punkwalrus (punkwalrus) wrote,
punkwalrus
punkwalrus

Random Story - Bad Job Interviews

I posted a long story about the worst coincidence ever, but I have also had other bad interviews that are kind of funny, now.

The Albino Twins
In 1995, I was trying to get a tech job, away from retail. One of my most memorable interviews (besides the one mentioned above) as some technical company I'll call Obscuretech (because I forgot their real name). I saw their ad in the Washington Post, arranged an interview with their secretary, and showed up early one morning in a nice suit. The office was in a building, I think the second floor of a small office building, and the front area was like a hundred others I had seen: a long receptionist desk, wood paneling, and the company logo in silver relief letters behind her. I sat in a leather couch for quite some time, mostly because I was early, but also because they were rather late. About 40 minutes after our scheduled interview, they called the secretary to usher me in.

As soon as we left the lobby area, the rest of the office looked quite different. There were stacks of paper leaning up against the walls, some in boxes, and some just loosely stacked. There was also a lot of other equipment, and I passed a kitchen area where two men were arguing loudly about something. The whole walk back to the owners' offices gave the impression that they never let people back here much, and stuff was just left on the floor as they tired of using it. The owners' office was the same way: it had two huge desks with stuff piled on and around it. The walls had no art of any kind; no posters, clocks, anything that gave the office a more permanent look. It looked like a pile in an office.

The owners were an odd pair. I call them "The Albino Twins," although I don't think they were truly albino. They were both twins, though, brothers that owned the company. Both had bright white hair, puffy pink skin, and were overweight. One wore a badly fitting yellow tee-shirt with some logo on it, khaki shorts, and high top sneakers. The other wore a white undershirt, corduroy pants, and flip-flops. It was like I had entered their rec room. But they were expecting me, and the first question one asked as the secretary left me there was, "Why are you wearing a tie? This is not a marketing position."

The interview went badly from the start. It seems what they asked for was not what they were actually looking for, but when I mentioned that their ad differed from their requirements, they told me that was on purpose to "weed out anyone was was not serious," and went on the explain they wanted people who had ABC as their qualifications, but if they advertised ABC, they got people they didn't like, so they advertised XYZ instead, hoping they also knew ABC. I found this stupid, but said nothing. They kept interviewing me, anyway, even though a lot of what they needed I simply did not have. One was eating a strudel from an Enteman's box, and when he saw me looking at it, offered me a chunk he broke off with his own hand. I took it, and ate it to be polite, even though the chunk was a little warmer than room temperature and I wondered how long it had been since it had been properly refrigerated.

One brother did most of the talking, while the other added comments as he saw fit. They talked about what they did, why they started the company (from their own basement), and even said the office looked bad because they had just moved in a few months ago. They seemed happy when they talked, and upset when I talked, so I think I talked about as much as the less talkative brother. They kept coming back to the issue that I had worn a tie, and when I said I wore it because it was an interview and this was the standard thing I wore to interviews, they got even more upset, and asked me things about "if everyone jumped off a cliff, would you?" I asked them if I removed the tie, would that be better, and I got, "Might as well keep it, it's how we see you, now."

The session lasted about an hour, or maybe it seemed that long, because while it was obvious they were looking for was not me, but they needed someone to talk at of a while. When I left, they didn't show me out, and I got lost for a while until I followed another, newly hired, employee to the main desk.

I didn't get called back, and I am not surprised or upset.

The Qualifications
I was trying to find another job in the retail sector at one time, and I called the number in an ad that was offering $33,000 for a manager of a Rental Storage Facility (you know, where people rent out storage areas to put all their stuff). This seemed a little high, back when managers in retail made about $20 - 25,000 at most. But I thought I'd give it a shot.

The guy who answered the phone said what he needed to manage a such a rental facility. I expected management experience, including accounting, hiring, and employee management. He expected a fully 10 years of computer programming experience, including C , DB IV, plus extensive terminal installation, a college degree, and at least five year experience in software engineering. Uh... for a management job in a Rental Storage Facility? I didn't have near what he asked, but when I asked, "Why would you need that?" he said he only wanted smart managers, not the dumb ones he kept getting. I felt it ironic, thinking $33,000 was bit high for a manager, but now it seemed WAY too low for what he was asking. I told him so, and he got angry, saying I was insulting him. I told him that people who had those skills would probably ask for at least $50,000 a year, plus, they wouldn't look under "retail management" in the paper, nor would they consider running a Rental Storage Facility. He got mad, and told me to hang up. So I did.

