April 23, 2013

Midlife, sucking eggs, and a Frenchman! [Mutual Obligations Ep.1]

So there I was, attending the compulsory Job Services Australia Goal Setting and Interview training session, like the good compliant vegemite that I am. The duration was one and half days. However due to a scheduled vet check (for me and poodle features) I was exempt from most of day one.

By mid afternoon, with the dog’s issues put to one side (but not mine), I reluctantly go along to attend the job "etiquette" course, prepared to be told the bleeding obvious.  As a long-distance marathon, “mature” job seeker, I consider myself well-versed in the intricacies of: job hunting, resume writing, interview technique, grooming, and how to dress and tie up my shoelaces - in preparation for a job interview.

For what more, could the Job Services Australia agency instruct me on, other than perhaps some subtle ways of nudging potential employers ....to please just l-i-k-e me.

Here, I'm thinking along the lines of Olympic Games bid methods (on a microscale level of course) ...by offering - impossible to refuse incentives - to pernickity human resources gatekeepers, that guarantee getting me shortlisted and making interview success a done deal ...before my next gas bill please?

Of course, here I'm talking - cash bribes, sneaky extortion bids, or Belgian chocolate? And maybe - if I'm lucky enough to score an actual interview - I could knock their cynical little HR socks off, by emulating hospitality heavyweight, Martha Stewart, and presenting jaded interview panelists - up front - with a luscious fruit and cheese platter ...complete with an ice sculpture centrepiece! 

I can see it now. There's me, at the head of the table, and the interviewers seated on either side - with all care tossed aside. Copies of my CV and their boring question sheets - are all but forgotten - having been strewn across the floor, like discarded table napkins ...as they gorge themselves on the stupendous display, that lay before them - of cheeses, mountains of chocolate-coated berries, bananas, sliced papaya and melons. All provided by the appli-CAN'T ...that could! ...ME!


If only it was T-H-A-T simple, to cut through the red-tape and argy bargy of job interviews (at the certain age that I am) and gently influence finicky, time-pressured recruiters, to just give me the damn job! 

Enter Monsieur!

But oh the joy, when our “teacher” walked into the job centre "classroom" and introduced himself as a midlife French national. Thank goodness for that. It most certainly changed la couleur of my day. Such a stroke of genius for Centrelink and Job Services Australia  to employ someone so ooh la la! to conduct the "Job Readiness Skills" session. After all, being told how to suck eggs - is so much more palatable - when delivered in a delectably mellifluous French accent.

I was the only attendee who’d recently gone to a job interview (last week). And so – just like in a primary school “show and tell” -  the darling monsieur asked me (mais moi?!) to describe l'expérience to the rest of the class.
Unfortunately though, there wasn’t much to tell ...as the interview panel had kept me waiting like Gandalf in reception, for more than half an hour. This gave me time to re-park my car (so glad about that), question the meaning of life, and consider whether I had enough time to pop out and get an emergency botox, blow-dry, butt lift, liposuction? ...or maybe une manucure Française? Plus complete a last minute - just-in-case - additional Certificate IV in Admin? Online of course!

Exit le stick insect . . .

It was just moments after helping a delivery man through the organization’s front entrance, with his overloaded trolley of boxes - that one of the interviewers finally emerged to farewell the previous candidate. However once I saw the tall, dangerously skinny, stiletto wearing, Megan Gale look-a-like - being ushered out – I knew already, that I didn’t have the job. Tough t*tties for me. Et excusez mon Français!

Moving forward, and undaunted by the circumstances stacked against me, I pitched my skills and “story” to the interview panel ...of just two - careful not to leave thumb imprints, or scratches on their uber polished, boardroom table. Don't we all SO appreciate a shiny high-gloss finish on a dull Melbourne day?

Of course, after they explained to me that the interview was going to be “more of a chat” than anything else, I was doubly sure le stick insect girl from Ipanema had got the role ...So that's why one of the interviewers, spent the entire time - with her eyes firmly glued to her laptop, whilst scrolling through her emails ...or was it eBay that she so keenly had her eyes on? ...or maybe Tinder?

But, they complimented me on my “terrific sense of humour” before earnestly pushing me out the door.



As for monsieur’s oh so ooh la la! job seeking tips. Listed here verbatim:

1. Try to communicate to the interviewer that you are glad to meet them - through your handshake (But I did do the handshake?)

2. Comment on the beautiful surroundings, great atmosphere, or splendid artworks

3. Never say no - or answer in the negative - to any question (Good point monsieur)

4. Be positive about all things and everyone (Even if an ex colleague was a flatulent axe-murderer - or had the potential to be one)

5. Don’t ever interrupt the interviewers - for any reason at all.

6. Take a lesson from well-mannered labradors, by always smiling, and maintaining a congenial empathetic attitude (That’s me! I know I've probably undertaken more remedial dog training sessions than the average French labraspoodle).

7. Instead of a heavy lunch – eat a chocolate bar – as apparently you burn off more fat that way (I love this lifestyle tip. But was that a hint monsieur?)

8. Makeup should look fresh and natural (But of course - I'm over false eyelashes anyway)

9. Don’t wear black - navy is better (But I love black? Can I mix the two monsieur?)

10. Shoes are often one of the first things that employers remember about an interviewee (Another excuse to shoe-shop, ma cherie monsieur)

11. Leave nose, tongue and/or lip piercing bling at home (No disputes there monsieur)

12. Finally – when the interviewer says: “And now do you have any questions to ask?” – Only ask 2 questions – any more and you will probably bore them to death.

C’est la vie est bonne journée!


More Mutual Obligations with Monsieur [Mutual Obligations ep. 2]


You Used To Give Me Roses


The Trouble with Interviews

The Hazards of Faking It

Image: By Matthew Blank via flickr


  1. Hilarious. Reminds me of the time many years ago (when I was in between jobs) at Centrelink's compulsory 'Jobstart' seminars. I liked how as a mature mid-40s-something I was lumped in the class with pimply clueless 19 year olds. Wow, I sure benefited from the hints on how to write a job application letter. And how to write a CV. Total rubbish. I vowed I'd rather be poor than go through that again. Or keep writing my blog. cheers, Ambra

  2. Hi Ambra. Hope all is well over there. Next installment will be "reverse-marketing". I have no idea what this is, but I'm "participating" in it next Tuesday. Any idea what this is? Watch this space. Cheers, Carmen.

  3. Hi Carmen,

    A wonderful and most amusing missive. I think reverse marketing is when you turn advertising billboards around and when you hang-up on telemarketers.
    Cheers, claire

  4. Nothing says you don't have the job like being ushered in and out in 20 minutes - God KNOWS I've been there! Damn that hussy in heels. ;)