To prepare for our entrance into the workplace and lead productive lives as adults, we spend years in elementary and secondary schools and, for those who can afford it, college or university. Then, when the time comes to enter the workplace, we discover that our academic achievements are not enough to get a job. We have to face a selection process. It helps when we have a relative or friend in the company, organization or government agency to help us to gain entry. But this is no guarantee to obtaining the desired position.
The unwritten rules of the selection process did not work in my favor when I applied for a position with a newly established government planning commission in my native land, Guyana. The then Head of the Geography Department of the University of Guyana recommended me for a position and arranged a job interview.
Judging from the response from my four male interviewers, the job interview was proceeding well. Then one of the interviewers asked me what I thought about our education system. I applauded the government’s bold step to make education free from nursery to university – achieved two years prior to my job interview.
Based on my experience as an Acting Headmistress at a high school in a remote interior region, I added: “But with the short supply of text books and teaching materials, I think the government needs better allocation of funds for our less privileged interior schools.”
The atmosphere changed in the room. My job interview came to an abrupt end. I knew then that I had blown the opportunity of getting the position.
When the Head of the Geography Department met with me two weeks later, he did not greet me with his usual dimpled smile. “Your criticisms didn’t go down well with the government people,” he told me.
“Yeah, I noticed.”
I believed that the position called for a person with integrity. And integrity must begin with the job interview.
“You should’ve left your criticisms for later…after you got the job,” my best friend told me.
Had I told my future employers what they wanted to hear, would I have to sacrifice my principles at a future time in order to keep my position? These are choices we have to make and must live with the consequences.
After failing at that job interview, I learned that my future did not lie in the civil service unless I was prepared to remain silent. My dream of serving my country as a civil servant was shattered. In Guyana’s ethnic-racial civil service, academic qualifications, experience, and skills are of secondary consideration. Allegiance to the ruling party continues to be paramount for obtaining top positions.
The job interview is a two-way process. For the job applicant, it provides insight into the behavior of the organization’s executives towards their staff members and how you would likely be treated when hired. As employees, our job satisfaction and opportunities for professional growth depend upon these considerations.