How do job interviews in the Netherlands work?

… asks Chris V, and answering that gives me a Theme to address, rather than a list of random happenings like the last entry. I think it’s best to write about one thing, it gives a post a sort of cohesiveness, which is good for someone who is usually Queen of the Non Sequitur (thanks, DrBob, for that – it’s my second-favorite description of me).

Anyhoo, it’s difficult to answer the question helpfully, because for one thing, this was my firt job interview in, um, 12 years? So I’m not even sure how non-Netherlands job interviews work anymore. Plus which, for me this time, step one was “have a husband who went to school with someone who is now a top executive in a company that has an office in the city where you live.” That’s kind of a big hurdle.

Actually, I felt bad about that. Not quite cricket, is it? It does rather seem like all job candidates should come in with a relatively equal set of unearned advantages, so we can all be judged on the ones we went to the trouble of earning. But I’ve tried that approach, many times, and found that on a level playing field, my earned skills get me a job stocking the salad bar in a chain restaurant.

So yeah, Executive Friend offered, I said yes please, sent my CV and a very stilted introductory email (I hate talking myself up, hate, hate, hate it) to the local office, and was invited for an interview with, um, let’s call him Ben. Nice guy. He had a job opening for a “management assistant” (apparently while I was out of the job market, “secretary” became a bad word), wanted someone full-time, I said augh, big step for me and my kids, we talked about compromise. He wondered at my incredibly random skillset (degree in social sciences, work experience in humanities, buncha certificates in tech stuff). He asked me job interview questions like “what would your friends say is the worst thing about you?” I told him it was that I’m indecisive. Which I am. He said huh, that wasn’t the impression he had. (When I got home I asked Facebook what they’d say, and I got answers like “You are just! too! AWESOME!”, which, you know, thanks guys, I love you, but I’m not taking you with me to any job interviews.) And then (doomy music…) he asked me what salary and benefits I expected. Oh, no! Seriously, y’all. I can’t believe I didn’t see that coming, but I didn’t, and I had no idea what to say. So I told him the truth. I said I’d be happy with whatever’s appropriate to the job, money’s nice but mostly I just want to work.

That’s about all I remember, since the interview was over a month ago. I sent follow-up emails, he said he’d let me know by Friday, he called Friday afternoon and I didn’t get to the phone in time so the message asked me to call back. Which I did, a couple times. Sent an email. Didn’t hear anything. DrBob went to his high school reunion. ExecFriend was there, asked how it went, DrBob said we don’t know, ExecFriend called Ben (ack! mortified!) and Ben finally got back to me yesterday. He said he’d hired someone else because another employee was going on maternity leave and they really did need someone for 40 hours a week. He also said he had another thing, a temporary project that he might ask me to work on, but he needed another 10 days to figure out details. I said sure, I can wait 10 days, reminded him of our vacation dates for this summer, and hung up.

Later DrBob asked, “what kind of project?” and I answered, “ummm…”

Yep, I don’t think on my feet very well, do I? Duh. I don’t do well at job interviews, because they require bragging and dishonesty, two things I absolutely despise. Once I get a job, I tend to do pretty well at it, but convincing people to give me that first chance, while still being true to myself, is usually impossible. Unless I’m applying for a job stocking salad bars.

Song du jour of the day: Thunderstruck, by AC/DC

3 responses to “How do job interviews in the Netherlands work?

  • amy

    I *used* to be very good at job interviews–generally if I got to the interview, I’d get the job–but oh my word, I can’t imagine what I’d be like in one now! It’s been ten years since I was job-hunting. Maybe when it comes time I should go on a few practice ones for jobs I don’t really want, just to get back into the swing of things…

  • alala

    Hm, maybe I should ask you for coaching for the next one then. Because you don’t strike me as cocky or dishonest at all, and if there were a way to ace a job interview without feeling like I’d have to brag, I’d love to know about it.

  • Jonna

    I don’t really think you have to be dishonest to ‘talk yourself up’. I don’t do that and usually my job interviews go well. It’s also about attitude and stressing the good things about yourself. E.g., if you screw something up, tell about how you repaired it again. learned from it, found a solution etc.

    Some years ago, I did volunteer work,and it had a positive influence on finding a paying job. You could do some tto, and it could be good for your c.v. and your appreciation of your own skills.

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