“We’ll be in touch.” – a short story by E.J. Babb

I had a good view of the west building from where I stood. I was hiding in the shadows of the east building, watching people walk through the entrance. I wanted to make sure I knew which way the door opened before I went in myself. From experience, I find it’s a good idea to overprepare when going to new places. Some people just walk up to a door without knowing if they need to push or pull and embarrass themselves. The door to the west building, I discovered, had to be pushed from the right-hand side. I remembered this by repeating ‘push away to start the day’ and ‘right is right’ over and over.

I was nervous. I had to start walking across the car park in three minutes if I was to arrive at the west building ten minutes early. I had been waiting for ninety minutes already, and my hips were starting to ache from standing for so long. While on the bus, I had considered venturing to the nearest coffee shop to pass some time, but it was a seven-minute walk across a busy road and I had decided it wasn’t worth the risk. What if there was too much traffic and I couldn’t get back in time? What if there was a queue? What if I couldn’t decide what to order? What if my payment card didn’t work? What if I spilled something on myself or got all sweaty hurrying back?

Two more minutes. One hundred and twenty seconds. I hoped no one in the west building could see me waiting. A certain degree of earliness is unacceptable, I’ve come to understand. It’s also unacceptable to be seen doing nothing other than waiting. You’re supposed to get bored and look for something else to do, but what if I got distracted and forgot the time? I had to focus.

I glanced down at my watch and my gut lurched in panic. Despite my vigilance, I had still managed to get distracted. There was now only nine minutes until the interview. By the time I reached the west building, I would be eight minutes early rather than the preferred ten. For a moment I considered going home, but I pushed that urge down. I could still make it. I still had a chance at getting this job.

As I walked across the carpark, I was acutely aware of the awful swishing sound my trousers made whenever my thighs rubbed together. And the way my slip-on shoes slapped loudly against my feet. And the way the label of my shirt itched the back of my neck.


When I got to the entrance, I had completely forgotten how to remember to open the door. I hesitated before ‘right is right’ popped into my head and I pushed the door open correctly, but it was already too late. I was flustered and felt sick with the shame of my failure, and the interview hadn’t even started yet.

I took a deep breath and approached the woman at the front desk.

“Hello,” I said, trying my hardest to smile.

The woman raised a finger without looking up from her computer.

“You’re going to have to come at 2pm or 4pm, they’re busy for the next hour,” she said.


Just as the word left my mouth, I noticed the small white bud in her ear – she was on the phone to someone else. She looked up at me with confusion and irritation, then continued to talk to the person on the line. I took a big step back and smiled as wide as I could, trying to communicate my apologies while also coming across as easy going, not embarrassed at all and more than happy to wait, but it didn’t matter. The woman was fixated on her computer screen.

After a couple of minutes of listening to the woman speak sternly about diary clashes, I took the opportunity to glance at my phone. My appointment was in five minutes. No, four minutes. If I was going to make a good impression, I needed to make sure that I…

“Can I help you?”

I quickly put my phone away and stepped towards the desk. The woman glanced disgustedly at the phone in my pocket, no doubt making a mental note of my rudeness.

“Hello, sorry, yes, sorry. My name is Lacy Clerkwell. I have an interview on the fifth floor at eleven o’clock.”

The woman looked at her computer and clicked the mouse.

“Okay. Head on up and ask for Stuart.”

Head on up? What did that mean? Where? How? I hadn’t even thought to look for a lift or staircase when I came in. I didn’t want to appear as though I didn’t know where to go, but the worry must have shown immediately on my face.

“The lift is over on the left,” the woman said.

I thanked her and went left.

“The other left,” she called after me.

My face was burning as I hurried in the other direction. I thanked her again and laughed a little too loudly as I turned the corner.

I was confronted with six lifts in a mini corridor, three on each side. Before I could panic about which one to take, the lift closest to me opened and a man stepped out. I gratefully went inside.

“That’s the service lift,” the man said.

“Oh, yes of course,” I said, getting out. I pressed the button to call another lift.

“You’re going to have to wait until that one closes,” he said.

“Oh yes, sorry, of course,” I said, laughing again far too loudly. I sounded like a lunatic.

It took ages for the service lift to close. Thankfully the man had left by that point so I could repeatedly hammer on the button without judgement.

As soon as another lift opened, I hopped inside and jammed my thumb on the number five button. There was a mirror behind me and, although I looked flushed, I didn’t look too bad – my hair was still relatively neat and there were no marks or smudges on my face or clothes. My shirt had become a little creased, but that was all right. I smoothed it down and turned to wait for the doors to open.

