Employer Branding

Interview Tips Learnt from a Garbage Collector

A few weeks ago, I got a call from a man (let’s call him John) asking me to write his resume along with a cover letter for a specific job he wanted to apply for. He’d been working as a casual Council Worker (specifically collecting garbage and driving garbage trucks) for the last few months, and wanted to apply for the same position in a permanent, full time capacity.

It started off as usual

I went through my normal process of resume writing, chatting to him in detail about all his previous roles, responsibilities, his strengths, his achievements. We talked about how important it was for him to get the interview – being a casual meant that he was constantly afraid of being let go – which is why he wanted this job – this job being one he was really crazy about.

He wasn’t applying for a host of jobs – just this one. He wanted the peace of mind that the job that he loved would be stable and secure so that he could pay the bills.

John kept in touch with me over the next couple of weeks. He called me when he got called for a phone screen to chat through his experience. He called me, absolutely over-the-moon with excitement and delight when he was short-listed for an interview. He was beside himself with gratitude and appreciation for what I had done for him – I had gotten him an interview. Something that he believed he had zero chance of without my aid. He was beaming with joy.

I remained positive for him, telling him that he would do well, reinforcing the things that he should illustrate during interview, such as his passion for his job, something he had explained to me in his own words. Then John called me after the interview to tell me how it went.

The post-interview chat

We talked about the sorts of questions that were asked of him, and how he’d responded. He told me that at the end of the interview, he thought that he had made a mistake. He finished the interview by saying:

I believe that I am the right candidate for the role, and I really hope I get the opportunity to work in this role with you.

I smiled, and reassured him that he had without a doubt, said the right thing.

He worried about whether it was ok that he had attended the interview in his Council uniform. He explained that he couldn’t afford to take any time off from the job because he would be losing money, so had the interview during his lunch hour. He also couldn’t afford to buy a suit, and explained so to the HR lady.

He wanted this job so much; it was evident through each of his concerns. I felt his sincerity in every word he spoke. There was no bravado. It was just one human being sharing with another, how important this was to him.

The twist.

Then John said something that completely caught me by surprise. Something that moved me like no one I had ever met in the corporate world, had. He said to me, in a really slow, humble and deliberate manner…

Irene. Mate. I reeeeally want this job. It’s like a dream come true for me. It’s exactly what I want and what I’ve always wished to have.

I was intrigued. What is it that made John love his job so much? So I decided to ask him.

John continued:

I can’t explain the feeling that I get, when I turn something that’s dirty into something beautiful and clean. It’s the most amazing feeling. Most people think that cleaning is degrading but I just love it. I love it. I work with a team of really great blokes. Coming in to work every day makes me so happy. It’s the perfect job for me.

John’s gratitude & passion.

I was so moved by this man’s love for what he does, that I started crying. Here I was, used to feeling sorry for people who work as cleaners, thinking that they don’t have a choice. Yet here is a man who is doing what makes him happier than all the people that I’ve worked with throughout my career, combined.

He continued:

Irene, thank you so much. If it weren’t for your resume, I wouldn’t have even had a chance to get an interview. I can’t explain how grateful I am to you. If I get the job, I want to buy you a bunch of flowers.

By this point, I was sobbing uncontrollably, hoping that he wouldn’t hear me. This is the sort of love that I believe every single person should experience for their job.

My lesson

Having John as my client, has given me a gift far greater than he is even aware of. He so clearly illustrated that age old saying of “It’s not about what happens to you, but how you view the situation.

When one is able to appreciate and be grateful for every little thing, life becomes a series of miracles. Look for the silver lining on the cloud. View the glass as half-full. And remember, the grass isn’t actually greener on the other side. It’s actually just as beautiful where you are, if you just search for it.

When you find ways to make art, to create meaning in all that you do, you too will be just as radiantly happy as John is. That’s because true happiness and fulfilment will never be found in the circumstances that surround you, but lies deep within. And it is accessed via appreciation, gratitude and contribution.

Thank you for the humble reminder John. It’s something I won’t soon forget.

Now, I challenge you, to view each phone call, each email, each word you type, each piece of data that you enter, each difficult customer that you face, as your means to make a contribution to somebody else’s world. Do this for one week, and you will see that joy will be overwhelmingly present. And you will never want to go back.

PS. If John doesn’t get the job, I’m going to send this blog post to the HR person who interviewed him. I would not want to let somebody as passionate as he, leave my organisation that’s for sure.

Irene is the founder of Arielle Consulting, a consultancy that helps people effectively manage their careers.

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