Unsolicited Interview Advice
One of the worst unsolicited advices I have had to receive before job interviews was the following: “try to be sweet, cute. You are usually very harsh”. This advice was given by my father. He’s a very nice and good person, excellent at political analysis with views that are closer to the “left-wing”, and all that jazz. But I believe he still has a decent way to go in terms of treating women well enough. He, I’m sure, does what he thinks is his best, but not nearly enough, as is demonstrated by this example. Not to mention that “doing your best” really loses its meaning when it’s said about considering people as your complete equals since it actually is something that you should be doing automatically as a well-read person, not something you “try your best at doing”. On top of that, I highly doubt, for example that he would have given me this kind of advice if I were his son and not his daughter. Maybe he would have unnecessarily told me to be polite during the meeting but not to be sweet or cute. And then there is the fact that it would be completely unnecessary to remind anyone who is about to go to a job interview to be polite:
- If they are old and capable enough to go to a job interview that would require them to be polite, they would probably be able to think about that much themselves;
- If the person needs to be reminded to be polite, they probably aren’t very polite to begin with, and their politeness would wear off really quickly, if not immediately, revealing their true self;
- There are of course exceptions, and you should treat the exceptions as just that — exceptions.
So really, it is pointless advice. And it’s even more pointless when you tell them to be “sweet” and not “harsh” as always, since you are essentially telling them that their personality (which could have been described as assertive or strong, instead of choosing terms that immediately affect an interview-goer’s self-esteem and creates or exacerbates doubts) is flawed and not fit for work. This is rude and wrong, surely without meaning to (it could be deliberate but this was my dad, so I refuse to believe it was).
But I made a mistake and I listened to that advice. I tried my best at being the sweet young woman for a few terrible months at work. Do you know what they made me do? They made me carry around coffee, take the phone calls no one wanted to take, and book plane tickets for trips I wasn’t invited to (even though as someone speaking a multitude of languages, I was the fittest to be taken to certain trips). I was scolded by a manager who was really bad at her job, and was just trying to cling onto it so that she could maintain her financial stability. Of course, I didn’t try to ruin her work because unlike her, I believe in true female solidarity, and I don’t believe in capitalist exploitation of workers even when they are very bad at their job; besides, she had a family to support and it was not my place to ruin anything. My employers knew damn well that I had graduated from the department of history with honours, and that I wanted to be involved in the research part of the job. I was hired for that purpose. But by being sweet as I was advised to be, I let them walk all over me and they made me do things that prevented me from doing the job I signed a contract for. So no, never again will I pretend to be something I’m not in order to appear nice to any employer, or anyone in general.
So don’t listen to anyone if they tell you to be something you’re not. Be yourself, stay respectful, and do what you’re meant to do.
P.S.: I would like to precise that I’m very grateful for having him as my father, and would want no one else. Pointing out the flaws in people we love means we love them and want them to flourish into their better selves!
P.S. II: Also, in retrospect, he probably told me to be sweet, not because he believes it’s the best way to be but because most bosses are male and most male bosses tend to be misogynists who prefer to hire females on the sweeter side — and that’s pretty hideous.