When they did, I found myself in another small corridor. This one had a frosted glass door on one side with a keypad next to it, and a white wooden door on the other. I went to the white door first and had my fingers wrapped around the handle when someone began knocking frantically from behind the glass door. I spun around to see a small, thin man with a large nose pressed up against the glass, shaking his head furiously at me. I smiled as naturally as I could with trembling lips.

“That door is alarmed,” he said, then pointed to the keypad. “Put your employee number in.”

“Oh, I’m sorry,” I said, walking towards the glass door, “I don’t have an employee number. I’m Lacy, I’m here for an interview. Steve is supposed to take me to it.”

“There is no Steve here.”

“Oh, I’m sorry. That’s what they told me downstairs.”

“Do you mean Stuart?”


“Oh, yes, sorry, I meant Stuart. A similar name, I guess.”

“I’m Stuart.”

“Oh okay, sorry, yes, hi Stuart. I’m Lacy. I said that already, didn’t I.”

Stuart swung open the door and beckoned for me to follow him. He walked quickly around the corner and I raced after him, but then he suddenly stopped and I collided into the back of him. I felt my shoe scrape the skin of his heel.

“Oh, I’m so sorry, Steve. Stuart, so sorry Stuart.”

He said nothing, just rubbed his ankle and grimaced. He nodded to the room in front of us.

“You’re in there,” he said.

“Thank you,” I said, and opened the door, glad to be free of Stuart.

Inside two men and a woman were sat on one side of a desk, and a young woman was opposite them. They all looked up at me shocked, clearly in mid-conversation.

“Not yet!” Stuart said. He apologised to the room and pushed past me to close the door.

“I’m so sorry,” I said.

Stuart pointed to a chair next to the door.

“Sit there and they’ll call you in when they’re finished with the other applicant.”

I sat down and Stuart stomped off. I felt close to tears. My upper lip was coated in thick sweat, as was the bottom of my back. My feet were sweaty too. I wanted to go home.

I could hear people walking past, going about their day, but I made sure to stare straight down at my shoes. I didn’t trust myself to say anything to anyone.

When the door finally opened, I looked up and smiled encouragingly at the woman who had been interviewed. She didn’t smile back, just shook the hands of the three interviewers and left.

I stood up to shake their hands myself, wiping my sweaty palms on my trousers as I did so, but the door was closed in my face. I sat back down, swallowing the sobs that were threatening to leap out of my throat.

Another couple of minutes later, the door opened again. I turned to look at the man who had opened it.

“Are you not coming in?” he asked.

“Oh, sorry,” I said, and followed him inside.

The man sat between the two other interviewers. I sat opposite them, the chair still warm from the other applicant.

“Good morning, Miss Clerkwell,” the woman said. “I’m Janice Todd, I’m the Regional Analyst Manager of Recommendations.”

I nodded and smiled.

“I’m Harvey Simmons,” said the man who had shown me in, “the Finance Minister for Sector B.”

I nodded and smiled again.

“Good morning, Miss Clerkwell, I’m Barry Lunt,” the other man said, “and I am the Inspector of Sales Quality Revenue and Field Pivots.”

I nodded, my smile waning. Was I nodding a little too enthusiastically?

Janice cleared her throat. “As you will know from the email we sent over, this meeting is just a casual chat to make sure you’re a good fit for the company. This will help us to decide whether to put you forward for the role you applied for. If you’re successful, there will be four interviews with each head of department, followed by a short competency test.”

I tried not to let my disappointment show. I definitely hadn’t read the email properly.

“This is all quite informal,” she continued. “We’ll each ask you a series of questions and then there will be time for any questions you have at the end. How does that sound?”

“Yes,” I said, a little more stiffly than I had meant to. “I mean, sorry, that sounds good. Really good.”

Janice smiled weakly.

“I think I’ll kick things off then,” she said. “So tell me, why do you want this role?”

Don’t say money. Don’t say because my parents suggested it. Don’t say the office is near some decent shops.

“Definitely the prestige of the company,” I said.

All three of them started writing on the notepads in front of them, which encouraged me.

“I’ve been following the company’s work for so long now and have been very impressed with what I’ve seen. I’d love to be involved.”

I cringed at having used the word ‘love’, but oh well. It was out there now. I couldn’t take it back.

Janice looked up from her notepad with an intense look on her face, as if I was still talking. I was confused and about to fill the silence with more platitudes when she said, “And why should we hire you over our other candidates?”

I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know.

“Because I’m passionate, I really believe in the company and I love the work you guys are doing. I’d love to be a part of it.”

For god’s sake, I said love twice. And guys? I shouldn’t have said guys.

