The group interview
By Erica Schmidt
Read Part 1 of Erica Schmidt’s colorful account of applying for a job with Lululemon.
I awoke at five, caffeinated, and biked to my regular yoga studio. In honour of the sun, who is planning to progressively disappear over the next three months, we did 108 sun salutations. I concluded the practice with some backbends, a forward bend, a shoulderstand, a headstand, and a short, tripped out savasana. Then I rushed into the shower and began my ten-minutes-to-hotness routine.
When I am a Lululemon educator, I will know the difference between the tata and muffin top-tucking features of my hand-me-down Lulu getups. But for now, I can only describe my clothing choices as very short black shorts and a black tank top in which it is very difficult to breathe for people with very small tits. (If I were in charge of the tank top names, I would call it the CITTA: Chatturanga Inflicted Ta Ta Answer.) I wore my bright blue Vibram Five Finger shoes. Besides being chronically infused with foot odour and athlete’s foot bacteria, these shoes make me look like a bright blue, stretched out ape. I wore them anyways, because they are an excellent conversation starter.
Conveniently, Lululemon is located right underneath the yoga studio, so that once I completed my extensive grooming routine, I didn’t have far to travel. There were ten other candidates at the interview, all girls, all wearing a unique combination of thigh-loving, muffin-smashing, tata-constricting goodness. We sat on yoga mats, arranged in a hexagon, underneath the men’s rain gear. (You never know when a torrential downpour might burst onto your downward dog.)
The two store managers welcomed us and explained that this hexagon represented a safe place to share and be open.
Within the hexagon, we need not be afraid of speaking with intention and expressing our emotions. They went on to introduce us to the grassroots values and culture of Lululemon. Turns out that Lulu is all about culture and not so much about pants. This is a relief, since as we’ve already established, I know nothing about pants.
For our first interview question we were asked to describe our background, our passions, and what we hoped to gain in working for Lululemon. I listened with as much intent and compassion as I could, beginning in lotus position and switching to modified cow-faced legs when my Vibramed feet went numb. Since the yoga-mat-hexagon was a safe and confidential setting, I cannot tell you about the candidate who began to cry whilst speaking of her crushed Olympic dreams. When it came to my turn, I did my best to be brief and speak with intention. A friend of mine who had already undergone the interview process (and been rejected) had advised me to refrain from saying anything dark and sarcastic. These guidelines left me pretty quiet and inhibited. Unfortunately, a few unfiltered one-liners may still have escaped…
I became mildly uncomfortable about an hour into the interview when the managers brought up the topic of goal-setting.
With joy and enthusiasm and hope, everyone else described their dreams of becoming doctors and losing weight and climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. My lotus legs got increasingly achy. Goals stress me out. Typically, my goals have been vague and unachieved. I rarely write them down. If I don’t get hired at Lululemon, this will be why. I feel like I don’t possess the insight and wisdom to accurately envision what will make me happy in the future. I explained my situation to the store manager.
“You know in twelve-step programs, when they say, ‘Life won’t give you what you want, but what you need?’” Realizing my mistake in mentioning a twelve-step program, I quickly added, “I mean, not that I go to twelve-step programs. I just find them interesting. They’re my passion?”
I switched my legs from lotus to cow-face and looked to the ground. Maybe I should have been honest and told her about the time I went to a twelve-step program, and quit puking in my mouth. Maybe not.
The last interview question dealt with our “opportunities for elevation.” Lululemon culture celebrates strength, but it also rejoices at the prospect of reducing mediocrity in its employees. The process is apparently intensely satisfying.
Likely the best opportunity for elevation goes something along the lines of:
“I’m entirely committed to achieving the highest level of greatness that I can, and often my friends feel inferior to me.”
“I’m so giving and selfless that I never take time for myself.”
Unfortunately, by the time my turn came along, these excellent answers were already used up. Digging deep into my vast supply of elevation opportunities, I came up with:
“Um, yeah, I never ask for what I want because I don’t think I deserve it and then I cover up my dissatisfaction with chronic self-deprecation and sarcasm.”
The blonde store manager wore a bright fuchsia shawl that announced the Lululemon Manifesto in bold, white, handwritten letters. “Mediocre is as close to the bottom as it is to the top, and will give you a lousy life,” the Manifesto proclaimed. The blonde store manager asked me why I didn’t believe I deserved what I wanted. There was a long silence during which my usual sarcastic brilliance eluded me.
“Uh, I don’t know,” I said. I felt like something exceedingly awkward and embarrassing was about to happen.
“Maybe there was a situation from your childhood when you asked for what you wanted and didn’t get it?” No, this wasn’t true. I’ve discussed this very same matter in twelve-step meetings. My childhood was shamefully un-traumatic. The awkward and embarrassing moment was now nearly inevitable. Shifting out of cow-face and back into lotus, I articulately shrugged my shoulders.
“It must be really difficult for you to develop close relationships if you’re sarcastic and cold all the time,” said the blonde manager. She was right. It was intensely difficult. Nobody liked me. I was far too obnoxious to have any friends.
I looked at the blonde sales manager with desperately wide eyes. The awkward and embarrassing thing had taken place. I was crying and there was no traumatic childhood or shattered Olympic dream to justify it.
The sales manager congratulated me for finally making eye-contact after an hour and a half of standoffish one-liners.
She consoled me by confessing to crying last night while watching Grey’s Anatomy. Without regaining any composure, I nodded, released my legs and sat on my knees like a normal person.
Tomorrow, I’ll receive an email stating whether or not I’ll be called into a one-on-one interview where we’ll further discuss my elevation potential. Before we left, the managers reminded us that rather than taking it as a rejection, those who fail to make the cut should view the outcome as, “Not now.” We were encouraged to apply again and again, using each attempt as an opportunity to elevate ourselves further and further away from mediocrity. I’ll be sure to keep this in mind.
About Erica Schmidt
Nearly eight years ago, Erica Schmidt moved from Perth, Ontario to Montréal, Quebec in search of Jesus, her bandhas and her tailbone. Her bandhas and tailbone remain elusive; however, she did find Jesus. Although the two were married, Erica now cheats on Jesus with Ashtanga Yoga, Atwood novels, and Ovarian Kung Fu. Just recently, she relocated from Montréal to Halifax to live with a boy she met on a boat. When asked for a word she loathes and abhors, Erica responds, “Vibes. For years, I have been sending good vibes to the universe, and so far, all I have received are pubes. It’s breathtakingly disappointing.”