If you read my previous blog you know the job market for anyone over 40 sucks in my humble, but experienced opinion. That includes the interview process, where you learn about the down and dirty of a company, sometimes literally.
If you are like some of my friends who have not interviewed for a job in 20 or even 10 years, you might be as amused, or horrified when you hear about what's really happening today. The interviews range from the benign to the absurd, like the most recent one. Benign being like the one where the director of the department interviewed me with nary a paper in sight. Not even a sticky note with a few questions scribbled on it, or a place to jot down my answers, or write down a few notes. And she certainly didn't have my resume in front of her, and in all honesty seemed pretty bored, which made me think, did she really care? I know I did. Later, I found out she pulled the bored and paperless routine with three other people who interviewed with her. Guess who got the job? No one - it was never filled after a year of interviewing candidate, far more qualified than me! I wonder why? Maybe her photographic memory failed her and she couldn't remember who was the best candidate.
Onto the more absurd. Below is follow up thank you email I wanted to send to the HR Director after I returned from driving out of state for my first in-person interview with a company. And yes, this was following two phone interviews that didn't send up any red flags. Don’t worry I did not send the following letter:
Thank you for the opportunity to interview with your team yesterday. I appreciated the “conversation” which was mostly one sided, as you guys sure do enjoy the sound of your own voices. But who are we kidding? Really it was just a platform for Bob to tick off his accomplishments over the last 20 years with the company. Sure he earned it, but was the interview the place to do it? Props to you for making him the star. It was soooo obvious his impending retirement was so not his idea! The trick questions, the way he challenged almost everything I said, accompanied by the his hostility lurking just below the surface, well what can I say? It just gave me ALL THE FEELS!
What’s even more brilliant on your part, yes better than having his thinly veiled hostility in the room for almost two hours, is the truly OUTSTANDING idea to have Bob stay on part time to help the new person. He will serve as a great resource, (reliving his glory days), help them acclimate, (remind them every five minutes he was the founding director of the department), and bring his super-duper positive energy (not) as they take over his role. You know what would rock? Having them share an office! When we were on our tour (more on that super specialness later), it looked like a pigsty, but since he’s a total helper, I am sure Bob would be down with setting up a card table and a few milk crates right next to him, so his replacement (who I am sure will cry or threaten to quit within the first month) can work hand-in hand with him. I bet Bob's philosophy is they will “learn by doing”. Which who are we kidding, translates into the new director getting off their milk crate and (with those criss cross imprints on their ass) and pick through, organize and file 20 years worth of paper and crap, half of which looked like it was on his desk when we walked by it.
I knew this was not going well, as the word interrogation kept popping into my head. When you finally asked me if I had any questions and I started to speak, it was clear that you couldn’t control yourselves, since it seemed a nanosecond of silence was too much for you to bear. So you or Bob piped up immediately as you needed to hear the sound of your own voice, again. When I did manage to wrangle back control and ask questions, (I don’t’ know maybe your throat was getting sore) I counted no less than five, yes 5 interruptions when I was tried to speak. I teed up a great question about the strategy and deliverables for Bob. I got a sneaking suspicion there aren’t any, as he seemed to dodge the question and kept talking about the tasks, yes task after task after task. When I asked in another way, which seemed to ramp up his irritation, it became very clear to me there is NO strategy. Maybe that’s why Bob cut me off, and seemed pissed that he had to tell me, although in a weird, seeking daddy approval way, that the CEO has a final say in everything, reviews every single solitary piece of material that comes out of Bob’s department. I wanted to say to them, “Gentlemen, don’t hire someone like me at six figures. Save yourself some serious dollars and get yourself a 23 year old kid and pay them a third of an experienced persons salary. Thirty grand will get you a ‘yes’ person and let the CEO keep running the show. Throw in an extra $5K and I bet they won’t even speak so you can continue sucking all the oxygen out of the room!”
Even better than my strategy question, was when I lobbed you a softball and asked the tried and true interview question, “Can you describe the culture?" You sly foxes looked at each other in a bit of a ‘shit we better pretty up our answer’ and replied, “It’s a Mentor – Mentee culture.” Oh boys, you can put all the lipstick you want on that pig, it's still a pig. Your answer was code for, “Do whatever the CEO says, because he is the head dick in charge and we just follow orders. Got it?!”