Janice looked at her notepad as if considering writing something else but didn’t. She looked to Barry.

“Perhaps you’d like to ask your questions now?”

Barry raised an eyebrow. “You’re done?”

“Yes, thank you, Barry.”

Barry cleared his throat. His neck was the same width as his head and his shirt collar was failing to contain it.

“So tell me, Lacy, how would your mother describe you?” he asked.

“My mother?”

“Yes. If I were to call up Mrs Clerkwell on the phone right now and ask her to describe her daughter, what would she say?”

She’d say that I’m the sort of person who leaves every cupboard door open. That I have selective hearing. I’m forgetful and fretful. I genuinely don’t think she likes me very much.

“I think she’d say that I’m passionate. Friendly. A bit quirky maybe? You know how mothers can be, she thinks everything I do is a little quirky.”

Barry bristled. “Quirky? What do you mean by that?”

“Just…a bit strange? Not strange. Different, I suppose.”

“How so?”

“Erm…I don’t know really. You know how mothers can be. She doesn’t like my music taste, she says it’s all noise!”

“Oh really? What music do you listen to?”

I don’t. I listen to podcasts.

“Pop music mostly. A bit of rock every now and then.”


I was really conscious of the fact that no one had written anything on their notepads since my first question. The sweat was pooling at the bottom of my back and soaking into my underwear.

“No more questions.” Barry said bluntly. “Over to you, Harvey.”

Harvey chuckled. “That was quick. You sure, Barry?”

“I’m sure.”

“All right then, this may be our quickest interview ever.” He folded his arms and leaned back on his chair. “So Lacy, if you could be any sandwich filling in the world, what would you be?”

“Cheese and ham,” I said without thinking. “No butter. Thin layer of mustard. And it has to be the McLott ham and a strong cheddar. The brand of cheese doesn’t matter though.”

Harvey made a weird snorting sound.

“Okay,” Harvey said, “and why is that?”

And then it hit me. I had answered too honestly. It was a trick, all of this was just a stupid trick to make me slip up.

“That is the sandwich filling I would be because,” I began, drawing out each syllable to give myself enough time to think, “I’m very passionate about sandwiches and making sure they taste great. I didn’t mention it, but I would cut them into triangles so they look good because I pay close attention to details. I’m consistent with that, with details and paying close attention to them, and…”

I racked my brain for something else to say, but nothing came.

“Yeah, I think that’s it.”

Harvey nodded. “Wow. Great stuff. Okay, so this is my final question. What is your favourite project of ours from the last six months? You can mention any department, and you don’t have to go into too much detail about your understanding of the project itself, just your thoughts and what impact you felt it had on the industry as a whole.”

I put my hands under my legs to stop them shaking. My throat was dry and I was sweating so much I was starting to smell. I knew all three interviewers were nudging one another under the table, mocking me as I struggled to answer their pointless questions. They would talk about me after I left, all because I didn’t know what they wanted from me. And who were they, anyway? They were just three pathetic, bored idiots trying to humiliate me for kicks, just like my mother does. Oh, Lacy, you always say the wrong thing and put your foot in it. That’s what she always says to me. You’re so lazy, Lacy. Why don’t you get a job, Lacy? Maybe you should stop staring at the TV all day, Lacy. Can’t even get yourself a boyfriend, can you, Lacy? I’m not blind, Lacy, I know you steal my ham when I’m out, there’s only three slices left. THERE WERE FIVE SLICES WHEN I LEFT FOR WORK THIS MORNING, LACY. WHERE DID MY HAM GO? LACY? WHO TOOK MY HAM?

I took a deep breath. As I opened my mouth to give my final answer to the interviewers, I realised that all three were staring at me, eyes wide in surprise.

“I spoke out loud, didn’t I,” I said.

“We’ll be in touch,” Janice said.

2 responses to ““We’ll be in touch.” – a short story by E.J. Babb”

  1. Deeply Read Avatar

    Wow, this short story perfectly captures the anxiety and awkwardness of job interviews. The protagonist, Lacy Clerkwell, seems to struggle with overthinking and social situations, making the entire experience cringe-worthy yet relatable. The detailed descriptions of Lacy’s internal monologue and external actions paint a vivid picture of her nervousness. The interviewers’ unconventional questions add a touch of humor, making the story both uncomfortable and entertaining. I found myself empathizing with Lacy’s predicament, and the unexpected ending with her outburst adds a surprising twist. Overall, a well-crafted narrative that skillfully blends tension, humor, and a sense of realism.

    1. E.J. Babb Avatar
      E.J. Babb

      Thanks so much for your kind words – glad you enjoyed it!

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