The Interviews From Hell

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canalHow many interviews have I been to ? I’d say about thirty in Canada so far, ¾ of them in my first year in Ottawa. I was desperate for a job but the odds seemed to be against me. At 20 years old, my resume was pretty short. I had no previous work experience in Canada. I had no references but abroad. My English wasn’t that great and I wasn’t a Permanent Resident yet.

Everyday, I would go through the same routine :, Ottawa Citizen’s employment section, sending resumes and cover letters almost non-stop till noon. Then I would wait for the phone to ring.

I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I knew I could learn fast, but I didn’t have the guts to apply for jobs that required “previous experience” and just lie. I was too qualified for McJobs but yet not experienced enough for office jobs. I was stuck in between, as usual.

But it didn’t stop employers to call me for interviews. Of course, I met some decent people who would just tell me I didn’t fit the job, or would give my tips for future interviews. Some of them would even hire me. But I also had… interviews from hell.

The I’m not telling you interview

— Hi, Zhu ? Would you be available to work tomorrow night ?

— Sure. What’s the location ?

— It’s at 2356 Carling avenue. You’ll have to fill up for the stock taker, from 11 pm to 5 am.

— Alright… And what’s the hourly rate ?

— Oh, I’m sorry, I really can’t disclose that. Otherwise, no one would take the job.

The slave market interview

— Hello Mrs Zhu. I’m calling from the staffing agency. I have your resume in front of me, and I would have a few more questions.

— So, I’m currently looking for people to work in customer service for the federal government. First question is, are you available to work from 5 am to 11 pm ?

— Well, I guess so, but how does it work ? Are there shifts or… ?

— Just tell me whether you’re available or not.

— Sure, sure, I’m… available.

— Means of transport ?

— It depends actually. I share a car and rely on the bus the rest of the time. I mean, it all depends on where the office is.

— Can’t tell you that.

— I certainly have no problem getting around, but at 5 am, let’s say, I’d probably drive.

— And at night ? What would you do ? Let’s say, if you have to work overtime ?

— You mean… after 11 pm ? Depends on the bus schedule. I can drive too. But could you tell me more about the position ? It’d be easier to figure things out.

— Well, we don’t have a job “per se”. I was just testing you. Thank you.

The two years too late interview

— Hi, may I speak to… Zhu, please ?

— Yes, hi, I was wondering if you were still available.

— To…?

— Yes, I have your resume right there and we need someone part-time starting of today. Tonight actually. Well, if you could make it by 5 pm, it’d be appreciated.

— I’m sorry, who am I talking too ?

— This is Quiznos Sub, located on Queen.

— Oh, I’m sorry, unfortunately I found a position about two years ago… I didn’t know you kept resume for that long.

— That’s too bad. You’re really not available ?

Duh. I stayed by the phone for two years, waiting for your call.

If you’re nice, next time I’ll tell you about the time I sold flowers in front of Ottawa’s LCBO. If you can keep it secret, I’d appreciated.


About Author

French woman in English Canada. World citizen, new mom, traveler, translator, writer and photographer. Looking for comrades to start a new revolution.


  1. wow, quizno’s must have a really high opinion of their own positions to think you’d still be waiting for a call from them! I like the “we don’t have a job per se, but we were just testing you” line too. NICE. lol

  2. I hate interviews. I may have a long resume, but it seems that hr reps usually look down on me for my age.

  3. Hmmm interesting isn’t it?

    I am going to work in this field of recruitment and selection once I finish my degree and my job would probably involve things like this.

    This is an enlightening post because it will show me how not to treat people on interviews… It is not easy for them and it’s best to be honest and polite where possible isn’t it.

    BTW sit jorge: I doubt the places who look down on you was very good places. As long as you have proven work experience in terms of actual proven success in your field of work, I think most people would actually consider them over your age. These days, it’s all about doing things differently from your competitors and to do that, you need qualified people and qualified people are rare. So I don’t feel your age would play a such major impact as long as it’s not too unsuitable for the seniority of the position you’re applying.

  4. I think you are dead on covering the interviewing gig!

    Yeah I can totally relate. One thing I find particularly funny is the different approach between academic institutions job vacancies and company related jobs(I am talking about the stuff before the interviews)

    I remember for the former writing an application so thick, heck I could have earnt some money just publishing it. The CV was also more superfluous full of details and such.

    For a company, the application was more reader friendly and a lot slimmer just stating basic facts. As for the CV it was simplicity for simplicity’s sake, you know a lot of bold highlighted words, very scarcely written and nicely underlined phrases. Not too much text just basic facts.

    For ANY job, my job hunt strategy was as simple as “Do you have a position available?”. Yes? Cool when do I start (Usually I didnt start at all but regardless I wouldnt give more details since I was overqualified for some of those jobs , still money was money you know,lol).

    Nice blog entry Zhu, you wont believe how much it’s related even to my present situation.

    Talk to you later!

  5. When I say ANY job in my previous comment I mean any lower end job. I just state that for clarity’s sake,lol!

  6. What? Zhu? You sold flowers? My goodness, is there no end to your talents???? What a great post – I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or pull my hair sharing your frustration!!! I’d give you a job anytime!

    I’ve worked in the HR department of a manufacturing company for many years now and have subsequently interviewed hundreds of candidates – perhaps I should add a post to my blog one day, recounting some of the er…lets say more ‘entertaining’ ones.

