This is a work of fiction,a short story in 1485 words.
Kirsty didn’t want the job. To be honest, she didn’t want any job. But since leaving college, Mum had been on her case. Too much time on Facebook, too untidy, too lazy, too work-shy. Too anything.
Dad didn’t seem to care. She was still his little girl, even if she was eighteen years old, and a size eighteen in clothes. But Mum was on a mission, and when she got her teeth into something, there was no stopping her. Luckily, most of the jobs she found online were either beyond her capabilities, or required qualifications she had never got. A grade one certificate in Beautician Studies was never going to get you far in life, unless you wanted to spend that life painting peoples’ fingernails, waxing their body hair, of applying their wedding make up. And when you were really hefty, and you hadn’t even bothered much with your own appearance, the job opportunities didn’t exactly flood in.
But that was alright with Kirsty, all part of her master plan. The plan to do nothing at all. Absolutely nothing.
But the daily arguments and shouting matches were getting her down, so to keep Mum quiet, she agreed to apply for one of the jobs being thrust in her face on Mum’s laptop. She wouldn’t get it anyway, so why not? When they emailed back with an interview date, nobody was more shocked than her. Her CV was intentionally poor, and having no previous work experience, not even a Saturday job, was about the only thing she could write in the box provided. References? That was easy. “None”. But she got an interview, and now she would have to go to it. Mum would make her. Oh well, not a hope of getting it, so that was some comfort.
The building was nothing to write home about. A huge warehouse-looking thing on the edge of the main industrial estate. Mum had cited the location as one of the plus points, as it was only a fifteen minute walk from home. Kirsty had taken the bus though, just two stops. In the reception, she was amazed to see such a crowd. It looked as if they were all applicants, as they were wearing numbers in plastic holders, clipped to their clothes. She went up to the desk, and gave her name. A bored looking girl ticked her off a list, and gave her number twenty-eight, telling her to wait with the others. This looked promising. If that many people were applying, she was sure to get a rejection.
Two more joined the group, and it seemed like thirty was the total. A woman came out and walked along the line of seated youngsters. She suddenly spoke, loudly, making them all sit up. “There will be a series of tests, followed by an interview. You have to pass each test to get to the interview. Anyone failing a test will be going home. Is that clear? If so, follow me”. She hadn’t waited for anyone to say it wasn’t clear. They were taken to a big room, with only artificial lighting. There must have been a hundred chairs and desks in there, each with a monitor and keyboard. They sat at the first thirty desks, and the woman told them to turn on the monitors and get ready. The she said they had to type what she said, as fast as they could. Reading from a sheet on a clipboard, she spoke at a normal speed, listing names and addresses, bank details, and personal details like ages and phone numbers. The names were obviously made up, as they were all things like ‘Mrs Brown’, or ‘Mr White’.
When she was finished, she looked at a laptop on her own desk at the front, scrolling thorough quickly. She had obviously done this many times before. Then she looked up. “Numbers I call out, please take off your holders, and put them on the desk. You can now leave. Thank you for attending, but you will not be required”. She called out a series of numbers, people leaving as she did so, some eagerly, others reluctantly, looking dejected. Kirsty smiled as she got up to the twenties. Her number would be called soon, and she could tell Mum she had tried. But twenty-eight was skipped, though thirty was called. When the failures had left, the woman came round handing out headsets to the sixteen people left in the room.
“Plug these in to the point under your monitor. You will be receiving a recorded phone call, and I want you to answer the questions clearly”. Kirsty heard the voice almost immediately, and spoke into the microphone when prompted. Her replies seemed to generate the next question, and this carried on for around ten minutes. She made sure to sound bored and disinterested throughout, keeping her tone flat, and adopting an attitude to some of the questions. When the voice stopped, the woman got a phone call on her mobile, and wrote something down on her pad. She walked to the front of the room again. “I will be coming round to collect some of the headsets. If I ask you for your headset, please take off your holder and leave it on the desk. You will not be required, and can leave”. Eight more, but not her. They were down to the last eight, and she was one of them. What the hell was going on?
The next test was numbers and sums. The woman projected some numbers onto a large screen at the front, and turned to speak to them. “On your monitor screens, you will now see a test sheet has appeared. Please fill in your answers to the problems shown on the screen. When you have finished all ten questions, press ‘Enter'”. The so-called problems were stupidly easy. Even Kirsty couldn’t fail to know what was ten percent of one hundred, or one thousand times six. She pressed ‘Enter’ well before anyone else, and sat back. Looking across at her fellow applicants, she was amazed to see a few of them genuinely struggling. Incredible. When everyone had finished, and had all sat up, the woman got another phone call. She came around the desks, asking four more people for their headsets, and telling them they could go. Four left, and she was still there. She was doing something wrong, that’s for sure. She waited for the next instruction, thinking ‘Time to up your game, Kirsty girl’.
The woman told them to put their headsets on the desks, and to follow her through a door at the back. The were shown to some chairs, and told they would be called in for the interview. A door opened, and a woman emerged into the corridor. She checked a sheet of paper. “Kirsty Ferguson, please”. Following her into the room, she was indicated to sit on a hard chair opposite a desk. The woman sat behind the desk, next to a man wearing a suit. He didn’t look up at her, just put on some glasses, and studied a form of some sort on the desk in front. The woman kicked off the questions in an unfriendly voice, foregoing any niceties.
“So, why do you want to work here?”
“I don’t really, but I have to get a job of some sort”.
“Do you like people?”
“Not that much. Some, but not many.”
“Do you get on with people?”
“Sometimes. But not all the time”.
The man was ticking boxes on his form. Kirsty felt good. Her bad answers were sure to kill any chances of getting the job.
“Do you like me?”
“I don’t know you, so I can’t say”.
“But what do you think of me so far. Do you think I’m nice?”
“Well I don’t know, do I?. So no.”
“Is that because I’m Black? have you got something against black people?”
“I don’t know any”.
“Are you always like this?”
“Argumentative. Some might say rude”.
“More or less. I suppose so. Yes”.
The woman turned to the man and they exchanged a look. He nodded, and Kirsty felt happy. They were sure to ask for her number holder, and send her home.
Then the man stood up, and reached over the desk, extending his hand to be shaken.
“Congratulations, Miss Ferguson. I am pleased to tell you that you have got the job. You can start training next Monday, and all the details will be sent to you via email. I am sure you will fit right in here”.
Kirsty shook his hand, her mouth open in disbelief. He left the room, and the woman stood up, indicating it was all over. She smiled. “That leaves me with just one last thing to say, Miss Ferguson”. She also held out her hand, expecting a handshake.
“Welcome to Norland Telemarketing”.