Kayla tried to still the nervous tapping of her feet. Her face was pale, her mind an icy blank, and anxious energy was rising inside her. Carefully, disguised in an inspection of the clock to her right, she glanced at the young woman sitting a couple of seats away. Steady and composed, in a fitted aubergine suit, with her red-brown hair tied back neatly in a bun... Kayla felt the very opposite of smart next to this calm and confident person. Whether or not she had good enough skills for the job, she certainly looked the part; keen eyed, efficient, able to think under pressure. Can't have more experience though, she told herself; she looks about the same age as me, and must be a graduate too, trying to find her first job.
Taking a silent, but deep inward breath, she tried to remember the pieces she had submitted for examples of her work. They were quite a mixture, really, mainly to show that she was flexible and didn't mind which section of the newspaper she was assigned to; one had been an article on global warming, the second had been fashion pages on outfits she had put together (with details of where to buy the items and how to wear them most effectively). The third was on a murder mystery from years back that had never been solved. She had collected information from the local library, included opinions of someone who had lived in the area at the time and remembered hearing about the events (her Gran) and even bits from a police station (a sympathetic policeman had given her some details). But of course it wasn't the content that mattered so much- HOW they had been written was what concerned the panel.
"Where abouts did you go to university?" asked the other candidate, breaking through her thoughts. Kayla had not told her anything about having gone to university, so this girl had made accurate deductions about her without seeming to have studied her at all. Or perhaps it was just a test; weighing the opponent up to see if they were educated enough to be a serious contender for the job.
"Newcastle. What about you?"
"Oxford," the girl replied, followed by: "sorry, I should introduce myself, I'm Alice". And even though her expression or tone didn't give anything away, Kayla sensed a change in the tension of the room- almost like relief on Alice's part, in contrast to the sad acceptance that Kayla was now feeling as she realised the competition was too good.