A Job Application

I wanted to share my responses to some screening questions to a recent job application.

The questions are unlike those I’d ever had to deal with and I tried to match them with similar flair — a friend found my first response hilarious. I rewrote some of them three, four times before the final version. Here we go.

Q1. Share an example of something you’ve brought to life recently – feel free to use examples from either your personal or professional life!

I made a cutlery pouch for my son’s lunch bag. I shopped around for a container he could use for his cutleries at school but could not find any. The zip-it bags we had used over time ultimately became unseemly and I wanted something better. 

So I looked up how to make a cutlery holder online and came away with an idea. I found a wrap of soft blue damask material at home (the type used for traditional caps or head ties). I cut it up to form a rectangle, folded it up with enough space for the utensils and sewed it by hand using a needle and thread. 

Finally, I affixed a plastic press button although I made the cover flap long and easy enough to tuck in if he decided that was more convenient than using the press button.

Q2. What’s the last thing you really geeked out about? Why’re you so excited about it? Articulate it in a way that’d get me excited about it as well. This can literally be anything – a movie, a product announcement, anything!

I have found no song more thrilling in recent times than the 1982 song “Africa” by Toto. I just love the song’s authentic yet simple soulfulness.

It evokes a yearning about a concept other than today’s ubiquitous materialistic and self-centered cravings.

To me, I feel it stirs up a grander purpose, the gift of hope for the song’s subject, for those like me who listen to it. 

To be candid, I do not understand all that the song’s lyrics mean, but the music and its performance do enough to stir any soul (most souls) toward goodness and hope for a people. I should stop right here without derailing or taking away from the point.

Some scientists say it might just be the best song ever. I learnt the artist Max Siedentop installed an MP3 player in the Namib Desert to play the song perpetually–this complete with speakers running on solar-powered batteries. 

You will be amazed to see the countless covers and renditions by artistes, choirs and groups all over the world. It tells me only one thing: If you invest knowledge and passion to make something, it will come out authentic with a relevance extending well beyond its time. 

To enjoy the best of this song, I would recommend listening to Toto’s original song (Link: https://youtu.be/FTQbiNvZqaY), and after it has drawn you in, do tune to Weezer’s modern/playful cover (Link: https://youtu.be/mk5Dwg5zm2U).

Q3. What’s the last thing you taught yourself how to do?

I learnt how to build chatbots using various online tools such as Chatfuel, Botsify, and Flow XO. 

One of the bots I built on Flow XObis a career knowledge game for young people. The bot asks users to identify the correct career based on its description. Over five questions, it scores the user based on his/her choice while selecting one of three options. 

How it works

1. The bot feeds off a list of professions and their descriptions on a linked Google Sheet. 

2. A random number generator presents a random number within a range of equal to the total number of occupations per round, that is, 1-400. 

3. The random number is used as an input to select the corresponding numbered profession from the list of professions. 

4. The bot compares the user’s choice with the stated correct occupation and scores the answer right or wrong.

5. The bot adds 1 point to the user score per correct option.

6. After the fifth question, it displays the number of correct questions and displays an image of a trophy if the user gets four out of the five questions correctly. 

At the end the bot invites the user to replay the game.

Q4. What’s something fun or interesting only people close to you know?

I can sing and rap and even belonged to a number of groups and choirs in my late teens to early twenties. 

Many people would find it hard to imagine me singing R & B or rapping today because I seem too prim or reserved. 

I still have some songs I hope I can record some day although I will sure need a great deal of rehearsals.

Q5. What’s the bravest thing you’ve ever done?

In 2007, I quit my job as a sales assistant because I wanted to focus on studying for my information technology certification. 

To my colleagues, their opinion was either I brought that up as a cover and was really crossing over to a competitor or that something was wrong with me. I guess the excitement of taking charge of my career and its future rewards quieted my fears.

I had been on the job for less than a year and had no alternative income but realized I wanted something more creative or intellectually demanding. 

After drawing up an assorted list of possible options including tailoring, carpentry, and information technology (IT), I decided to go for IT. Initially, I tried to combine study with my job, squeezing in study after my routine sales activities. 

When I realized achieving the certification demanded more focus than the job allowed, I opted to quit the job believing that sacrifice would pay off in the long term. 

Ultimately, it took four months of daily study and classes at the training center (I was there every day from when its doors were open until the end of work in the evenings) before I achieved the certification. And it took another three months before I was finally able to get a job in an IT role.

While the time on that job affords me a critical perspective for sales, marketing, client/account management in business, deciding to sacrifice the known for an unfamiliar IT career remains one of the bravest and most rewarding things I have ever done.

Post Script

Surprise, surprise, I was glad to receive news that I scaled through to the next stage after this and a test. But I couldn’t progress beyond the video interviews. It was an interesting ride though.

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