At this point my inner voice told me not to bother asking about innovation. Something simple like, how do you innovate? Or what is the latest innovation implemented? I didn’t roll with my Webster’s Dictionary, and wasn’t sure there was enough oxygen in the room for me to explain what innovate actually means. And well, hey, at this point Bob’s hostility was contained, for the time being and it was off to bigger better and Batann things.
Onto my favorite part of this experience - The Bataan Death March. It was truly exhilarating to climb five flights of stairs in a suit and heels after an hour of verbal gymnastics, that felt more like hand-to-hand combat. Remember, I was working with an oxygen deficit as we hoofed it up the stairs, but it was awfully kind of you to end the tour by taking the elevator down the five flights. Besides you were all thrilled looking at your Fit Bits and Apple watches to see how many steps you had just added to your daily step log. Gentlemen I'd give you credit for extra steps if you were in heels like me... but you weren't.
I am going to give you a little advice in your “pursuit of excellence in everything we do” phrase that you tout. It was weighing on my mind, or actually the back of my neck where beads of sweat were accumulating, as we exited the elevators. You may want to consider rolling out the manners, in the name of excellence. Meaning- offer your interviewees a glass of water. After driving two hours, and interviewing for almost another two hours, with a glutes workout thrown in, would it be too much to offer a parched person a Dixie Cup of tap water? Maybe you were worried I’d get pushy and ask for a cup of coffee, maybe a Diet Coke, or perhaps a Kleenex to mop the beads of sweat rolling down my back after the march. Or maybe they assumed, I wasn't parched, and my discreetly applying lip balm to my dry, cracked lips after the hike was party of my beauty routine, or I was a camel storing water and I transported some aqua with me across state lines!
What sealed the deal for me was your response to my question about teamwork. This was your place to shine, and lure me to uproot myself and join you in your “pursuit of excellence.” Bob seemed excited to tell me the story about the opening ceremony for a a new building that happened a few years ago. He shared that the building inspectors delayed your staff’s entry until the morning of the ribbon cutting. This presented a conundrum - the building needed to be cleaned for the ceremony later in the day.
Now let me make an aside, and stay with me on this one. I get you are saving huge money by not offering me a bottle of water. So mark that fifty cents into the profit column. On my way in, I passed one of the security vehicles in the parking lot. It was a Mercedes, not a trusty old cop car, i.e a Crown Vic, but a Benz, so I know that sets you back a cool $40k, so put that in the loss column. And as we are wrapping up this barrel of laughs, a massive, new rug with a woven logo was being laid out in the lobby. It must have cost a small fortune, since this was not a typical, industrial, all weatherproof, high traffic area rug, but a custom made rug. No expense seemed to be spared, and I'm glad I contributed two quarters to it, in bottled water money.
Back to Bob's grand opening story that he seemed almost giddy to share. He continued with delight, "The delays gave us very little time to prepare and get the building ready for the ribbon cutting, so guess what happened?" I could hardly imagine at this point, as my eyes glanced at the clock, hoping to bring this house of pain to a quick end . Bob was very happy to report, the cleaning crew was none other than the staff. I guess someone forgot to push the industrial cleaning team back to the day of the opening? In my head, I made a note to self – they are not good with changing plans. Now, I understand shit happens, schedules and inspectors don’t work out, and you need to roll with it, and fill in where needed. But the fact that at this point, Bob seemed to take great pleasure, and almost preened with delight as he made the big reveal - the company’s #2 person ended up scrubbing the toilets. Boom, that was it. That was my tipping point.
Believe me, I am not above doing my fair share of manual labor and pitching in; I can declutter, organize and clean an office like nobody’s business. I can haul garbage and fill a recycling bin or dumpster with the best of them. But when Bob presented this story to me, as a point of pride, and seemed to almost be challenging me to nod my head and agree, that I would do the same, I paused. Hearing about the #2 person at this company wielding a toilet brush while security guards tooled around in a Mercedes, visitors tread on custom made rugs, and beautiful artwork was professionally hung on the walls, well I just knew we weren’t a good match. My immigrant great grandmother with her 8th grade education, didn't get up at 4:30 a.m. and take two buses to get to work to clean at a local college, to have someone in her family three generations later doing the same.
So take this as my notice that I withdraw my candidacy. While, I clean my own toilets, I am not down with a -
Bring Your Bleach and Toilet Brush to Work Day. I would extend you the courtesy of a phone call, but I’m still too dehydrated to even speak to you. Best of luck!