    Anywayz, thanks for the laugh..can’t wait for your next post!!!! Graham 🙂

  7. I was in the same boat. I would send resumes in the morning and wait for a call back. Some called back but nothing really turned up. Then my current employer called and set up and interview. And now I work for him. But to this day, I am not sure how he got my resume, and I can not remember even applying for this job!! haha oh well!! glad he called me!!

  8. Webmiztris : yeah, I’d never assume fast food chain would keep resume for that long. It was probably at the bottom of a drawer for all I know !

    Sir Jorge : I find it’s easier to get a job in North America when you’re in your 20’s. HR are totally unrealistic in France… you basically have to have 10 yrs experience yet be under 30 and willing to work for 10 EUR an hr. A lot of my friends complain about it.

    Shan : I’ve never been treated too bad in interview, these are probably my worst experiences. But most people hate the HR bullshit, like IQ test etc.

    It’s always best to be honest when you think the person doesn’t fit for the job. Most people wouldn’t take it personally, but all of us hate waiting for an answer following an interview !

    Deadpoolite : I sometimes sent my best CV and I didn’t get an interview. But I would get one for the quick application sent at 1 am! Ironic.

    You don’t need a job anyway, you’re a bioscientist, which is basically another word for “spy”, right ?:D

  9. Getty72 : 😀 Honestly, I really wasn’t skilled to sell flower. Really not. I mean, I had to learn their names, than I would forget. And I hated people who would ask me “oh, do you have any trick to make the flower last longer?”. “NO !!! I don’t buy flower, the closest I’ve been to nature was smoking weed in high school and I don’t like flowers !!!”

    Well, I didn’t really say that but…:D

    Ryan : that’s hilarious ! To be hired and to have no idea when you apply for the job ! 😀

    When I was job hunting, I used to keep track of all the places I applied, cause some call back really long after.

    mist1 : well, if you need a backup of your resume… just apply at Quiznos ! 😀

  10. ah! those were quite some experiences! Job is really hard to find these days.Indian Job market is realy overfull! 🙂

  11. Oh, I like that one, calling back after two years. I guess that’s what happens when a company isn’t really organized…

  12. @Zhu

    Well that is classified information now and I cant share it with you. If I did I would have to torture you afterwards and very cruely I might add.

    I’ll just tie you up in a chair and make you watch all the scary movie series in quick succession without a stop not even to take a leak.

    I am afraid you’ll end up with the collective conciousness of a sprout by the end of the ordeal so dont risk it really,lol.

  13. Princesse Ecossaise on

    Oh GOD! I hate interviews. They make me so nervous, and I usually end up acting like a total stuck up geek in an effort to prove that they should hire me. I hate doing that!

    They always ask me; what can you bring to our company?

    And I have to conjure up some qualities about why I am so good that they should want me to work for them! HATE IT 🙁

  14. choc mint girl on

    Sometimes a company has come up with a project to expand and set up a new post to be filled in, but in some ways it could be postponed and they hold up everything. When the project finally in place, then they’ll start looking for manpower and that when old resumes showed up. However, by the sound of it, maybe they are desperate because it’s a part time job. Just to share with you I ever received a phone call for a job interview after 6 months from a well-known bank here in my country. I’ve actually forgotten what I was applying for. It’s a new post indeed, I just went through it but they were more interested in asking about the room rates, the room types…ha ha because at that time I was working in a 5 star resort. All the best!!!

  15. Ooer – interviewers are all horrible anyhow. Take care of yourself! I’ll see you again soon.



  16. MONA : hi dear poète ! Where are you from exactly ?

    david santos : Bom dia ! My Portuguese is very limited… sorry ! Thanks for visiting anyway ! 😉

    Sebastien : hey, glad to see you feel better ! Can’t wait to see your new drawings 😉

    Deadpoolite : why do you want to torture me all the time ? WHY ??? 😀

    Between you and me, I’m actually a Chinese spy but shhhh…

    And please, Scary Movie ! That’s so… 90’s !!!

  17. Princesse Ecossaise : don’t you hate it when they ask about your “qualités et défauts” ? I never know what to say !

    Paper Fan Club : thanks ! I’m glad my misery actually makes good stories 😀

    choc mint girl : Thanks for visiting ! I can tell from your comment that you’re talking of experiences… 😉

  18. ~*SilverNeurotic*~ on

    I’m so glad I’ve never had calls like that before…but now I’m scared cuz I’ll be looking for a new job soon.

  19. New drawings?! That’s a great idea 🙂

    Do you have any ideas of things I could draw? One drawing I’ve been planning to do is this: I was thinking of drawing a smiling boy and a smiling girl, each holding bee hives, one of them would hold it above their head, the other would have it in their arms. I think the little kids would be called the beekeepers… I’m trying to think if I’ll include other little creatures or maybe a tree in this pic… ah, things to think about!

  20. Oh, one more thing, I looked up the death angel you talked about, Ankou, sounds really cool. Do you know of any specific stories I could read that has this character?

  21. Mike m: welcome here ! Wow, I’m impressed, you have so many blogs ! Full time blogger, eh ? 😉

    Sebastien : I’m thinking of bee, I’m thinking of Winnie the Pooh. I love Winnie. So well… gotta draw a Winnie my friend ! 😀

  22. c’est hilarant et incroyable. C’est vrai? Well, we don’t have a job “per se”. I was just testing you. Thank you.

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