Job-hunt: our top 3 outrageous interview situations

 

The most absurd questions at job interviews

Sometimes we deal with abusive interviewers

-How was the interview?

 

-Oh, as usual. They started asking me absurd questions and I backfired with a tirade of sarcastic answers.

This was one of the typical dialogues between my friend and Ruzanna over the past few months when she was seeking a job after quitting her seemingly posh yet juice-draining position as a store manager.

As nо less experienced and pained interviewee, I would start mildly hinting her to be more tolerant to get a job, to be patient (the one word that could infuriate her most of all!) and so on and so forth; but, excuse me, how to stay cool-headed when an interviewer, for instance, asks if you’re ready to make coffee for the boss and his guests on a daily basis while you’re not applying for the secretary position. (Well, at least, let’s be thankful then that we are informed about this subtle “nuance” of the job beforehand).

So, inspired by our shared bitter practice and this BBC Capital article, I picked up top 3 ridiculous interview situations we went through which may be useful  in your quest for landing a dream job (of course, if such exists):

  1. We’re hiring that’s why YOU are more interested.  This situation is vividly illustrated by having you wait for the super VIP HR manager for more than 15 minutes without further “sorry for waiting” (hey, by the way, politeness is a universal virtue). In one of such cases, I told the recruiter I had to go earlier because of their delay. Interview in fact is a two-way street: you need a job- but they (most likely) need your skills and experience – that’s why respect and understanding should be mutual. If they don’t value your time in the very beginning of your possible co-operation, they are not likely to do it afterwards.
  2. We’re hiring that’s why WE are asking questions. This one logically follows the bullet 1. Once, as a newly graduated linguistics major I was interviewed for an administrative position at a VIP fitness club in my hometown. After the standard questions and Einstein test (!why the hell is it needed if you all have to do is amiably greet the guests and record their names and such kind of stuff?!- another ridiculous situation, indeed), I attempted to ask some questions about the position. With a look of an intelligence agent aware of the top state secrets and not willing to give them away under the threat of death, the HR condescended to answer. “You will learn everything IF (read: you, common mortal, how did you dare to even ask it!)you pass on to the next stage. Period. Lord knows how many nights I didn’t sleep trying to figure it out – even when I learnt I didn’t pass (read: sarcastic smile 🙂
  3. And, finally, the “epic” one. We are hiring that’s why WE can belittle your experience to make you agree on our terms. Or, the so-called interview abuse.

“4 years of experience as a store manager?Well, it’s easier than the sales officer job you’re applying for. Isn’t it JUST coordinating and organizing the things?”, my friend quoted her last met HR as saying this while trying to look a super qualified professional. The tactic of downsizing Ruzanna’s skills backfired with a bunch of sarcastic comments before she gracefully left the office (oh, I wish I could see it!). She’s eventually found a decent job, that’s not the issue. The thing is that in our digital age it’s so easy to scare away the right professionals from your company by such a behavior (the opposite holds true, too): a few Facebook statuses or just the life-tested word-of-mouth are enough to gain a certain (not favorable) image among job-seekers.

And, lastly, dear recruiters! Of course, you will have your “side” of the story, too. Feel free to share if you happen to read this perhaps not-so-pleasant entry.

Dear job-seekers,

I’m sure you have your own bitter, funny, ridiculous or outrageous interview story. Let’s share and help the newly-grads not to get desperate in such situations and deal with them with dignity and a bit of irony.

A no-nonsense tip for success, or the power of asking

Knock and the door will be opened.

Knock and the door will be opened.

Like in the popular cartoons, this morningI felt an invisible lamp being lit over my head;  the so-called “a-ha” moment, and I want to share my insight with you.

As usual, it happened when I was injecting my morning dose of inspiration on BBC.com Capital into my brains. “The Three Secrets of Getting What You Want”- the clickbait headline already foreboded a mix of ultimate reading pleasure and a promise of tangible outcomes (read: subsequent actions).

I’m not going to criticize or summarize the article. Rather, I’ll focus on the  single point that rang a bell to me. Asking as a prerequisite for getting what you  dream about. And this is when I realized the only gross obstacle pulls me back and halts my progress toward the goals: I suck at asking because I’m too proud, sometimes lazy, and other times just foolish, and even when I ask the time spent on the decision-making drains the energy that could have been spent more efficiently on my goals.

“Ask and it shall be given to you”, the famous Bible quote swirled into my mind (which is rare given my not being a keen Christian or an overly religious person) which started conflicting with another thought-provoking quote by my favorite Mikhail Bulgakov: “You should never ask anyone for anything. Never- and especially from those who are more powerful than yourself.” (NB: Woland’s advice to Margarita).

