Meet the Real Me

Via a fellow Twitterer I recently became aware of http://www.meettherealme.co.uk/, a recruitment website which advertises in the Guardian’s online jobs section. Graduates are encouraged to post personal profiles and ‘Video CVs’ onto the site's database in the hope of attracting the attention of employers. As the blurb explains: ‘We offer jobseekers a way to stand out from the crowd ... We bring top candidates and employers together in a fresh, unique and fun environment.’ And, of course, ‘we save employers valuable time and money in the recruitment process too!’ Great!

I am about as fluent in Graduatese as I am in Klingon, but if I was able and willing to speak the language of this site and its ilk, how would I describe the ‘real me’? Would it turn out to be anything like this?

So much for standing out; as illustrated by the quotes collected above, the candidates’ statements are interchangeable, like the copy-and-paste products of a random CV jargon generator. Stock adjectives – creative, passionate, ambitious – float past, adrift from any clear object. Could someone really recognise themselves in any of those phrases? Are they meant to communicate anything to potential employers beyond a familiarity with grad-speak and a supine compliance? Do they not rather evoke some sort of generic immaterial worker defined by form over content and purged of individuality? In addition, the juxtaposition between academic achievement and career expectations can be unintentionally hilarious. One profile reads as follows: ‘My academic career has seen me achieve consistently excellent marks across a broad range of disciplines, and having completed a Masters in History, I am looking to gain experience in an area where the exceptional literary and analytical skills I have developed will be put to best use.’ And the candidate’s preferred work sector in which to deploy these exceptional literary and analytical skills? ‘Media Sales’.

But wait. The ‘realness’ of meettherealme.com is clearly supposed to be encapsulated in the Video CVs, webcammed elevator speeches uploaded by the candidates for public viewing (click the boxes next to the generic questions on the profile pages). Presumably the idea is to simulate an actual interview, without the awkwardness of proximity and edited down to a 45 second spurt of positivity. Unsurprisingly then, these video auditions resemble Apprentice-themed speed-dating exercises. They are mostly limited to people talking up their leisure interests, with work only mentioned in passing, but with keywords like ‘competitive’ nevertheless dropped in conspicuously. Travel and socialising are mentioned again and again, pre-empting the expected demands for mobility and networking. There is a kind of desperation about the clips which makes them almost unwatchable, and in this sense I suppose they do indeed point towards something real, but rather than a shining enthusiasm it is the prospect of the all-encompassing black hole of emotional labour, the excruciating spectacle of a personality harnessed and put to work. Snowboarding or playing the guitar are not so much interests as convenient props, seamlessly incorporated into the performative repertoire, augmenting the generic boardroom patter and suggesting an upbeat, accept-anything attitude.

Thankfully I have no access to video-making technology, so even if I did feel compelled to humiliate myself in this way, I'd be excluded. I would have to upgrade my kit and smarten up my act if I wanted to compete with these fresh-faced performers and unlock my potential in the 21st century professional jobseeking marketplace. Besides, I am too old and curmudgeonly to ‘put myself out there’, as I believe is the expression. But could this be a glimpse of the routine horror which awaits those students leaving the talent schools of the future, already inducted into  the education/jobseeking/networking/self-marketing ‘corporate skills’ circuit?

Scanning for new sales interns, the Project Manager scrolls through dozens of virtual presentations, ‘meets’ another hopeful. Enthusiasm, confidence, adaptability – all the buzzwords are there and the script is impeccably delivered. But there is perhaps just the faintest trace of doubt in the candidate’s voice, behind her smile a grimace which seems to be saying: Is this what I really want? Is this what I really bought with those tuition fees and I’m now starting to pay for? Is this really all I’ve learned? Is this really me?