My first job interview

First published in the March 2010 issue of the Hearing Times

I’m hard of hearing, not hard of thinking, yet deafness has come up as a negative issue in about half of my job interviews, in a way that made me see just how little deaf awareness exists in the real world.

It started when I was 15. After waking up at the crack of dawn for two years to do a low-paid paper round, I got the chance to double my weekly income with a two week trial at the local fish and chip shop. The owner was friendly, and I really liked eating chips (!) so the job seemed perfect.

But the sound of frying fish and a tinny radio blaring out 90s tunes made the chippy very noisy, and the owner started double checking what the customers wanted every time I took an order. The funny thing was that I could lipread them really easily above the din, and every time she checked, she found I’d got it right.

It didn’t make any difference. Her paranoia got worse – or maybe she just needed an excuse to let me go. Either way, after the third night I worked there, she told me she couldn’t keep me on – for health and safety reasons..! As if I’d somehow fry my own hand in batter because I couldn’t hear very well.

It was the first time I’d been confronted with the outside world’s view of my deafness, and I sadly went back to the paper round, which, despite only paying £1.25 a day, at least left my clothes smelling of fresh air rather than battered fish.

Years later, shortly after finishing university I (mistakenly) thought that it’d be fun to be an estate agent, so I got an interview with a company in upmarket Henley-Upon-Thames.

In the first interview, I tried to turn my deafness and knowledge of sign language into a positive, and mentioned how I’d be able to communicate easily with deaf house-hunters. I was surprised when the interviewer (who turned out to be the son of the company boss), replied dismissively “there’s not many deaf people around.”

Somehow I got through to a second interview, where I spoke to a regional manager who was incredibly interested in the practicalities of wearing hearing aids. “What do they run on then?” he asked. “Er, batteries” I replied. “And what happens when they run out?” he followed up. “I… replace them,” I said, trying not to laugh. It wasn’t a positive experience, but I put up with it, and in the end, got the job.

Fast forward t0 2007. I’d escaped being a salesman in the countryside in favour of working in television in central London. It was all short-term contracts, and way you got a job was very informal. You’d get a phone call on a Friday evening and you’d be working with them for the next ten weeks, before changing companies again.

One job interview startled me around this time. I got asked to go for an interview at a company I’d already worked at (for six months) to talk to the producer of a new series because she was “concerned about working with a deaf person.”

I went along, chatted to her, and she soon realised there was nothing to worry about. But two things struck me.

One was that even when you’ve proved yourself with one set of people, you’re compelled to prove yourself all over again as soon as something changes which puts you in contact with new people – such as a new member of staff joining, the company getting a new client, and so on.

The second was a worry for people with a higher level of deafness than me. The producer was worried that I couldn’t use a phone – I am fortunate that I can. But what if I couldn’t? It would have been a big fat “no” for me. Even if I was good at every other aspect of the job.

These experiences left me with the impression that looking for a job when you’re deaf means you have to work even harder than a hearing person would, to get the same opportunities. It’s not fair, but it’s the real world, unfortunately.

More positively, my experience also tells me that if you do well, you’ll get past those barriers, and the people who doubted you will realise that deaf people really can do it. So don’t give up.

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20 Comments

  1. Hi Charles,
    Just wanted to drop by and say hello and I think your lastest article about your baby was great (cute baby btw.)

    I also LOVE London, can’t wait to go back one day! Which part in London are you from?
    Kevin.

    Reply

    1. Hey Kevin,

      I reside out west, hardly London at all, but near enough to the centre by train!

      Cheers for the nice comments, the baby is now 5 months old!

      Cheers

      Charlie

      Reply

  2. Charlie,

    Keep up the good artistic work! I enjoy “Coming Out” in twist of actual “coming out’ stories among GLBT closeted ones.

    I am not sure whether I agree with the real pleasure of having the hearing aids.

    No questions about hearing aids being lesser evil as compared to forcible cochlear implant surgery.

    Look forward to more of your works in near future.

    Robert L. Mason
    Deaf American blogger (will vlog real soon)
    RLMDEAF blog/vlog
    rlmdeaf@hotmail.com

    Reply

    1. Hi Rob,

      A few people have said the same thing about hearing aids to me, I guess I wrote it into the script because I’m a hearing aid wearer myself, and I wanted to show a kid being proud to wear them, almost as if he was proud of his deaf identity. Hopefully it comes across that way!

      I’m currently working on two short films, I’ll let you know more details when they’re released.

      Cheers and hope life’s good on the other side of the pond (Atlantic!)

      Charlie

      Reply

  3. Can’t say I was proud to wear mine (Hearing aids) Charlie ! I had so much abuse wearing one I refused to wear it for 6 years to avoid teasing and humiliation. I had medrescos ! workmates would cut the wires so it wouldn’t work, whistle behind my back so I’d desperately push the lump of plastic further into me head to stop what I thought was a loose fitting etc. Deaf were really stupid then, that was the only image of it. I was rewarded with a partial breakdown. I don’t think those with hearing aids today know what discrimination is frankly. In my time you would be stupid to advertise the fact you had one unless you were an OAP or something, then they would expect it. The BE aids were a mixed blessing, because we just hid them behind long hair cos we were ashamed and fearful people would see we had them. This meant when our hearing got worse, we looked even more stupid, answering half past two to every question asked, we couldn’t win. I often wonder if an 100% image of positivity by the deaf or hard of hearing is showing the harsh realities for many, I know nobody likes a miserable bugger but… only by highlighting what we went through can younger people appreciate the hard work we put in so they can wear aids today without a barrage of abuse being thrown at them. Sadly it now seems the CI wearer is the new pariah. I wan to see films where Deaf are in conflict with deaf and what drives that, I find hearing the least of our problems !

