To finally get to our dream jobs at The Spinoff, our staff have been through some pretty shitty employment.

Stories from job seeker hell

Everybody agrees that job hunting sucks. But has it become worse? The hoops employers are making their would-be employees go through are becoming kind of incredible. Here unemployed, under-employed and employed share their jobseeker horror stories. Anonymously, obviously – because they need a job.

I was called in for an interview with a media monitoring agency. When I arrived there were 20 people in the room. They asked us questions as a group. I was the oldest in the room by a decade. A teenager asked me “What do you want to be when you grow up? I want to be a journalist!” I’d just been made redundant from the news agency job I’d had for almost five years. We then went into a room where we had to speed type a transcript. I got the job but lost a piece of my soul.

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During a job interview, a friend – who happens to have light blonde hair – read a panelist’s notes; she’s good at reading upside-down writing. The first (and only) thing he had written was: “Very blonde”. After the interview she rushed out and bought a bottle of brown hair dye.

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I was asked once if I was a Christian or if I “upheld any Christian values” and another time I was asked if I suffered from any ongoing “womanly” problems. 

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The application process just sucks the life out of me every time. Every job needs the C.V. tweaked, the cover letter becomes effectively a piece of written art, and now, increasingly, application forms require me to demonstrate my capacity to do this, my willingness to do that, each with an example requiring some practical illustration….It does my head in! In the last three months I’ve applied for two jobs and both took me around eight hours just to apply. I deliberately don’t apply for jobs unless I think I’ve got a realistic shot at them, simply because each hour I spend on a job application is an hour I am not spending on the current paying contract I do have.

Of the two jobs I applied for, I got shortlisted for both. However, each one has required more tasks from me prior to an interview. The latest one didn’t even ask me if I was available for an interview. They simply sent me an email (two months after the application closed) saying “please attend a panel interview and prepared to give a ten minute presentation about what you think the role is” What I think the role is?? Surely you tell me what the role is??! In addition, they want the presentation emailed to them in advance, which effectively means I have only two days to work on it. They didn’t even have the courtesy to ring and ask if I might be available at the time they offered – as though I don’t already have a job and have just sitting around twiddling my thumbs waiting for them to call me back! All of this says to me: I definitely don’t want to work for this place.

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I was shortlisted for a job and had an interview. Great, I thought. Then I had to go in for an interview. I figured the next stage would be did I get it or not. How naive of me. This lead to me being shortlisted (I thought I’d already been shortlisted?) I had to then do a “proper” interview. The first had been an hour and a half. This “proper” interview was with a panel. Four people. They grilled me for two hours this time. I was a wreck by the end of it. I was then ushered into a small closet/room where I was asked to write a press release, a speech, and a communications strategy based on a report that was about 100 pages – all in 45 minutes. I was then shortlisted to “meet the team”. By then I basically hated them all.

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Worst I was ever asked in an interview: “Do you bake?” They offered me the permanent job and I said NO. I took a lower paid, short term contract because, well, fuck them.

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I was asked to put forward a 6-12 month marketing campaign for a small business as part of the hiring process. They didn’t hire anyone but used my campaign by the letter. Recently I was asked to do the same as part of another recruiting process and declined, stating my reasons and asking them to look to my work experience instead – and my second interview was pulled because my ‘non-compliance’ was of concern.

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I was 19 and returning to uni from my dad’s funeral. I was in the cheap shuttle van that drops people to their houses from the airport. I was talking with one of the passengers about what I was studying. He said that he often hired uni students for his tourism business (yacht charters to a nature reserve). He thought I might be good at that. I thought it was a noncommittal conversation, got dropped off at my hostel, and forgot about it.

Three days later I got a phone call at the hostel and it was him. He said he had an unexpected charter and could use last minute help – a trial for the job. Like an idiot I went.

Well, he was a handsy creep. It was terrifying. I wish I’d confided in the charter clients. My hostel was brilliant (screened calls and visitors) so I don’t know if he ever tried to make contact again. Two months later those students disappeared in the Sounds. My friends and I were all completely freaked out. It was pretty bad, but it could have been much worse.

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My dream job came up while I was in the USA on a fellowship. I got a Skype interview, in the evening there, which was going well until my then nine month-old woke up screaming. I had to get him out of his cot and jig him with a dummy in his mouth while completing the interview. I cried so much when I didn’t get that job. Well I guess at least I didn’t need to breastfeed him!

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I was interviewed at a government department and I asked what they did, how the team contributed to the department and what I could expect to be doing in the role. The panel were so outraged that I didn’t research what they did all day that my interview was cut short. I was brand new to Wellington and thought it was a reasonable question. I’d been told by the recruiter that it was an informal chat. I didn’t know anyone in Wellington that worked there to ask around.

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When living in Sydney I replied to a job advert for a communications role. When I turned up with my OK-ish job history, the guy almost looked apologetic as I walked in to this pokey little room in suburban Redfern. He sat down behind this desk in this super disorganised office which resembled something out of the lawyer from The Castle and shuffled some papers before he blurted out “Look, I’m not going to waste your time much longer. This job is working in the sex industry dealing with those who provide adult services”. He awkwardly asked if I had any issue with that. I didn’t, in theory, but the job advert painted the job as something much, much different to what it ended up being. I didn’t have to turn the job down anyway…he declared that I was “above” the job and showed me the door.

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In a job interview I was asked directly: “How do you plan on succeeding in you role as well as your role as a mother?” Just like that. By a woman. A childless woman.

Have your own story of job seeker hell? Email it to us at info@thespinoff.co.nz and we’ll publish the best submissions. Anonymity guaranteed.


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