Sorry, my favorite Bulgakov, author of immortal “Master and Margarita”. With all my love and respect to your masterpiece, these words are not up-to-date anymore. The life realities haves changed. Life speeds have so much accelerated that one can’t have the luxury of sitting back and waiting when those “who are more powerful” to notice your merits (for instance, to give you the deserved raise or recognition at work).

And my recent life experience has come to prove that. Of course, it took me months to take the step of asking to later find out it’s not at all humiliating and tough, especially when you’re sure you deserve what you ask for.  The result? I got what I wanted (even if it was a short-term fix), and I’m not sure if I would if I hadn’t asked.

A conclusion? Besides your personal strategies and tactics (share, please, if you do anything specific and out-of-box to reach your goals), the overused “visualization” and already cliche “positive thinking” strategies, just ask for the particular thing you want to have for your longer-term goals, and 90 times out 100 you will be rewarded. After all, rejection is better than regret.

“Cheer up” and 5 more taboos not to comfort your depressed friend with

"Cheer up" is no effective

“Cheer up” is no effective

Recently, I’ve come across a very thought-provoking article written by one of my favorite columnists, Oliver Burkeman, for The Guardian. With his challenging irony and sarcasm, the author argues the pointlessness of the “comforting” commands such as “cheer up”, “calm down” that you and I often use to help a depressed friend.

“Is there anything more annoying than being told to cheer up when you’re feeling down?…if you could cheer up by choice, you’d already have done so”. Couldn’t be said better- spot on!

That’s what I’ve been experiencing and mulling over lately which resulted in drafting my own top 8 list of the taboo phrases that you shouldn’t catch yourself telling to a grieving person (or even the ones who’re just slightly depressed). Not because you should be tough. With your best intentions considered, these “soothing” phrases are merely pointless (remember a single time you instantly soared with happiness after your best friend’s ”cheer up” command. That never happened, right?).

So, here you go. Remember and immediately forget these phrases when you’re dealing with a suffering heart.

“Pull yourself together” (=”calm down”). Yes, she will calm down. But after she’s cried herself into sleep (I’m not aware of the man’s actions. Maybe beating the punching bag to the thrash rock music? :).

“Look on the bright side”.  She/he won’t see any colors on the “side”. They won’t even see the “side”.

“Life is wonderful”.  Only to others, not him/her. Now everything sucks.

“Take it easy”. Do you want her/him to get furious in addition to being deeply sorrowful?

“You’re not the first and last person to have gone through this”. This one is my favorite. Yes, she/he’s mature enough to realize that “everything shall pass”, and repetition in this case is the mother of not learning but even more grieving.

What could you do instead? Just listen compassionately and even validate his/her sorrow. From my experience, that helps  overcome the blues faster. Only then, when the critical period is passed can you make him/her dress up and have a nice evening together over a glass of wine.  That’s my “therapy” (another effective one being the bibliotherapy) against “the cheer up” treatment 🙂

What are your observations? Do you have your own list? Please, contribute to the post with your comments 🙂

5 taboo phrases you should never tell your single female friends

There are phrases to be avoided while dealing with a single person

There are phrases to be avoided while dealing with a single person

My personal life has never been a piece of strawberry cake lately. Actually, I haven’t recently had one in the first place ( to judge it in terms of good and bad). After my latest failed endeavor, I just dropped my guns and quit the personal front. Travel, career and family- this is what I substituted the romance, dating and love with.

I don’t complain. It’s been a life of a happy single surrounded with happy couples J However, this seemingly idyllic life (which undoubtedly is better than being in a rotten or dead-end relationship) is often challenged by supposedly well-intended phrases thrown here and there to cheer your single soul up.  I’m sure the intentions are most noble and sincere, but they do backfire.

So, I decided to deliberately stop narration of the last part of my trip (so urgent the topic was!) and  brought together top 5 phrases that have just the opposite effect on single women. Here we go! (NB: Hey, I haven’t always been single, and I’m guilty of making these mistakes, so the examples are life-tested from both sides).

