I can't bring myself to trot out the familiar canards like "exploring other opportunities" or "taking a career break" because the desperation carved into every crevice of my features would make it obvious I was lying and actually, my instinctive reaction would be to prostrate myself on the floor, wrap my arms around their legs, start kissing the toe-caps of their shoes and beg them to "Please, please give me a job".
It is mightily difficult to keep this urge in abeyance when I meet someone who looks as though they may have it within them to make an employment offer of any sort.
No, I also struggle to just answer the enquiry with a blunt, "unemployed", partly because with a Liverpool accent I have no wish to confirm stereotypes and also because I couldn't admit it to myself. For my own self-esteem I must go along with the pretence there is something optional about my status.
Although I look like a man continually in receipt of life's bad news I am mostly in receipt of no news at present. I am pretty much there with the two firms with whom I've been interviewing for something like two months now but every time I receive the email or the phone call which I expect to convey the offer, it's usually along the lines of, "We're almost there, everyone's on board but we just need to meet one more person and then we're done".
I have met "just one more person" many times now. So much so that I conduct these interviews on auto-pilot and have developed a habit of answering the obvious questions before they have been posed sometimes.
I guess the reason why these prospective employers are reluctant to take the final step and just send me the damned contract is because they have a sneaking suspicion they are admitting a Trojan horse into the citadel or they are able to see through my carefully constructed bluff to the fraud lurking behind it.
They know there's something dodgy about me but they can't put their finger on it and so they ask me to meet someone else to see if they can work it out. I can almost see the mental calculation they make as they wonder why, if I'm as brilliant a broker as I lay claim to be, I still need a job after almost three decades of riding bull markets. I hope to God no one asks me that outright because I will have to pass.
The fantasy outcome to these protracted negotiations is a bidding war for my "services" between the two parties.
"Throw in an extra five grand and a car parking space and we're done," I dream of parrying.
"Make it an extra £10k, my own private lavatorial arrangements and a window seat and I'll sign right here, right now."
"15 bags additional, business class on short-haul to Europe, a 10am start on Mondays, a lunchtime departure on Fridays without payrolls data and I'm yours."
Of course, this scenario is unlikely. Much more probable is they discover I am trying to play them both off against each other and they simultaneously withdraw with a gentlemanly, "No, feel free. He's all yours. No, please, I insist. You have invested so much time into this process, I really think he will fare better at your place" and I end up where I am now: out of luck, out of love, out of hair and out of a job.
When I first had exploratory conversations with these prospective employers a while back, there was an afternoon when, after I'd shipped a few drinks, they called — independently of one another — and seemed to make it very clear I was pretty much home and dry with both, it was just a question of a sign-off, some paperwork and the formalities.
I got home drunk and uncharacteristically bullish about my employability and my future earnings potential. Convinced a lucrative offer was in the offing, I went and booked an expensive holiday with the family for Easter. Now it is imminent, I haven't got the courage to admit to my wife I can't afford it.
I planned to surprise the kids by keeping the destination a secret until we actually turned up at the airport for the outward flight but now I'm glad I didn't in case I need to cancel and rebook something cheaper — like a weekend in Whitstable.
I'm going to have to place one of those adverts in Private Eye:
Booked holiday when pissed. Need £10k pronto — with my bank account details attached. Do they work, do you know?
How much longer they can string these interviews out is anyone's guess but at this rate they could be longer than some of the jobs I've had. What began in the depths of winter has not ended before the daffodils died. I suppose in these litigious times, firms are very wary of hiring anyone (especially a cove as rum as me) because getting rid of them, once they realise (as they inevitably do with me) they have made a ghastly mistake, is so problematic. Getting someone in is much easier than getting them out.
Now I know this may look like a convenient resort to literary artifice but while putting the finishing touché to this column I just took a call from Option A which I thought would be the seal on the deal.
"Everything is agreed in principle but the head of sales would just like to go over your client list (a work of fiction if ever there were one) one more time if you are free to come in next week?"
It's such a tease. It's like a stripper removing what the mackintoshed punter believes to be the last layer of clothing and then revealing an even skimpier, teeny-weeny bikini underneath. The bad news is I haven't got the job but the good news is I have a good justification now for cancelling the holiday.