I saw that ad for a year afterwards. I wonder if he is still looking?

The Water People
I applied to be an activist for a series of jobs, because I didn't know any better. One was a company that had the name "Water" in it, like "Citizens for the Clean Water Act" or something. I showed up to their Dupont Circle address in DC. I was 19, naive, and didn't know much about what being an activist was. The office was a rowhouse in Dupont Circle, which is an area known for their culture and activism, kind of like the "Greenwich Village" or "Haight Ashbury" of DC, only not as cool. Anyway, I got the standard one-on-one interview with a guy, who seemed to be a fired-up, charged kind of person. He seemed to like everything I had to say, and said he'd really be interested in putting me on a paid, "Trial Basis," on the spot. I was psyched! I filled out the paperwork, and reported downstairs to their basement for "orientation."

The basement was nice for a rowhouse basement. The ceiling was low, but they had nice gold carpeting, wood paneling, and mood lighting. They had set up about 40-50 chairs, and we all faced a guy at a podium. The guy went on about their cause, to make sure the citizens of the area would always have access to clean water. He showed slides about government policies, bills passed, waste management, and water treatment plants. He then started to talk about home filtration systems, and stayed on that topic for a long, long time. He even had samples. To make a long story short, he wanted us to "liberate the citizens" by selling them water treatment systems. Then there was a lunch break (free catered deli), and then the rest of the day was a lecture on how to sell these door-to-door, or in malls. I got REAL uncomfortable, especially when they mentioned that the "up front cost" was "only $400" (in 1988 money). I seemed to be the only one who didn't feel comfortable, and some (probably audience plants) seem enthusiastic about the "opportunity." Then we had to go to a table to sign up and buy our first kits. The following is not exactly what happened next, but an idea of how they had an answer for everything.

Me: I don't have $400.
Them: We accept credit cards.
Me: I don't have a credit card.
Them: We'll take a post-dated check.
Me: I didn't bring my checkbook.
Them: There's an ATM around the corner.
Me: I don't have $400 in cash.
Them: Call your parents.
Me: They are dead.
Them: Call your siblings.
Me: I don't have any.
Them: Call a relative.
Me: I am alone, I don't know any that have money.
Them: I thought you were willing to win.
Me: I didn't know I had to sell water treatment systems.
Them: Don't you want your fellow citizens to have good, clean water? Don't you care?
Me: I don't have $400.
Them: I am sure your roommates can help you out. You'll make back three times that in one week, we swear! Take 'em to a nice steak restaurant. You like steak, don't you?

I guess they figured if they guilted me, the "nice guy," enough, I'd "find the money." Truth was, I really did not have $400, and did not have anyone to borrow it from. Then things got a little ugly. They mentioned I signed paperwork agreeing to sell the systems. I said I was told that was my W9 tax forms and such. Then they got a guy to "work on the difficult cases," and lumped me with another woman who didn't have the money, either. They guilted her by stating she was saying no to her own children having a better life. Turns out these guys had a LOT of ads, for different jobs, but all led to selling their water treatment systems. We had three guys badgering us for about half an hour about how we had broken promises, and how disappointed they were in us. I swear, I would have caved in and gave them $400 if I had it. I was scared and felt so guilty, they were really good at this. But the woman and I gained a little strength by being together, and finally they let us go. By this time, it was dark out.

They called my house several times, and my roommates screened them for me for a few weeks until the calls finally stopped. I think they were mad at me for being this stupid, and I feel bad about this whole thing to this day.

Asshat water people.

Last Bit of Silliness
I was once turned down for a job because I was a man. "We uh... were expecting a female to apply for this position," said the boss when I interviewed for "administrative assistant." I wonder why...? Yes, that was illegal, but that was 1988, I didn't know better, and I am sure they got what was coming to them.

So I have had some bad ones out there... but someday I'll post the worst *applicants* I ever got when I did interviews.

This entry was originally posted at http://www.punkwalrus.com/blog/archives/00000218.html
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