  1. “It’s okay, enjoy your time alone (with your friends, family, hobbies and whatever)”. Well, with a couple of hobbies, great friends and nice family, that’s what I’m doing now (and many others, too, I hope). But thanks for reminding 😉
  1. “Just wait- the right person will show up at the most unexpected moment”. No comment. Just a nod. I myself am a protagonist of whole concept of “right person at right time”. But believe me it is of no use when on a particularly dismal winter evening you eagerly desire he were by your side here and now.
  1. But, at the same time: “Hurry up! You’re already 25+.” Well, my answer in such cases is something like: “Okay, set me up with a super nice man. Oh, you don’t know one? Then, I like my life of a happy single as it is for now. Bye”.
  1. My favorite “Any news in private life?” (Especially when the curious one is just a neighbor who you meet once a decade or a colleague who you can’t but see every day…unwillingly ;)). Believe “the news” you would be at least holding my hand at the moment of your asking. I know but a few other questions that can be so annoyingly inappropriate (with the “When are you planning a baby” topping the list).
  1. You’re a strong woman, men are intimidated by them”. One correction: men (if you know what type of a man I mean) are not so easily intimidated (if yes, then I don’t even consider the option), especially by a strong and a bit bitchy woman (if you know what type of a woman I mean). So, dear strong women, go on with your self- and career-development and never lower the bar.

Actually, all these taboos boil down to a common conclusion: as long as possible, just bypass the topic. Talk about art, nature and even your neighbor’s wedding but not the prospects of private life of your (happily) single friend, colleague or neighbor. Unless you know a super nice guy who could be a match for her 🙂
 

BeNe (Lux?) trip: Part 2: I heart Amsterdam: Day 1- Exploring the city

Amsterdam- the bicycle city.

Amsterdam- the bicycle city.

Before I dwell on the feeling and emotions overflowing me in this incredible city (read: pathetic women stuff), just one remark. You can skip the “lyrics” part and straightly go to the pragmatic part below: the lessons learned and tips to be shared. I won’t be upset, I promise. (Well, just a bit:)

So, I’m alone and free in one of the most classy and vibrant cities in the world, where weed is legal in coffee shops and it’s allowed to have sex in the largest park, Vondelpark. What should I do? Of course, behave myself, as most of the locals do 🙂 Forbidden fruit is sweet, but make it legal -and people are more relaxed about trying one.

As a “19th century aristocratic lady” (dubbed by a few friends for my passion for classical music, books and classy outfits), I couldn’t but pick up a hotel with a very “classical” name out of the bunch of cheaper choices: Hampshire Hotel Beethoven located at the Beethoven Street. Could there be a better choice? At least, I would remember the address of my 5-day dwelling. And at best, as I intuitively sensed, the Dutch people couldn’t place a hotel named after a genius in a crappy neighborhood. My intuition was right (as in 90% of cases). The hotel was nicely situated in a posh district (as all my Dutch friends kept on claiming later).

City view from Beethoven Hotel.

City view from Beethoven Hotel.

On the very first day, after an hour of rest, I stepped out of it to explore the neighborhood and get to the Van Gogh Museum – the only one on my must-see list (honestly, I managed to satisfy my hunger for the art in Italy, after the 3rd museum).

But before getting there I should have at least stay alive among the hundreds of bicyclists flocking in the middle of nowhere. I guess there are more bikes in Amsterdam than people. That’s proved by statistics. And that means you have more chances of being hit by a crazy biker than a drunk driver or tram.

Miraculously surviving the bike attacks and a few grumpy cyclists who threw a few Dutch curses to my direction, I got to the Museum Plein- home to a bunch of world-class museums: from the landmark Rijksmuseum up to Diamond Museum and even Torture Museum!

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Looks scary.

Sticking to my initial plan, I headed forThe Sunflowers and The Bedroom (read: Van Gogh Museum) instead The Night Watch (read:  Rijksmuseum). Colors, colors, colors…and.. some of Gauguin’s naked Tahitian women (yes, as Van Gogh’s friend, his painting were scattered in some of the rooms despite the fact he was the reason for Van Gogh’s ear cut off: real friendship outlives the minor quarrels, indeed:)

No photos inside the museum :)

No photos inside the museum 🙂

Splurging a bit in the museum store (I have a boon for sometimes unjustified price tags in all the museum stores, I confess), I went out to fully breathe in the fresh air after the rain and carefree faces of “selfie-stickated” tourists feeling behind the stress of the transfer and my fears that I wrote about.  My gut told me: this is going to be an unforgettable trip, which will fully change the course of my life.”We will never gonna be the same”, a tune was swirling in my head till I got to be bed and slept calmly since ages.

Watching raindrops and doves from Van Gogh Museum.

Watching raindrops and doves from Van Gogh Museum.