    Reply

  4. Hi Charlie

    I am a big fan of your work as I have always enjoyed watching british movies and think their sense of humor is far better than here. 🙂

    Keep up with the great work.

    David

    Reply

  5. When will hands solo come out on DVD , or do we buy it from a shop with ‘Private’ over the door in a brown wrapper lol…………. you norty producer you…. 🙂 It got the highest rating at deaf.read ever for a brit trailer…. (Where’s my cut lol)….

    Reply

    1. Ha, your cut will be on it’s way in a brown paper envelope..! The film is currently being sent out to film festivals all over the world, hopefully at some point it’ll be shown in full online then on DVD, once it’s exhausted those avenues. Cheers for the add!

      Reply

  6. I have been reading “You know you are deaf when….” . Hilarious, but true to life. I have a deaf daughter and people we know, relatives even, never stopped asking me if my daughter is better or if she can hear now, as if she is suffering from an incurable, life long, cold and a cough!!

    Once, when my profoundly deaf daughter who suffers from speech impairment was about four years old, a woman admired her, said how cute she was and what pretty dress she was wearing,etc., then the woman stood up, stared at her, looking down as if my daughter has done something seriously wrong and said, she is a very rude girl. Poor thing. My daughter was smiling with this stupid woman and that was all she was able to do those days. Perhaps my daughter was suppose to say, “Thank you”, although she couldn’t lip read or understand what the woman was saying. Wasn’t it a bit harsh to say she is rude?

    Thank you for this website.

    Reply

    1. That does sound pretty rude! I guess most people don’t consider whether someone might be deaf or not. But either way I don’t think people should talk to a 4 year old like that.

      Thanks for enjoying the article and for looking at this site – cheers and hope your daughter’s getting over those comments! Cheers

      Reply

  7. How refreshing to find someone with hearing problems on a disabled blog.
    I have acquired hearing loss and am now aged 55 borderline profoundly deaf and getting rapidly worse.
    Having lost my hearing gradually I have learnt to lipread naturally though I have had lessons too.
    Looking at your latest comments on Ouch go for it move to the country, people are less reserved than they used to be so many people are moving to the country now. Villagers have to be more open. And you can actually hear a lot more that is going on despite helicopters and combine harvesters it is actually much quieter the last time I was in London ( last summer) in Kensington Gardens, I couldn’t hear anything and had to rely on lipreading totally because of the background noise of traffic etc.

    Also re children check out local schools etc before you move; but most are far better than inner city ones and easier to get into anyway.

    Good luck but go for it!

    Reply

  8. Found your Ouch site via google, and your article re palantypists … Just wanted to remind you that there are some very good qualified electronic notetakers (ENT) around (including me!) who are usually a bit less expensive than palantypists but just as good, if not better ! Well worth you trying to see if suitable for what you want.

    Reply

  9. The Gallaudet University Library has the world’s largest collection of deaf resources about and by deaf people. The Deaf Collections and Archives Department is interested in obtaining copies of your films. Are your films for sale and if so what is the cost and shipping expenses? We may want one or two copies. The purchase will not occur before December. Please advise on the method of payment.
    Thank you.
    Diana Gates
    Deaf Collection & Instruction Librarian

    Reply

  10. If someone sees hearing Aids they will shout, knowing or thinking that hearing aids help you hear, in a way they are right. I class a person with hearing aids as Very Hard Of Hearing.

    Myself is Deaf, Ive taken the walk from Birth with Deaf in 1 ear and H.O.H in other although I couldnt understand what was being said I was very young…Lost rest early..I think a lot of people like to be called deaf, their preference I guess..

    Im not here to argue Charlie Its my way..maybe Im need of anger management lol.But we all have our own opinion I hate word Deafies as well. to me its “Deaf or not too deaf”

    Anyway good luck..My blog has long way to go and many more true stories to go..

    http://whosaidthat1.wordpress.com/

    Reply

  11. My Only hearing is Tinnitus and that can be fun at times, I read about tinnitus stories there is and find them amusing.

    I get Whooooshing, Gale force winds, hisssssssss of the snake, the buzz of the bee that RNID used in you tube yuk!! I get brass band music, music, and worst of all is people talking, I still get up when my bedroom windows are open because I think I hear people talking out hahahaha IMPOSSIBLE Im totally Deaf, all was removed in major operation…lol but I still get up, maybe Im hoping for miracle ha ha…

    Many times im out with wife shopping and I turn and say what you say! lol or answer people in wrong way, when i realise mistake I tell them quickly Im Deaf, It can be fun.

    I cant handle people who prefer to be Deaf, for Heavens sake WHY!!!!!!!!!!

    Any room for 4 Deaf yorkshiremen and well GRUMPY SARFENER..lol

    Take care Charlie..

    Reply

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