Charles Bukowski on Acing Job Interviews

Factotum (noun) - ‘A man who never had a job he liked; and never kept a job he had.’

Also, one of the more honest novels ever written.


In Bukowski's pseudo-autobiographical masterpiece, the protagonist Mr Chinaski - a broke, nomadic, struggling writer in his 20s - drifts across the American heartland in the 1940s, bouncing from one job to another in order to survive.

The jobs - packing magazines at a magazine publishers' distributing house, compositor's helper at a newspaper, trackman, stock boy in an auto parts warehouse, subway advertisement installer, oven operator in a dog biscuit factory, shipping clerk in a ladies' dress-wear shop, stock/shipping clerk in a bicycle warehouse, receiving clerk at an auto parts warehouse,"extra ball-bearing" at a clothing store, delivery man at a clothes manufacturer, shipping clerk at a fluorescent light fixture company, maintenance man/janitor at the Los Angeles Times, stock clerk in an auto brake supply house, truck driver with the Red Cross, cab driver trainee at Yellow Cab, shipping clerk in an art supply store, warehouse man at a "company specializing in Christmas items," "Coconut Man" at National Bakery Goods, loading dock worker and Sunday manager of the employment office at the Hotel Sans.

The job interview which landed him the first of his 21 gigs is available for your reading pleasure in the free Kindle preview here...

...and eight decades later, the transcript of the interview exchange between Chinaski (C) and Heathercliff (H) might still be beneficial for some of those actively seeking their next payslip.

For context, Chinaski has just landed in New Orleans from Los Angeles after being excused from WWII military duty (on medical grounds) in the early 40s. He spots a help wanted ad in the paper:

“Need ambitious young man with an eye to the future. Experience not necessary. Begin in delivery room and work up.”

After filling out his employment applications and waiting outside with five or six young men, all of them trying to look ambitious, Chinaski is the last to be called in.

Heathercliff is the man behind the desk.

H: "Mr. Chinaski, what made you leave the railroad yards?"

C: "Well, I don't see any future in the railroads."

H: "They have good unions, medical care, retirement."

C: "At my age, retirement might almost be considered superfluous."

H: "Why did you come to New Orleans?"

C: "I had too many friends in Los Angeles, friends I felt were hindering my career. I wanted to go where I could concentrate unmolested."

H: "How do we know that you'll remain with us any length of time?"

C: "I might not."

H: "Why?"

C: "Your ad stated that there was a future for an ambitious man. If there isn't any future here then I must leave."

H: "Why haven't you shaved your face? Did you lose a bet?"

C: "Not yet."

H: "Not yet?"

C: "No; I bet my landlord that I could land a job in one day even with this beard."

H: "All right, we'll let you know."

C: "I don't have a phone."

H: "That's all right, Mr. Chinaski."

Long story short - Chinaski returns home, drinks a bottle of wine, takes a nap and wakes up to a telegram -



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