When the weather’s too miserable to venture out, it has been known of my friends and I to indulge in a board game of an evening. Being inept at general knowledge and hopeless at sport, board games are one of the few opportunities I have to shine. On one such recent night, triumphing at Monopoly seemed a good omen for the interview I had the next day for a postgraduate course. I was wrong.
I’ve only had one real interview in my life. I was sixteen and applying for a part time job. In my black school trousers and generic white shirt, I ran through the list of things my mum had told me to say. This was needless, as I was the only applicant to show up, (well, the only applicant who wasn’t playing with matches when the manager appeared), and I’ve been in the same job ever since.
Now, sitting in my cardigan and jeans, I felt slightly less impressive than the boy in the suit who had walked in before me. The fear that I was in over my head was starkly realised when I was assaulted by a battery of questions that I didn’t know the answer to. Failing fast, I did what students of English Literature do best.
Wandering off on a tangent, speaking about something entirely different, throwing in words like ‘paradoxically’ to give my answer the appearance of an educated, if not exactly relevant answer but nothing seemed to work. I pictured myself being told: ‘Do not pass go, do not collect a postgraduate degree’. Faced with an expression more Alan Sugar than sugar and spice, I sat trembling, waiting for the finger of rejection to be thrust in my face. However, like all good stories with a convenient plot, the interviewer was distracted by the phone ringing.
Replacing the receiver, I was astonished to hear the him say that I had in fact been accepted. Maybe it had always been based on the strength of my application form. Or maybe that had been Margaret on the phone to sway Sugar’s decision with a raise of her brow. Either way, I didn’t care, I got in, and it felt a lot like winning. I didn’t even need to be a top hat or an old boot to do it.
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