I had a few interviews at a prestigious corporation with a few department managers for a few different positions. If the reader believes they will find valuable advice concerning how to win in a job interview in this paper, which the reader may infer by the title, I would endeavor to dispel those beliefs and redirect the reader to the multitude of such articles that relate to brown-nosing and other degrading, groveling techniques many writers are willing to indulge in. This paper is a story of preserved dignity.
I pulled into the parking lot and found among the many assigned parking spaces, designated with brazen name plaques and arranged in order of hierarchy, the visitor’s spaces. I backed my old, tri-colored, lightly scarred, small but aggressively-treaded SUV next to a metallic-flaked, newly born, custom-wheeled, leathered Beamer. I entered the main foyer through the double doors, as instructed in my pre-interview correspondence. I informed the secretary of my arrival, and sat on the Victorian-style leather couch, as instructed. I waited for about ten minutes.
There was no shortage of things to observe in that time. I observed two robust ladies emerge from an adjacent office. They sat down on the other side of the foyer and began to say a lot to each other without seeming to say anything of importance or what would move the topic along. One held an overstuffed manila folder, which she did not open but seemed to hold for the same ornamental reason she wore chandeliers for earrings.
“I had him sign the document at the bottom,” said one.
“Yes, we need to be sure he signs the document to ensure we are not held liable and that he understands his obligations and holds to the mandated requirements before the shipment arrives,” said the other with the folder in hand.
“I had him sign right here,” said the first, pointing to the bottom of a form.
“It’s requisite that he signs the documents before the shipment arrives so that he understands his obligations and that we are not held liable if he should not keep to the requirements,” said the second.
“I got his signature on the form,” said the first.
“To be sure we are not held liable, we must have his signature… (etc.)”
Needless to say, this show was not going anywhere. I looked about the room. The foyer ceiling was two stories up, and large windows at the second story level permitted a peek into the activities of the higher functions. They also allowed the high-brass to glare down at the commoners. I noticed one talking on his phone, standing in a conference room at the window, staring at me. He wore navy blue slacks, a purple shirt with a white collar, a red and black striped tie, and held a posture that reeked of “sissy boy”. I stared back up at him in a way I hoped let him know that I was not an ordinary goldfish in his tank for his amusement. He looked away. With that misunderstanding cleared up, I turned my attention elsewhere.
The air was heavy with perfumes and felt stale. I looked at the large pictures of the corporation’s leaders and their wives. Is he wearing a blush? Slightly disturbed, I listened to see if I could learn of anything behind the walls. I heard incessant chatter, people trying to talk over one another, haste and urgency abounding, tension permeating through the very foundations.
I turned my attention inwards and thought about what I had gathered concerning the positions I would be interviewed for. I thought about the long drive there. I thought about the required hours and possible required overtime hours not mentioned. And then I thought about the paycheck. Executing a lightning cost-benefit analysis, I found that if I took the job, there would be a lot of commuting I didn’t need. There would be a lot of stress I didn’t need. There would be a lot of working time that I didn’t need. But, there would be a lot of money… which I didn’t need. I already had a job that provided for my needs. I was only there to see if I couldn’t improve my situation. But it seemed I would be giving a lot that I didn’t want to give in exchange for a lot of something I didn’t need if I were to accept a job here. So, I concluded that I would not be heartbroken if they did not offer the job. I also decided I would take these interviews just for the experience.
The door opened. A short, plump woman stood in the doorway. My name was called, more out of protocol than to find me. There were only four people in the room; the secretary, the two broken record players, and me.
I stood. “That would be me,” I said with a smile. “And you are?” I extended my hand. She almost didn’t take it.
“Follow me. Oh!” She shook my outstretched hand. “I’m (let’s say her name is Rebecca).”
“The same I talked to on the phone?” I asked.
“Yep. Follow me.”
I followed, as instructed.
We wound around halls, cut through rooms that looked like someone’s office but was apparently a hallway also, took a left, went through the right door, passed some people sitting in boxes (I think they call them cubicles), went through another door in the middle of the wall, entered another hall, took a right, passed a couple people sitting at a desk, and entered a room about the size of a handicapped bathroom stall. There was a clock on the wall, a small round table with a clock on it, two chairs, a corded phone, and a window looking out at the two people at their desks.
“Have a seat,” ordered Rebecca.
I sat, as instructed.
“You will first take a test,” she said, “before your interviews. You will have fifteen minutes to take the test. There are fifty questions. Answer all the ones you can. If you can’t answer a question, then move on to the next one. The questions cover English, math, and logical reasoning. Fill in the bubble next to the answer you think is correct. Be sure to put your name on the front before you begin.” She placed the test and a pencil in front of me. “Are you ready to begin the test?”
As ready as I’ll ever be, I guess. “Yep,” I replied.
“Then begin the test.” She left the room.
I began the test, as instructed, by writing my name on the front, as instructed. I wondered why they bothered requiring a college degree if they were just going to administer their own test. I answered most of the questions before time ran out.
