Thursday, January 29, 2015

My Three Worst Job Interviews Countdown

#3: I answered an advertisement for a sport clothing salesperson with a major distributor (think t-shirts, shorts, polo style shirts, sneakers, flip-flops). I should have politely declined when the hiring manager asked me to meet him at a Wendy's fast food restaurant (in a pre-Starbucks-in-every-city era), but I was fresh out of college and fairly desperate for employment.

At Wendy's, I met at a small table for two with a poorly groomed, sweaty, not very confident recruiter. He opened a binder and began showing me pyramid shaped distribution charts, I immediately clued in that this was a multi-level marketing scheme; not a job, but an investment opportunity, that I did not want in the least. Within five minutes I wished the poor guy well and made a hasty exit. He called out after me that I wasted his time. I resisted the urge to reply that he should not have misled me about the "job" and thus wasted my time. He made me sad for many reasons, chiefly because he looked like the opposite of success, the antithesis of aspirational.

#2: The manager (this time at a bonafide, brick and mortar, workplace) met with me in her corner office. She did all the talking, telling me about her history with the company, and how she rose through the ranks after starting as a lowly receptionist. I hardly got a word in edgewise. I'm not sure she asked me many questions, but I guess I said enough to impress her, or at least did not spoil the delusion that I was a younger version of her. I left thinking I totally blew the interview.

I got the job, staying there for about eighteen months, one promotion, one huge raise and one annual bonus. It was a terrible fit culturally, but impressive work experience and financially lucrative. Had the interviewer/my boss bothered to let me speak more, we both might have realized how out of sync the job was for me and I was for it.

#1: Fresh from a former retail management stint, I interviewed at a very cloistered, but very well respected workplace that was founded as a family business in Texas and grew beyond the state's borders. I met first with a young man who didn't bother to explain what his role at the company was. He shook my hand, said his name, and started talking. He asked good questions. I answered them well. First indications pointed to a good job match.

Then the young man asked if I could meet with another person and essentially have my second interview right then and there. Sure! After a ten minute wait, during which I completed application paperwork, a lady appeared in the office. She was not introduced to me, but began having a conversation with the young man as if I wasn't in the room. Context clues led me to believe that this was the man's mother, also his boss, and the heiress to the family business. Later sleuthing confirmed all of this.

After a few moments of ignoring my existence, she glanced at my résumé, and said, "What's J.Crew?" Before I could answer, the son let out a micro-sigh of exasperation and said, "You know what J.Crew is. You have clothes from there." Then the mom asked why I only stayed employed at J.Crew for four months. I politely, but firmly stated that I was employed at J.Crew for two years and four months. "Oh, I misread that," she said with a dour expression and no apology. She asked if I had any children, displeased when I said no. She asked if I had pets, and completely tuned out when I started to talk about my two cats (at the time). "I don't hire cat-people," she barked dismissively. I defended my love of all companion animals by saying that I wanted a dog, but my rental agreement didn't allow it. She seemed somewhat appeased, and said that I would have to submit to a background check and drug test. No worries. I leaped through background check hoops with flying colors when I got my Securities Exchange Commission Series 6 License a few years before.

After leaving the interview, I knew the job was mine, but that Mama Bear and I would continually butt heads if I worked there. Within the hour I called Baby Bear (the son, with whom I interviewed first) and told him to please pull my application from consideration. He seemed surprised, and asked why. I couldn't tell him that his mom/boss was awful, and that I could never work with her or for her. I said I'd rather not give a reason, and thanked him for his time.