Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?
Ah, old friend. We meet again.For anyone who has recently attended an interview, this question should be all too familiar. I think the idea behind it is to evaluate your career goals; to see whether you are gutsy enough to say “doing your job” or if you just shrug violently with a panicked expression.
Fortunately, the question seems to crop up less frequently as you get older; I imagine because in five years’ time you are supposed to be an Adult, or at least a bit more adulty than you currently are.
(By the way, “in space”, “older but cooler”, “in a tree”, “eating more cake” and “I don’t have a clue” are apparently not deemed valid answers.)
How can anyone know what they want in the near future? I struggle to choose which socks to wear in the morning: I can’t be trusted with life goals.
No, there has been some sort of mistake. A paperwork error. I am not an adult, and I am opting out of ever having to be one. I don’t want to make boring decisions about mortgages, careers or other people. I want to live in a world where half curly fries and half chips is still a pressing issue.
Other things I find frightening in interview situations, ranked for your reading pleasure:
1. Desk etiquette.
I am a leaner. I lean on things. You know the expression “if there’s time to lean, there’s time to clean”? Yeah, well that’s me. Not content with sitting upright like normal homo sapiens, I tend to lean forward on the table, resting a combination of my elbows, bust and forearms – or sometimes all of the above – in what can be deemed either an aggressive, lazy, or possibly bad-backed manner. Should you lean first, or wait for the interviewer to lean? Why won’t I stop wildly gesturing? Why are my palms sweating? Is that boob sweat? Oh, god.
2. The drinks question.
Yes, I would love a drink. I’d really like a cup of tea, so I can clutch it to my chest and partially hide behind the steam. They only have coffee, and I am an over-oiled machine after drinking coffee. A hyperactive chihuahua; a gremlin fed after midnight. For everyone’s sake, don’t give me coffee. There’s water? Excellent. We can all watch my sweaty hands steam up the glass and pretend not to see it happening.
3. Where do you put your stuff?
I have a lot of stuff. Normally my stuff is contained in one sensible bag (but not a sensible bag, like sensible shoes, just a spacious bag) but occasionally interviews call for me to take my laptop along. Does it go on the desk in front of me? Too presumptuous. Does it go under my chair, ready to be trodden on? Absolutely not. Should I just switch it on and offer everyone a go on Tetris? And don’t get me started on coats; coats are a special nightmare accessory. The hider of sweat patches, the hugger of shoulders, left stranded on the back of my chair, where it will invariably slither off and land in a soft crumple on the piebald carpet to join lonely crumbs and old map pins.
Don’t misunderstand me here: under normal circumstances, I am brilliant at talking. I remember to not drop my H’s in polite company, I say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ and ‘yes I am fine’. I even do quite a good Alan Bennett impression. But at soon as it comes to the talky bit of interviews – the whys, hows and whens, I lose a lot of my words. They evaporate. I vote to conduct all future interviews through interpretive dance – the kind I do in supermarkets to the muzak – via a decent game of charades and finally, crucially, through the tea test. Can this employer make good tea? Never mind me telling you about a time I planned ahead through both proactive and reactive methods, has anyone got a dog? I love dogs; all dogs, dogs in neckerchiefs, dogs that look like bears, dogs with overbites. Let’s talk about them instead.