Tell the story of a job interview that goes badly. The more your character wants the job, the better the story will be.
Claudia is sitting in the reception area of Flash, Ltd., her posture immaculate, though the way she feels, she should be sitting back with her hands behind her head and her legs up on the glass coffee table before her. Her leather portfolio rests on her lap, in which her resume is tucked; her spiel so perfectly prepared in her head, it was as though she had it mental cue cards, and her outfit is tasteful and simple. She’s even forgone her usual five-inch stilettos for flats, which is quite uncomfortable for her, but she’s willing to make that sacrifice for this job.
Which, by the way, is totally hers. “Nobody is better, smarter or prettier than you,” her mother had told her practically from birth, and that’s been Claudia’s motto ever since.
She glances around the office, which is sparsely furnished, but trendy. At the Lucite desk - situated below a pumpkin-coloured wall which bears the company name in bold, all lower case white letters - sits the receptionist, typing furiously at a Mac, whose big flat screen obscures most of her face. Claudia scoffs quietly to herself. Not that it mattered; she wasn’t much to look at, anyway, something Claudia had assessed when she’d breezed through the door minutes earlier – fifteen minutes before her interview time, to be exact – straight to the desk and in a crisp, efficient tone announced “Claudia Slate for Alan Hershey, please. 1:00 p.m.”
The front desk girl was pale and dark-haired; she wore ruby lipstick and black cat-eyed glasses, obviously trying to hard to be hip, but she wasn’t pulling it off at all. Though to give her credit, her looks were so unremarkable that Claudia actually couldn’t blame her for trying. Front Desk Girl looked up and smiled at Claudia. “Sure. Just have a seat and he will be right with you.” To add insult to injury, the girl was wearing a one of those T-shirts from the 80’s that said “It’s Better in the Bahamas” and jeans for Chrissakes. Claudia knew that the dress code in advertising agencies was lax, but this was ridiculous – especially seeing that she was the first stop, and therefore, representation of the business. Claudia had responded with a cool smile and sat down, like a lady, just as she’d been taught.
Now it’s past 1:00 and Claudia is getting impatient – she wants this Hershey guy to come out already so she can ace this interview, go home and be able to say she has a “real job”, get her own apartment and a collection of Louboutins. Then, eventually, she’d win so many industry awards that there would be tons of agencies begging for her to be their creative director. She’d be the industry’s youngest! And next: to run her own shop. Where the receptionist would NOT be wearing outdated T-shirts in a sad attempt to emulate the hipster culture or jeans.
Claudia shakes away her reverie at the mention of her name, whips her game face on, stands up…and stops short.
“Alan Hershey. Nice to meet you,” says the vision before her, his hand extended. Claudia takes it wordlessly and shakes it a little too vigorously, her mouth hanging open, her heart thumping in her ears. Damn!
Alan gives her a strange look, slowly extracting his hand from her grip. “Sorry for being late – my meeting went into overtime. Thanks for waiting. Follow me, please.” He gestures towards a hallway and starts striding gracefully to where he’s just indicated. Claudia follows suit, but somehow her feet tangle up in one another and before she knows it she’s fallen on her knees to the carpeted floor.
Front Desk Girl stops typing and stands up, hands to her cheeks. “My goodness!”
Alan stops walking and turns around to a flustered, flushed Claudia. “Miss Slate, are you alright?” He steps towards her and kneels to help her up – and this is when she can get a really good look at him. His hazel eyes are large, gold-flecked, framed by long thick lashes and emphasized, rather than obscured, by thick-framed designer glasses. His hair is dark, wavy, and slightly shot through with silver, but his skin is so fresh and smooth he must be graying prematurely. He’s also wearing a T-shirt (a striped polo shirt, however, which Claudia finds much more appropriate than the receptionist’s) and jeans, but she thinks he looks absolutely perfect. She closes her eyes and inhales. He smells absolutely perfect, too.
“Miss Slate?” Claudia opens her eyes to find him giving her that strange look again, his hands outstretched. “Are you all right?” he repeats.
Get it together, Slate. Get. It. Together. Claudia takes his hands – ooh so soft and warm – and pulls herself to her feet. She’s horrified when some of her hair escapes from her ponytail and flops over her eye, but then she decides to work with it, attempting to be charming. “Not a very good first impression, huh?” Alan’s laugh was encouraging – and beautiful – so she went on: “I was hoping to be the one to bring you to your knees.”
His laughter stops abruptly. There’s that strange look again.
All of a sudden, Claudia is hot again. “I mean…knock you to your knees.” From her peripheral vision, she can see Front Desk Girl, who is seated again, raise an eyebrow. “I mean…knock you off your feet.” She clears her throat.
Alan stares at her for a few seconds, then smiles blandly. “Sure. Shall we?” Once again he’s heading towards the hallway and once again, Claudia follows, trying to gather her bearings again – and not stare at Alan’s behind.
“What?!” Claudia whirls around, irritated at the interruption, then remembers herself. She clears her throat again, and looks at Front Desk Girl, who was holding her portfolio.
“You forgot this.”
Claudia doesn’t like the amused look on her face at all. “Thanks.” From the corner of her eyes she can see Alan standing there, arms crossed. Crap. Enough of these shenanigans.
On the move again, white-knuckling her portfolio, once again trying not to stare at Alan’s behind, Claudia is reassuring herself. I can still salvage this. My first impression may have not been great, but I can still wow him during the interview. Then he will hire me, fall in love with me, we’ll get married and own this shop together. And my first order of business as a co-owner will be to get a more professional receptionist. Then when he retells the story of how we met, he will admit that he was in love with me the moment I fell at his feet. He will say, “She may have tripped, but I was the one who fell.” Or something like that.. And – oof.
Claudia was so engrossed in her fantasy she didn’t realize that Alan had reached their stop: his office. It wouldn’t have been so bad if she hadn’t been practically walking on his heels – another thing that escaped her while she’d been deep in thought. So when he stopped suddenly, she ran into his back – and that’s why she fell on the floor, again, this time on her butt.
Alan turns around and sighs. Instead of the strange look, he gives her a adorable half-grin. “Just not your day today, is it, Ms. Slate?”
Claudia sighs. “To say the least.” Then she takes his outstretched hand, pulls herself to her feet again, and flutters her eyelashes at him. “By the way, you can call me Claudia.”
Author’s Note: I have to admit: I like the way this one turned out. It didn’t end the way I wanted - hell, they never even made it to the interview, but my gut told me this was where I should end it.