Rebecca came in, collected the test, and gave me a brief introduction on my interviewers and their duties. She left the room, and I waited a couple minutes before a thin, waning man entered with large glasses and wearing a blue and white striped shirt laden with pens in its pocket. He interviewed me for a position for which I did not possess the preferred credentials, but it was a position I could possibly have filled. I will admit, the interview did not go brilliantly, but I felt like I had half a fighting chance. That interview ended, and I waited a minute more before the next interviewer stepped in.
He was a man of a short, strong build, confident stride, well placed shoulders, a firm handshake, making up in face for what he lacked in hair (his eyebrows being the only facial feature to have the honor of follicles), and clearly an obtuse personality. We will call him Bruce. He sat down in the chair opposite from me.
“So, why should I hire you?” he asked.
I hate that question. It’s so vague, so general, so shallow, so lacking in effort. So I began; I’m honest, I have an excellent work ethic, I’m a fast learner, etc.
“You’re giving me the answers everybody gives,” he interrupted. “You are giving me a bunch of general answers.”
Well, if you ask a general question then you are going to get a general answer, was the thought that ran through my mind. Fortunately, my mental filter caught the thought before it reached my mouth.
“Tell me why I should hire you,” he repeated.
Honestly, I didn’t understand what the job would entail. I had no idea why the recruiter set up this interview. From the little she had told me about it and what other sources had told me about it, I did not believe I had any qualifications for the position, nor had I any interest in filling the position, and I had told her so. I was not planning on having this interview. But what could it hurt to try, since I now found myself there?
I confessed my ignorance and my confusion as to why the recruiter had set up the interview. I then asked what the job required.
“Good communication skills,” was his curt reply.
That rang about as true as a bird plop landing in a meadow-muffin, if his skills were the finest example his department had to offer.
But it looked like that was all I could get, so I would have to work with it. I began listing my experiences that required competent communication skills and how my skills got the job done.
“You are still saying what everyone else says,” he again interrupted.
At least I knew I wasn’t below the average.
“I’m not sure what you are looking for. Give me something to shoot at,” I said.
“The job is what you are shooting at!” he shouted, waving his hand uncomfortably close to my face.
So I tried again, this time with a question.
“What is important to you?” I asked.
“I don’t think you understand how this works,” he stated. “I ask the questions. You give the answers.”
So much for that idea. So I retreated back to listing general characteristics and giving examples of times I had excelled. He let me go on a moment longer before he again stopped me.
“The idea of these interviews,” he began, “is for you to convince me,” he tapped his chest, “that I should hire you,” he said, waving his hand in my face. He sighed. “Alright, what questions would you like to ask me?” he asked, striking a pose that suggested he was ready to impart great knowledge.
“What is important to you?” I asked, without hesitation.
“People,” was the extent of his superb communication skills. “The people I work with are important to me.”
“Alright,” I said. “Now I can spill the beans.” His eyebrows rose. “People are important to me, too. That’s more important to me than anything else in a job. I need to enjoy being with the people I work with. Part of a job interview is that you have to convince me that I want to work for you.” His jaw dropped slightly. “I know what I can do. I know what I am worth. You have to convince me that this is where I want to be. And right now, I don’t think we would get along.”
“I agree,” he butted in.
“Good,” I said. “Then I think I could save us both a lot of time by telling you that I don’t want this job.”
I thought that made it pretty clear the interview was over, but he still sat there, dumbfounded. I waited a moment. I thought maybe he had a time slot he needed to fill, and now he had no idea what to do. It was still another twenty minutes before the next interviewer was to come in. I thought if he was just going to sit there, I could at least try to learn something from him, no matter how minuscule it may be.
“So, what can you tell me about (the department he was the head of)?” I asked.
“Oh,” he said, coming back to life, “we aren’t here for a friendly chitchat. I’m a very busy man.”
“Okay,” I said, standing up, “Then I’ll send you on your way.”
I shook his hand, thanked him kindly for his time, and showed him the door. He left. I closed the door, sat down, and waited twenty minutes for the next interviewer.
The next interviewer came in. He shook my hand with a pleasant smile and introduced himself. We sat down, and he asked, “How were the other interviews?”
I replied that I thought the first interview went well and the second could have been better.
He nodded. “The first interviewer is a very smart man. I respect him a lot,” he said. “Bruce is very smart, too,” he added hurriedly, “but only… louder.”
We both smiled.
This interview went significantly better. The interviewer even had me work through a scenario that I felt I did rather well on. I felt like I had a better chance of being accepted for this position than the first. The interview ended cordially. He hurriedly left and went his way. I gathered my notebook and pencil and exited the bathroom-stall sized room. Rebecca was standing just outside the door.
“Exit through that door.” She pointed to a door between the two desks.
I shook her hand, thanked her, exited through the indicated door (as instructed) and stepped into the engulfing light of a noonday sun. The cool breeze filled and refreshed my lungs. I walked to my car and got in. I sat in my battle-hardened, small SUV and turned the key. The engine eagerly rumbled to life. I briefly reflected on the interviews. I thought about Bruce, and I laughed. I laughed for a long time. The laughs subsided. I put the car in gear and made my way to the freeway. I merged with the traffic and my thoughts reverted back to the interviews. I laughed again, and I continued laughing through the thirty minute drive home.
In case the reader is wondering, I never heard from them again. … And I have no regrets.