Lessons learned and tips to be shared:

  1. I liked the hotel, so strongly recommend for solo travels especially- safe and quiet neighbourhood, nice staff. I don’t know anything about the breakfast though.
  2. The best way to get around is by a tram. Just buy a 2, 3,4- day passes and enjoy the ride!
  3. Keen on burning calories? Relish the walking in one of the most pedestrian-friendly cities, as long as you don’t forget it’s the most bicycle-friendly city as well.
  4. So, logically, beware of bicyclists: they are always right, even if you’re hit.
  5. Skimp money on water. You can just drink from the tap- the Dutch water (as Armenian one) is drinkable.
  6. Keep your food expectations low. I’ll write about it later as well. 🙂
Green carpet of Vondelpark.

Green carpet of Vondelpark.

In the next chapter, I’ll focus on the Ent-Ex programme, my (self)-discoveries and, of course, lessons learned and recommendations.

BeNe (Lux?) trip: Part 1: Overcoming fears

Traveling solo: selfies are the solution

Traveling solo: selfies are the solution

It’s equally hard to write about an incredibly enjoyable as well as annoyingly failed vacation: in both cases, you come home a bit depressed and it lasts for at least 2 weeks (varies from traveler to traveler). But I finally fight my still lingering laziness (a natural byproduct of a 2-week-long holiday) and enter my online “room” to speak up about my BeNe trip. Why not Lux? Technically, I could manage the Lux part, but BeNe was already so exciting and honestly, pricey, that I left the beautiful Luxembourg unattended this time. It’s ok. Next time I visit the Low Countries (I learned a lot during the trip, by the way:)), I’ll traverse Luxembourg first thing.

Why Holland and Belgium?

“I’m slightly surprised why you decided to explore nordic states after sunny Italy last year”, my uncle confessed after I bubbled away all the (sharable) impressions from my trip at my granny’s. The short answer is – 1.I wanted to travel solo to a place  completely different from the ones I visited- Italy, UAE, Russia, Georgia, and first of all – Armenia.

2. I wanted to learn something simultaneously with traveling, and I enrolled in Ent-Ex Amsterdam program (I’ll touch upon this workshop in a separate post).

Not really short, isn’t it? Don’t worry, I’m not going to dwell on the long one: it’s mostly personal and…stretching outside of the travel blog format 🙂

So, why solo?

I don’t believe in coincidences: I do believe in signs. So, I took the fact that all my friends with whom I’d feel like traveling were  unavailable in summer as a sign: it’s time to face one of your greatest fears- traveling solo. Not that I was afraid of being bored. I have always enjoyed my company and would surely find something to entertain myself. Nor was I afraid of being stolen or kidnaped. No, the reason was more technical and…silly.

“What if I get lost in the airport? What if I’m late to the second plane? What if I suddenly forget English out of fear and get lost? What if I hotel booking is wrong and I find myself “homeless” in, say, Brussels?” These were but a few endlessly stupid questions that were swirling in my mind keeping me awake at nights, no matter how much my friends tried to be supportive. Besides, as a person, who had the notorious story with Armavia and flew with pilots (this is yet another entry), I shouldn’t have been braver, indeed. Anyways, I was obsessing over these insecurities. That’s why, at a very crucial moment (was I drunk? I don’t remember), I declared to myself: “Drop the fears, Siri. You’re traveling solo this year”.

Surprisingly, I didn’t get lost in the airport. Astonishingly, I was on time for all my planes. Mesmerizingly, there were no wrong hotel bookings. And, fortunately, I retained (and even improved) my English during the whole trip. And learned a bit of the tricky Dutch 🙂 And I discovered I’m not that helpless as I formerly thought of myself. By the end of the trip I found myself traveling from Rotterdam to The Hague on the subway without a map (that was a moment of pride for me, honestly).

But first things first. The next entry will be devoted to the forever young city of Amsterdam, my first destination, my likes and dislikes, the people I met there and some travel tips.

Lesson learned N1: push yourself harder, pick up a fear a time and “work” on it.

Lesson 2: Traveling solo can be safe and fun, but don’t forget take your common sense, sense of humor and a few helpful gadgets wherever you go.

Lesson 3: Never ever eat the sandwiches during your Yerevan-Moscow or Moscow-Yerevan flight with Aeroflot. Just a tip for your stomach:)

5 insights on what to start this spring

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Goodbye winter, welcome spring!

Okay, I admit we all become sluggish and lazy in winter, and even the promise of having a body like Apollo/Venus can’t make us leave our coaches for the gym or even cinema. But I have good news (in case you’re still hibernating and missed it): the spring has come! Perhaps, some of you have a well-though-out “to-do list (or “to-Not-do list”) for spring, yet others are still clueless about how to add some color to their lives this spring. In both cases, replace your favorite “I’ll start it in spring” with “I’ll do it today” and consider one of these options:

  1. Gym/ pool/yoga/capoeira classes

Don’t be panic-stricken by the thought that summer is 3 months away and you’re still far from Adriana Lima (and, in general, don’t panic, “This too shall pass”:)). Instead of obsessing over your imperfections as an imminent result of winter pig-outs, just stick to healthy lifestyle: balanced eating, “green day” – meaning only vegetables and fruit- once a week,+ physical activity minimum twice a week. If you top the list of the laziest geeks, then at least do this short 10-minute workout in front of your favorite soap opera.

