why we should abolish sharehouse interviews

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Snap by *Nishe

Things that make everyone awkward: first dates, spontaneous public singing and sharehouse interviews. I’ve recently been on both ends of the interviewing process, and basically I am never moving house again. Three interviews into my sharehouse search I began to have a crisis of faith: houses were either packed with potential applicants all competing to make the most jokes, or totally empty apart from me and three-to-four housemates staring right back into my face. (Help.)

The point of the sharehouse interview is to sell yourself without looking like a weirdo. But it’s made a whole lot harder by the fact that you’re a little bit desperate. Because this is the fourth house you’ve been to, and the market seems over-saturated with normal, likeable types who are competing for all of the rooms. Unless you’re looking for a sharehouse that describes itself as “super clean” or “a grotty squat”, you’re aiming to come off as a standard, no-trouble human. In other words, you want these people to know that you’re never going to throw a spontaneous house party or draw up your own cleaning roster and tape it to the fridge, or paint the bathroom with blood.

Ordinarily, this means mastering the right combination of friendly, normal and ‘chill’. Frankly, I’m not a very chill person. I approach most social situations with the nervous energy of a meerkat. To cover this shit up in an interview, I rely on a combination of sarcasm, feigned interest in the bathroom tiles and questions about bills, the landlord and the quality of the nearest supermarket. Some of these methods are safer than others, and I’d only recommend the faux tile interest when things are looking dismal. It’s a good method for escaping awkward small talk and giving yourself time to come up with something to say, but you’re putting yourself at risk of looking pretty strange.

One of the frustrating things about sharehouse interviews is that you can never be totally sure what the potential housemates are after. Do they want you to be their friend or will you only run into them every other week? Have they tidied the house for visitors? Is that doily ironic? Why are there no toiletries in the shower, and where will you keep your shampoo? People tell you not to sweat the little things and, of course, that seems reasonable. But when you’re standing in a foreign house wondering whether you’ll live there, it’s the little things that get you.

In my ideal world there would be no sharehouse interview. Instead, people would just know if you were right for them and vice versa. This might be through ESP or a lucky eight ball. Then you’d move your things into their house and everything would work out fine. Alas, this beautiful vision of a world does not exist, and people resort to wackiness instead.

In one of my first sharehouse interviews, a panel of housemates in fancy dress asked me to describe my ideal costume. At another, the residents played loud trance music to “give me a sense of the mood”. I’m not sure what their “mood” was, but it was really hard to hear them talk. I have been guilty of asking people ‘fun’ questions, too. Beyoncé or Britney? Can’t go wrong.

I’m not sure where we learned this behaviour, or when we decided that the best way to get to know someone is to ask them contrived questions in an unnatural environment, but it seems flawed. Personally, in the future, I’m going to stick to normal conversation and wait for a day when we allocate all rooms by drawing names from a hat.

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