More on Interviews

Last week I posted about my job interview adventures and thought that, even though my search is over, I would share some of my most memorable experiences whether recent or not. I've learned much about the process, especially how to recognize that I was lucky to not get the job, and I hope that hearing my tales will help someone out who's going through the same thing.

In one of my first job interviews, which I didn't realize was an actual interview, I wore shorts and a camp shirt. It was for a part-time job that I was told I'd already been hired for, and so when the woman in charge of the position called me to ask me to come in to talk, I told her I'd come straight from my full-time job later that day, assuming that I was just going to fill out paperwork. She looked at me oddly when I came in and sat down, and finally, after about her second question and several long glances at my legs, I realized she was interviewing me. I got the job, but it was a big red flag for me that there had been a miscommunication between the two people who were in charge. I worked for the company for a couple of years, and I remember seeing that same woman standing and staring at nothing even when people tried to talk to her. It didn't surprise me that the company folded soon after.

Another time, the woman I went in to interview with immediately began to tell me why she wouldn't give someone like me the job. She was condescending and negative in the guise of being "helpful." She spent an hour recommending books on how I could improve my interview and communication skills, how I could dress better, etc., in a one-sided conversation where she'd repeatedly ask me questions and continue talking whether I answered or not or while I was trying to answer. Basically, by the end she had whittled my confidence to zero, and then she curtly let me know the main reason I couldn't have the job was that my degree, which was one of two that qualified me for the position, was simply not the one she really wanted. Years later, after bumping into several people who interviewed with her, I was relieved to find I wasn't the only person she'd treated this way. Even people she hired suffered similar fates and eventually left her employ because of some of the crazy stuff she did.

This woman wasn't the only person who seemed to take their role as interviewer too seriously. One of the most embarrassing interviews I had was when the interviewer told me I smelled like cigarette smoke and needed to get some perfume. I was humiliated because I didn't smoke and had showered just before going. I found out later he was transferred from his job shortly after that because of his rudeness and lack of professional decorum. I still, though, to this day, worry about how I smell when I go to an interview. I even have my husband smell me, which he enjoys a little too much, to make sure I haven't picked up a stray scent somewhere along the way before I leave the house. On the bright side, after interviewing with him and the woman above, I learned that when interviewers decide to use their time to give you a lecture on why you suck as a human being, you're better off not getting the job.

Sometimes there's more than one person on the other side of the desk. I've interviewed with as many as seven people at once, and this group experience was even more interesting than the others. I realized that it's just as important for those conducting the interviews to have their act together as it is for the person on the hot seat because otherwise they just come across as unprofessional. For example, once I went into a situation where two of the interviewers felt very strongly about the way the job should be done and two held a different opinion. Every question was an either/or question designed to make the job candidate pick a side. It was frustrating that they were so far apart on what they wanted in an employee and totally annoying. I was older by then and didn't take it personally anymore. As a matter of fact, it ticked me off pretty good, especially when one of them kicked me under the table. Apparently, my answer had held favor with the other person in the room that agreed with her; however, as my explanation for the answer went progressed, she must have felt I was losing him, because she kicked me. Hard. Not like accidentally, either. I left there wondering who in the world they would hire, since it would be a 2/2 split either way. Happily, it wasn't me.

Not all my interview experiences have been bad, although looking at what I just wrote--yikes!--it looks like they were. Actually, the last three were fantastic. I ended up getting one job, and the other two interviewers told me at the time and later on the phone that they were really impressed with me and how I presented myself, and they seemed very sincere. So perhaps that which doesn't drive us bonky, at least interview-wise, does make us stronger or smarter in some way.

What about you? Do you have any interview stories to share? Go ahead, it might help purge some of those past interview-from-hell demons and give someone some great tips. Please do share!


Mary Ellen Quigley said...

I recently did an interview for a position within the company I work for. I almost left the interview in tears. It was one hour long with the first 45 minutes being the interviewer telling me how difficult the job was and listing the reasons why I may not be a good fit for it. The person also came across very rude. The funny part was that I was later called into the office to discuss the experience with her. I didn't get the job, but I would have been the second choice. It turns out that her "rudeness" and mean attitude were an act. She was this way to every person who interviewed and did so to see how much we could take. Apparently the position is extremely demanding. The general idea was that if we could handle her attitude, we would be able to handle the client's we would be working with. It's not a bad strategy when you think about it.

Vonda Sinclair said...

Interesting post! Ugh I hate job interviews. I've never had any as terrible as yours. Most are not memorable, in fact, and were several years ago. :)