  1. Cultural events

Spring is time to not only physical but also spiritual and mental “workout”. Check out your local events and pick one closer to your heart. Or, rather, try something new – like a museum or gallery if you’re more of a music fan, or ballet if you have never seen it live. Sometimes, changing such small patterns gravitates fundamental changes in life.

  1. Reconnect with “the lost” friend

All of us have that friend who is always on our mind but we’re always too busy/exhausted/ annoyed/ in love to squeeze time for him/her. You chat occasionally on Facebook recalling the fun you had together and still…fail to put her/him on your priority list. As you regained physical and mental shape (if you follow the above-mentioned tips, of courseJ), it’s time to make the move and schedule an offline meeting with that pleasant but interrupted connection.

  1. Plan ahead your summer fun

It’s a life-tested technique: whenever you feel bogged down or listless, plan (or at least, imagine) your next (summer mostly, and autumn- in some cases) destination. It’s my only remedy against apathy, to be honest: I go to BBC Travel, read a travel blog or watch a video about faraway countries,  and then visualize myself in one destination at a time. Even the thought of upcoming travel propels me to tackle the routine more effectively, and I’m sure it will work for you, too.

  1. And finally, plan to be more spontaneous. This may sound a paradox, but arrange to leave some room for spontaneity that may come your way. I should confess I’m a control freak most of time and I get overly annoyed if something pops out of my agenda. But then I remind myself that all the wonderful things that happened to me when I least expected them. So I sometimes I cancel a class, make an impromptu call to a friend or dig in the nearest bookstore in search an insightful book, or just stroll aimlessly observing the city life and passers-by.

P.S. The beauty of life is in inventing ”variations” on main ” theme” of your routine. Fill it with more music, more spontaneity and action, do not  follow these insights if you have something more exciting in your mind- just savor the promising warmth of spring and all year round!

To-do or to-NOT-do list?

not-do-list-940x380Conventional wisdom says: “If you want to be productive, create a to-do list and stick to it”.

However, ”monitoring” the effectiveness of my to-do list at one point in my life, I found out it doesn’t work against daily distractions. I thought: OK, I know what to do, but is it enough to channel my energy to achieving my goals? This is when I shifted to an alternative approach – the to-NOT-do list- suggested by my favorite author, Elizabeth Gilbert.

Inspired with her insight, I outlined my to-NOT-do list. Honestly, I haven’t reached 100%-performance milestone yet (sometimes I can’t resist commenting on a provoking Facebook post or admiring a photo of a cute kitten :)). But I believe sticking to this approach is a way to enhance productivity. So, here’s my updated to-NOT-do list:

  1. Do not check e-mail or social media accounts constantly. I pick 3 times a day – morning, lunchtime and around 6- for  responding to emails and chatting or commenting on Facebook. If you still can’t resist the temptation, try Google Chrome’s Stay Focused extension which will automatically curb your time spent on social networks.
  1. Do not lavish your time on contacts with manipulative or high maintenance people. Want it or not, you can’t make everyone happy, especially these tough types. Unfollow them on Facebook as well as in real life. (I’ve already written on how to avoid and protect yourself against such emotional vampires in my previous post).
  2. A girlish one. Do not overuse mirror during the day. Do your best to look your best in the morning and then relax. That new microscopic wrinkle on your forehead will not disappear, but the thought of it will swirl in your mind and distract from your big goal. Light-heartedness is sexier than perfect features or professional makeup.
  1. Do not read tabloid or overly negative content, especially in the morning. You’ll not be able to prevent another ISIS terrorist attack or save quake victims but instead will have your mood ruined for the rest of the day. What I do is just skim BBC or CNN headlines in the afternoon without going into details.
  1. Finally, the abstract and hardest to-NOT-do. Do not expect immediate results. Either from using these tips or pursuing your goals in general. This is the first thing I remind myself while working on my goals (patience is not my strongest feature, I confess). I repeat Jim Rohn’s words whenever I rush to get results : “How long should you try? Until”.

While reading this entry, you perhaps thought of your own to-NOT-do list. Do some soul-searching and unveil those time and energy-killers. Write them down on a to-NOT-do list and remove them from your life:) Good luck, and stay committed to your goals.