My job interview at the Big Boys’ radio club: Radio Slave – an excerpt

I was a beggar now and beggars can’t be choosers.  My tactic would be to simply apply for every job I thought I was qualified for, both in radio and out. For the first time in my life I began to think about my future. Chasing the ego-driven dreams of my youth seemed like a path to misery now. I was thinking about the possibility of buying property one day, and working normal hours, in my home town. I no longer wanted to chase a dream that didn’t fit my current life.

What skills did I even have? My whole adult career I had either worked at a radio station or clothes shop, and now I didn’t want to work in either. I set about applying for every job in the paper I thought I might have a chance of getting. My father was thrilled; he hated my unstable career, frequent redundancies and interstate relocations – had he been a different type of dad he would have been even more discouraging, but my parents always taught me to be self-sufficient and brave.

So – a cubicle job it was, then.

Did I want to be an administrations assistant? A project administrations coordinator? A data-entry systems advisor office all-rounder? The possibilities seemed endless. I was sure I would have an office job in no time. By luck and determination, I had been given a retail job within days.  From 9-5 I sold men’s suits and ladies office separates, and in the evenings I sent out my resume to all and sundry.

The shop had given me about 20 hours of work per week, but I was always slightly embarrassed to be there when I had a shift.  I furtively assessed each customer as they walked up the stairs to the shop, keeping an eye out for anyone I might know. My plan was to hide in a change room if anyone came in that looked familiar. I did not want to be seen standing in a shop saying, “How can I help you.” But that’s what I was doing. That was my current reality.

At night I scoured the net for job opportunities. And then finally, I found one. It was for the biggest AM radio station in Sydney. The top of the very top. The ad was for a Director role, no less. The job ad said: Promotions Director of 2LX and the Blaxland Radio Group. The Director had to manage the promotions team and run the whole department. I thought that surely, it couldn’t be that much more difficult than folding T shirts and unlocking change rooms, so I reformatted my resume and sent it off.

The next day, I got a call. 2LX had been scouting for the position for months and had not found a candidate they thought was suitable. The person they had in mind for the role was not someone the board could agree on, so they thought that perhaps they should see just a few more people. Would I be able to come in the next day?

I was gobsmacked. I was being called in by one of the most important men in Sydney. This radio station was infamous in the industry – like Frank Beare in Perth, the breakfast show on 2LX had been winning in its timeslot since medieval times, or at least it felt that way. Lindsay Smith was in his 60s, short and with an unappealing voice, he seldom did TV appearances. His opinions were strong, sexist, occasionally what some might consider racist, or bigoted. The man had an opinion on everything and his radio station was top of the very top in Australian media.

If I was to get this job – the pressure would be on. I called my retail boss with an unexpected bout of food poisoning, and she was sympathetic and gave me the day off from my retail job. Despite calling in sick, I was still one of her most reliable employees, even though I had only been there less than two weeks. One day, one of the young guys she had employed had gone on his lunch break and never come back. When the manager finally got hold of him a few days later, he told her he’d moved back to Brazil. It was hard to find good retail staff.

‘Retail staff member’ was something I was hoping to strike off my resume once and for all. I had to get the job at 2LX. Suddenly everything made sense, this job would make everything perfect. Finally I would have the standing, and the money and the kudos that I always wanted. I had finally arrived. But I still needed to pass the interview. That was going to be a challenge.

The next morning I was so nervous I could barely speak. This situation felt surreal. I had been in Sydney (home, finally) for less than two weeks and now I was going for the plumiest job of my life, at the premier station in the biggest market. How did this happen?  Ironing my shirt that morning, I felt a sense of calm. I could do this. I could get this job. I was experienced. I had the skills. This job was mine. I was going to get this job.

Clutching copies of my resume and smoothing my skirt, I buzzed myself into the steel grey lift interior. The lift doors opened to reveal a clear glass panel with a graphic displaying the bandwidths of the two stations run by the Blaxland Radio Group. The bigger station was 2LX but the network also ran a smaller station that followed a music, not talkback, format. It was called 2WAD and played oldies tunes and featured some of the most senior radio announcers in Australia. I would hear later that rumour had it that there was a life-support kit on standby in the 2WAD hallway cupboard, just in case.

I spoke to the receptionist and took a seat in the waiting area. I had previously heard that when going for a job interview, it’s important to be nice to the receptionist, because often the interviewer will ask them their first impressions of a candidate. I thought that if this was indeed the case, so far I was doing well.

Minutes dragged by painfully. I was sweating underneath my borrowed cotton shirt. Finally a tall, good looking man with a baby face led me into a meeting room. Seated at the large table was an older man with white hair and a massive beer gut, looking miserable. The younger one introduced himself as Tony Church, program director of 2LX. I then shook the hand of Roger Wright, the older, fatter PD of 2WAD. Tony indicated for me to have a seat and I crossed my legs and looked up in anticipation.

A saw a pair of very blue eyes looking intensely at me, “You smell wonderful,” Tony gushed. “What perfume are you wearing?” My heart skipped a beat. Did this man seriously just comment on my perfume… in an interview? I felt instantly embarrassed and my face flushed a bright red. Suddenly I felt quite hot and flustered.

“Ummmm. I think it’s an Elizabeth Arden one – I’m not really sure…”

“Well it smells just lovely,” he smirked at me, “very pleasant.”

I shifted in my seat uncomfortably. Was he serious? I had become used to the occasional inappropriate comment or sexist suggestion, but I had barely opened my mouth and I was keen to get on with the interview.

Tony stared intently at me while Roger looked bored and unengaged. “Right,” motioned Tony, “Let’s begin this little chat.”

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