Thursday, September 01, 2005

Honest, Officer

Interviewing isn't my best skill. When something is important, I get very precise and literal-minded. This works well when the question is "What was your requested altitude?" or "Able immediate?" but falls down when the question is "tell me about yourself?" Alternately, I babble, desperate to provide all information relevant to the topic. This became apparent at a police roadblock.

Usually I get waved through a roadblock without ever coming to a complete stop. A woman, wearing a uniform, seatbelt fastened, already winding down my window as I approach. Typically the officer waves a flashlight baton in what has just occurred to me is essentially the aircraft marshalling signal for "your engine is on fire," and I continue on my way, winding the window back up.

But this time they stopped me, and the officer asked me where I was coming from. "Work," I answered. Yeah, I know, I could be a security guard or a doorman with this uniform, but it was obvious to me.

"Where's work?" he asked.

"At the airport," I'm pointing behind me. "Well not exactly at ... I drive from the airport ... I'm a pilot." Now I'm pointing vaguely up and behind me.

"The address," prompts the officer, pretending to be patient.

"It's an airport. It hasn't got an address. Or maybe it does, but it takes up a lot of addresses." I finally name the airport. "Airport Road, maybe?" I'm wondering if it's on my business card. Maybe in my electronic organizer. I name my employer and point vaguely some more.

He seems to be satisfied with that, and shines his flashlight in the car a bit. It's was your typical well-used economy car (my ex-car). Company memos, pens, and chocolate bar wrappers litter the seats. Nothing more interesting. He asks, "Where are you going?"

In what I swear was complete innocence, I answer, "Home." It doesn't even occur to me that this is an antagonistic answer until I see the look on his face. I babble out the name of my neighbourhood and finally my address, and he lets me go, with a shake of his head.

Where do I work. That's a hard question. They're supposed to ask if I've had anything to drink, damnit. I know the answer to that one. At least he didn't ask me to tell him about myself.


dph said...

So, out of curiousity, how do you react in interview situations where the guy on the other end of the interview isn't holding a gun, and instead holds the key to a future job? Do you think you have the same standoffish style, do you think you realize you are standing off and then start, as you put it, babbling? Are you formal? Informal?

The sad thing about interviews is that most people really don't handle the situation well, and often, the best bullshitter gets the job. Not necessarily the guy I want on the pointy end of my vehicle 1 mile up.


Anoynmous said...

I seem to get asked where I work often enough to have an automatic answer. Even though saying simple "At [large local employer]" is terribly imprecise, it's all most people really want to know.

Some people do go on to ask "Oh, do you know [random employee] who works there?" I have an automatic answer for that, too: "I might have heard the name, but I don't think we've met." Sometimes I have met the person, or we might even be in the same department and see each other regularly, so I do actually have to think about the question before answering.

I still don't have a ready answer to "How are you today?" Only a very few people really care about the details of my state of health, and they almost never have to ask. I usually end up mumbling "Good enough" or "Ask me later" or something equally lame.

Aviatrix said...

I never even thought of it being standoffish. I know that I focus on the question, not the interviewer, not the impression I'm making, but the question, like it was a physics test or something. I'm trying to give an honest, succinct, clear answer, when what I should be doing is using the question as a spring board to divulge some important information about how wonderful I am.

Old Blind Dog said...

Maybe it's just me, but why does a cop need to know where you work and where you are going?

Aviatrix said...

I think it's a way of calling your bluff. If I were really coming from the bar, I might have to stutter and flounder in order to concoct a story about a legitimate employer located where I appeared to be coming from.

Maybe it's just as well I was equally incompetent at saying where I lived. If I'd been smooth and suav about that, it might have really looked like I made up the airport bit.