hotels and restaurants. The tiny doctor's eye bypasses my Kentucky Fried Chicken experience, glances over the five-year gap in job history, and asks questions concerning used-car sales techniques. He wonders how I would apply them to his cheesecake. I bring the focus back to my current fast-food experience.
"When I'm working at Kentucky Fried Chicken, I try to be a people person, gain the customers' trust, then suggest they buy extra-crispy or a little bucket parfait."
"Aaah," says the tiny doctor. Then he pulls out a piece of paper with four names on it.
"I have a few more people to interview, so I'll give you a call."
Conclusion: Having a 4.0 from Cambridge University doesn't cut it when it comes to cheesecake sales.
Was There a Good Pen to Steal?: No, I never got to handle a writing implement.
Job Applying For: Selling window installations over the phone to random people.
Résumé Lie: San Quentin Prison, where I had three years' work experience in the tool shop.
Selling window installations over the phone must be one of the worst jobs known to humanity. Sounds like the aluminum-siding scam of the '60s.
I'm buzzed into the office. There are many energy-saving awards on the wall. My interview is with a woman named Virginia, but the receptionist says she is at lunch. She pages Virginia, telling me to take a seat and fill out an application.
"Would you like a drink or something?" she asks.
"I'll have a mineral water."
"A water is fine."
She goes in the bathroom and comes back with a stained coffee cup filled with tap water. I leave it untouched as I finish the application. There's a line saying "Have You Ever Been Convicted of a Felony?" In parentheses it says "(This Will Not Affect Your Application)." I check the box marked "Yes."
The phone rings. It's Virginia. She apologizes profusely.
"I'm sorry. I forgot we had an interview."
What?! I need to be interviewed NOW! Right now, for one of the shittiest jobs known to humanity.
"We just hired a guy yesterday, but why don't you put your résumé and application in my box, I'll take a look at it, and give you a call next week if the guy doesn't work out."
Disgruntled by having the interviewer not show up for the interview, I scribble in the line asking to explain my felony charge: "Violent murder. Fucker was eyeballing my bitch!" I could have been a little more subtle. I hand my résumé and application to the receptionist and leave.
Conclusion: You should always keep job interviews with violent murderers.
Epilogue: A few days later, I get a message on my answering machine. "Willis, this is Veronica from the Save Energy Company. Could you give me a call? I wanted to talk to you to see if you still need work or if you found a job yet."
Fuck me sideways once again! Either she didn't read my résumé, or prison and manslaughter experience is just what she's looking for.
Go figure: I actively tried everything possible to keep from being hired, and I still landed two job offers in one week. So next time you find yourself without work, fear not -- there's always a future for an unskilled man from prison who can maintain strong, direct eye contact.
Join Harmon for the release of his new book, Republican Like Me, on Saturday, Nov. 5, at the Booksmith at 7 p.m.