"One candidate forgot his socks"
A plucky bunch of jobseekers have boldly agreed to have their search for work filmed for C4's show The Job Interview. By Keeley Bolger
The situation is familiar to many of us. You've prepared to the hilt, done your research, role-played potential questions with anyone available and polished your CV until any gaps sound like they are meant to be there.
Then you enter the room and open your mouth and everything starts going wrong. Your name comes out with a pre-pubescent squeak. The mug of tea you've been given slips, staining your unnaturally crisp outfit. You can't remember where you went to school - let alone what you've been doing for the last decade.
They ask about your current role and you give an unexpectedly honest account of your incompetent boss, your long-standing gripe with the lacklustre coffee machine and the pitiful pay.
They ask why you want the job and, without pausing for breath, you say, "the money".
They ask what your greatest strengths are and, without judging your audience, you reply, "my model-like physique".
Yes, we've all had bad interviews. For most of us, they're filed away in a particularly excruciating mental corridor you avoid walking down.
However, one plucky group of candidates have allowed Channel 4 to film them during their interviews for new series, The Job Interview.
Over five episodes, 10 real UK companies will set up camp in a makeshift office to interview applicants for real jobs.
Many of the team behind it have worked on Channel 4 stalwarts First Dates and One Born Every Minute. As such, they were adamant the interviews be as realistic as possible.
This meant hiring an independent recruitment consultant to advertise the job - making it clear that shortlisted applicants would be filmed - and leaving it to the bosses to choose their shortlist.
Each episode then features two different independent companies, from a fashion PR company to a country manor, who interview five candidates for the role.
"The bosses picked the shortlist from a pile of redacted CVs," explains Simon Dickson, creative director at production company Label1.
"Redacted meaning they didn't know the sex, they didn't know the age, they didn't know the ethnicity. It was a proper lucky dip, from a television point of view."
The lack of control over those who were interviewed meant the team were unsure what material they'd end up with.
"This programme is the first documentary series of its type that has not been cast," adds Dickson.
"It's been a tiny bit frightening. We were worried we might end up with some quite dull programmes."
Rod Lloyd and Lorraine Kitchin have worked together for years at Low Cost Vans in south Wales. Although initially worried that participating might make the business look like a "clown school", Lloyd was impressed with the pool of candidates and eventual shortlist they drew up for the role as sales assistant at their company.
So, what was the most common mistake people made during interviews?
"I think preparation is key," says Lloyd. "Schools should teach people how to write a good CV. Even the recruitment agencies don't really advise people properly. For me, every CV has had mistakes and problems on it."
"And to remember my name!" adds Kitchin.
"Across the board, whatever the job was, there were always one or two candidates who hadn't really read the job description and hadn't really researched what the job was about."
Knowing they were on camera, did the interviewers have to tone down their feedback?
"I swore on film!" says Lloyd with a laugh. "It was really genuine. The whole process was so natural and we were exactly as we would be back at the office. We didn't hold back at all."
For Kitchin and Lloyd, though, their interviews for the series were a joy compared with others they have conducted in the past.
"I've had people turn up drunk for interviews," says Lloyd.
"There was one particular guy, came dressed up. Put his suit on, put his tie on, shoes, but no socks. It freaked me out.
"I said, 'you've come to an interview with no socks on?' and he said he couldn't find them. And I was like, 'you only have one pair of socks?"
"I put in the dress code that people have to wear socks," adds Kitchin with a laugh. "It's a specification in the policy."
The Job Interview, Channel 4, Tuesday, 9pm