Prison Blues

by Enoch Hardman
(London - England.)

I recently went to a job interview at a prison in London for a job as an education officer. I prepared for two weeks for the interview and was feeling pretty confident. I had this whole scenario in my head: arrive, exchange witty banter with staff in the office and then go in and have a little chat over a cup of tea with the HR manager about my ample experience and impressive qualifications. My application had been very impressive and eloquently written and I'm not ashamed to say I knew it. I had however been possessed by the demon known as Hubris and I was in for a mighty fall.


I arrived at the prison early and and after politely greeting the receptionist I was marched through to a waiting room where I was instructed to place anything I didn't need for the interview in a locker, which I did. A warden then came and took me to another room where I was told to empty my pockets and remove my belt and watch and jacket. These were all placed in a tray and anything forbidden was picked out and thrown away and the rest put through a scanner. The folder with my paperwork was opened and picked through and after a short telling off a CD with copies of my certificates was confiscated as it was on a list of banned items. I was taken through a metal detector, placed on a small dais and patted down really aggressively before then being marched through to another room. In that room a woman in a reinforced reception/office took my photograph, fingerprints and I.D. I was totally overwhelmed by the whole experience. Any attempt I made to make conversation with anyone was completely rebuffed. Thankfully, I thought to myself, I'd arrived in good time for the interview so could sit down for half an hour, read through my notes and compose myself. No chance, the interview was going in one direction, and one direction alone - downwards!

To my horror a woman from HR came down from the offices to get me and walked me straight into the interview where I was met not by some friendly woman from HR but a panel of interviewers. By now I was a gibbering wreck. The folder with my paperwork was still open and I managed to flick the contents across the room as I sat down on the far end of the big circular table. From this point onward everything that came out of my mouth was just mindless nonsense.

I answered the following questions as follows:

Panel: What does the term "team player" mean to you?
Me: It means working as part of a team.

I stopped there for some reason and there was a horrible long silent pause.

Panel: What does the word ?????????? mean to you?
Me: I'm sorry, I've never heard that word before, so I couldn't really say.

Panel: Could you give us an example of a time when you resolved a conflict?
To this question I started telling a story and then forgot what I was talking about, drifted onto talking about diversity and then suggested that gays were vindictive. I would describe the look on the panels faces as shocked. A women's jaw just dropped and another one just said "Oh...oh". I knew I was bombing and there was nothing I could do to stop it.

Panel: How do you cope in group situations.
Me: Really well although I'm not really comfortable in THIS situation.

There was a bottle of water on the table. I asked if it was for me and was told I could have it if I wanted to. I answered "Oh thank goodness...yes!" I then proceeded to choke of it. Because I was nervous, my throat sort of spasmed as I swallowed the water and it went down the wrong way. It felt like I was spluttering for ages.

I was asked to say a little about myself and told them I wanted a career in counselling. Why on earth I said that I don't know. I was applying for an education officer job and I told them I wanted a career as a counselor. I basically said that if I got the job I wouldn't be around that long anyway.

That was three days ago and I just die a little bit more inside every time I think about it all. On paper I looked great, what they were presented with at the interview was a speed addled Mr Bean impersonator.

I will never get that job and if I ever saw anyone from the panel out on the streets, I'd run and hide out of sheer shame. I will never go back to London again. My advice - avoid hubris, try hard not to imagine just one single interview scenario and then prepare ONLY for that scenario and take a moment to think before answering a question instead of jumping straight in and talking complete bollocks!

After the interview I just went to a pub and got drunk. My night came to an end in a tranny bar on karaoke night with a man trying to sell me meth. I swear that was one of the weirdest days and nights of my life.

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