Wednesday, April 08, 2009


The other night, while IM'ing on Facebook, Belladonna asked me to wish her luck in her job interview the next day. I did, but as many longtime readers of this blog know, my luck tends to be, shall we say, questionable, so Belladonna apparently had a rough time of it in the interview. Alas...but she also asks for tales from readers of their own experiences in interviews, so here is a repost of a post I wrote back in 2003 when I got home from a highly odd interview for a job while we lived in Syracuse. I don't normally do reposts, but this one seems appropriate.

(And reading all those old posts sometimes makes me cringe a bit. Some of those posts are awful.)

Anyway, the old post, revisited:

Clear your mind, if you will. I would like to take you on a journey.

Imagine you're going to a job interview. First, imagine that when the guy called to set up the interview in the first place, you asked him what his company does, since it wasn't clear from the newspaper ad. He tells you, "We'll discuss that at the interview."

OK. Now you're walking into the place. It's in a not-run-down, but not particularly nice office complex out in one of the older suburbs. You notice that the company name on the door you've been directed to is not the same as the company name in the advertisement you answered. This is probably the reason why, in the phone call, the boss-guy told you to go to the door with a picture of a rhinoceros on it. (Forget the rhinoceros. No explanation is ever forthcoming.)

You walk in the front door, into the reception area. Here you are greeted by a receptionist who looks barely old enough to drive or vote, and she is bundled up just shy of still wearing her parka because the office is kept quite cold, despite the sounds of air blasting from the vent overhead. Her desk appears to have nothing on it save one (1) binder, a few file folders and clipboards, a fax machine, and a phone. No computer, no photos of the dog or boyfriend or goldfish or mother or parish priest.

You look around at the reception room. There are some chairs -- standard waiting-area chairs that will be found in any dentist's office or LensCrafters. There is a table with the requisite selection of magazines, none younger than one year and none remotely interesting. There is a single potted tree that looks like it needs water, and the sole decoration is a map of the United States from National Geographic, complete with fold-lines, pinned to a dingy-looking bulletin board. The map sports a collection of pushpins inserted over every major metropolitan area in the United States, conveying the impression of a wide-ranging, national company. And yet, this office has no company literature of any kind to be found anywhere. Nor is there a logo to be seen.

The receptionist has you fill out an application. Fair enough. When you finish that, you give it back to her and ask to use the rest room. She directs you to the "girl's room", because "the boy's room is broken". (Those are exact words. You note "girls" and "boys", not "women" and "men".) So you obediently use the women's room, noting that (a) the fluorescent light does not turn on all the way, but merely flickers at half-light; (b) there is no toilet paper; (c) there are no paper towels; (d) the hand-sink has no soap. You finish your business and go back to the waiting and reception area. where you sit and await your 1:00 interview, for which you were on time although it is now 1:10.

While passing the time between 1:10 and 1:25, you observe the arrival of five other people to fill out applications for open positions. Busy place to be doing all this hiring, and sure enough, the receptionist takes a lot of phone calls from people apparently answering the ad in yesterday's paper. (You had answered an ad two weeks prior.) The receptionist answers a LOT of these calls, and only later do you realize that in the roughly 30 minutes you were in her company not once did she field a call from a customer of whatever company this is.

So, the boss-guy finally comes out and greets you for the interview, apologizing for the 25 minute wait and claiming it's because of his heavy interview schedule that day -- which is odd because (a) you have noticed no one leaving his office, and (b) he later confirms this by informing you that you are in fact his first interview of the day. Ever the professional, you don't give the obvious rejoinder that he is off to a great start, even though it is painfully obvious that he is at least six years younger than you. (This, too, is later directly confirmed.) He takes you into his office, where you again notice the complete lack of personal items on the desk. He does have a picture of Derek Jeter on his wall, but this does not necessarily imply that he's a Yankees fan, because said picture has one of those inspirational business-world slogans that are all the rage these days. What's more, his desk doesn't have a computer either, and you're wondering just what kind of business this guy is running with no computers at all.

During the interview, you are never asked a single question about your background or work experience, other than the standard "I see you've worked at X, Y and Z companies." No "What did you like best about those companies"; no "Tell me about your responsibilities"; no "Tell me about a problem you faced and solved". Then you get to hear the boss-guy's background, which involves him buying his favorite college bar, running it for three years and eventually selling it, and then joining this company, the name of which he still has not said. The only reason you know it is because you read it on the door coming into his office. The receptionist doesn't even use it when answering the phone.

The interview process, as described by boss-guy, involves a preliminary interview -- that's today's interview -- followed by a second round with the "top candidates". This seems perfectly normal, although you wonder how much of an impression he's forming given that he is not asking any questions. But then he describes that the second round involves candidates coming back in to spend an entire day on the job with this guy, essentially performing job duties so that he can decide who he wants to hire permanently. This strikes you, a former manager who is no stranger to staffing and selection processes, as very odd. After all, when hiring a server at a restaurant you managed, you never brought a potential candidate in to wait tables for a day before hiring him/her.

So you leave after ten minutes of being talked to by this guy, and he seems perfectly pleasant and nice....but you still have little idea of what the job entails. At no point has he mentioned things like wages, hours required, duties...he does indicate that all the people now flooding the reception area are prospects for his warehouse positions, which is further confusing because this place is certainly no warehouse. It's a run-down office suite with exactly one office apparently in use.

So you leave, sit in your car for a moment basking in the warm air issuing from the heat vents (which after 45 minutes is still warmer than the air inside the office suite), marveling over the surreal job interview you've just experienced. Then you shake your head and drive off, a bit flummoxed and thinking of that scene in "The Fugitive" where Tommy Lee Jones gets annoyed over someone's use of the word "hinky".

And you certainly don't hold your breath waiting for the call for your "trial day".

Yeah, that was a weird one. Despite my use of the second person here, all of these things really did happen.

UPDATE: Of course, this is the canonical weird job interview:

Hee hee!

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