When you’ve seen as many movies as I have—and I’d strongly caution against doing so—you start to notice the patterns. Through sheer repetition of stock characters and plot threads, Hollywood perpetuates a lot of myths about modern living that are not exactly true. Many of them are downright ridiculous. We Were Promised Hoverboards is a weekly series in which I investigate these myths for sociological and comedic purposes.
A job interview is like a first date: you’re never going to get any tongue by just being yourself. Instead you’re expected to present a walking, talking encapsulation of everything about you that is awesome, only without overdoing it. You highlight your most positive qualities, downplay your flaws, and dress at least as well as 1983-era Elvis Costello (applies equally to M or F, really). If there was a period where you dropped off the grid because you got really seriously into Goa Trance music in Ibiza, you might not want to mention it in either scenario.
So why do movies often make it seem like the only requirement for a successful interview is a kamikaze ambivalence toward actually landing the job?
All too many cinematic job applicants have that exasperated quality so desired by employers these days. They end up using the interview as a venting session about what’s been going on in their lives, recapping the preceding minutes of the movie to put their situation into context. Other times, the applicant will express righteous indignation over some aspect of the job, or launch into a blistering screed against the aims of the company in general. So bright doth their integrity burn that the idea of not telling it like it is would be unthinkable. Either approach betrays a unique combination of arrogance and naiveté common to former high school quarterbacks who’ve never left the towns they were born in. But of course when the hiring manager hears such a speech, he or she has a cluster-orgasm in the brain — they can’t believe they’re luck! “Your candid honesty and quirkiness are just what the company needs right now — can I hire you TWICE?”
Historically, though, nobody outside of the porn industry has ever gotten a job simply because somebody “admired their moxie.” Getting hired requires an elusive combination of having the right background, having the right people vouch for you, and impressive self-presentation skills. That does not mean just saying whatever the hell is on your mind. People won’t find this alternative, naturalist approach to interviewing “a refreshing change of pace.” They’ll only appreciate your honesty insofar as they’ll be doing an hilarious impression of you at lunch and getting laughs. Job interviews are all about distinguishing yourself — just not distinguishing yourself as the person who has never been on a job interview before and has no idea how this works.
Here are some other movies that featured super-honest job interviews that were successful: Bridget Jones’ Diary, The Devil Wears Prada, Office Space, Tootsie, Big, Confessions of a Shopaholic, In Good Company, My Boss’s Daughter. Did I forget any examples? If so, leave them in the Comments.