Unspeakably Stupid
Unspeakably Stupid Story #22:
Job Interviews From Hell, Part 1

Job interviews are rarely fun for the interviewee, but some are worse than others.

The best kind of interview is one where you have nothing to lose. Maybe you already have a job, maybe you're collecting unemployment, maybe you just found out that this place is too long a commute for you. If you don't want the job all that bad, it's easier to relax during the interview. Under these circumstances, you can take it easy and even turn the tables on them a little. If the interviewer is the person that would be your supervisor, you can try to decide whether the person is a prick or not, saving yourself the hassle of taking a job working for an asshole, whereupon you'd be relegated to more job hunting and going to interviews again.

With some interviews, you can tell you're wasting your time as soon as you walk in the door. Here's one tip: You're already screwed when the person who was supposed to interview you "isn't available" so they have some poorly prepared underling interview you instead. I've had this happen several times, and next time there will be no interview. I've been through enough of this to know that I'm already out of the running when they pull that shit.

I've held six different Internet Technology-related jobs over the past year. I quit two, got laid off of two, and was fired once. I've been to something like 50 interviews during that time. I've had interviews that I thought went great, but then I wound up not getting hired. I've had interviews that I thought went poorly, and was promptly offered the job. But a few stand out.

There was one with an Internet startup company called BuySellBid.com. I was walking through a presentation of my work to three managers there in a conference room. About halfway through this, the main interviewer, a frowning jerk named Porter (with a first name like that, no wonder he grew up to be a shithead), asked, "Didn't you send us a resume about a week ago?" I hadn't. But his question inferred that someone with the same skill set had sent him a resume last week, and obviously, he must have thrown the resume in the trash, because the job was still open. So there was no reason for me to even be there. Complete asshole.

Some companies are so large, and their hiring process so ponderous, that you wonder how they'll ever hire anyone. I applied for a position with ODS Blue Shield, a local HMO, after seeing an ad in the paper. It took them a whole month to call me. During the initial interview, which took an hour and a half, I found out that I was the first to be interviewed, and that it would be two weeks before I would even know if I had made the first cut or not! By the time I got their rejection notice, I was working another job. A couple of weeks later, they put the exact same ad in the paper again, apparently having turned away every applicant from the first ad. No wonder healthcare costs are spiraling out of control.

Now, I am currently working as a "contract" (read: temporary) employee. Three of the six jobs I've held in the last year were as a contract worker. There are good points and bad points about temping. Bad points: You can be dumped at any time with little or no notice, you don't get any benefits, and sometimes you are treated differently than the "permanent" employees. Good points: Your boss doesn't have an "ownership" complex (some bosses feel that they "own" you and therefore have the right to visit as much misery on you as they can), your fellow temps don't have "seniority" issues so competition and backstabbing are at a minimum, and the pay tends to be better.

Really, the worst thing about job hunting is the fucking recruiters. When you put your resume on a board like Monster or Dice, you are giving the recruiters something to do: waste your time. Recruiters only look at the skills you have listed, and not very carefully at that. They never seem to read the other details. I live in the Pacific Northwest, and have always put "NO RELOCATION" near the top of my online resume. Then I proceed to get flooded with e-mails and voicemail from recruiters offering me jobs in New Jersey, Tennessee, and Seattle, which is nearly 200 miles away.

Recruiters will also send you to interviews where the skill set is a poor match, or to interviews where they know you don't have a chance, but they want to increase the employer's awareness of their company. I've been to a few of those. Here's a sample of an actual conversation with a dipshit recruiter who had set up an interview I was about to go to, at a place called 800.com.

Recruiter: "They don't like your portfolio. They feel most of your work is tables-based and not 'interactive' enough."

Me: "Sounds like this interview will be a waste of time."

Recruiter: "What makes you say that?"

Another thing recruiters do is go on entirely too much about their benefits package, which usually consists of the usual medical/dental coverage and some paid vacation -- once you've worked there the equivalent of seven months or so, which just happens to be a little longer than the usual contract duration of six months.

Also, they are always offering you a "bonus" (usually $500 or so) for finding other employees to work for them. What they don't tell you is that if the employee works for them for less than six months, which is usually the case, you don't get a damn thing.

Many of them lie about your pay rate. They offer you a certain level of pay on the phone, then when your first paycheck comes, you find you are being shorted. When you call them, they deny offering you the rate they said on the phone. Aquent Partners (formerly Mactemps) did that to me once, and they'll not get a chance to do it to me again.

Some recruiters claim not to be recruiters at all, but "software companies." They find programming work for you, and send you to that company to do the work on a contract basis. If this is different than temping, I'd like to know how. I even had one of them get all pissed off at me for calling him a recruiter, and refused to send me for an interview. Incredible asshole.

Well, you're reading this hoping for a story, not some peon's opinion of modern employment search techniques. There is one interview I had over the past year that stood out from all the others: The Interview From Hell.

This company, Millenium Internet, ran an ad in the local paper. They presented themselves not as recruiters but as a software company. It looked attractive. They were located in my hometown, eliminating the usual nasty commute. And they were in a fancy new building. I called, and arranged an interview. I held a job way out of town (see Unspeakably Stupid Story #15) at the time, so I had to take half a day off to go to this interview.

I pulled into the parking lot, dazzled by the two new eight-story glass-covered buildings with a skywalk running between them. Wow! This could be cool. Once inside, I walked up a spiral staircase surrounding a beautiful fountain. I asked for Suite 218 at the second floor front desk and they sent me down a hallway. I turned a corner and found Suite 218.

I should have left.

Suite 218 was a tiny office with two desks and three people stuffed into it. Behind the first desk was their receptionist. Behind the second desk was Johnny, who I talked to on the phone. Sitting in front of Johnny's desk was an odd looking gentleman with a full beard and black, curly hair typing away on a laptop computer. He spoke strangely, and I figured he was from some far-away country. The receptionist introduced me to Johnny, and we shook hands. Johnny asked the receptionist which conference room we were holding the interview in. The receptionist replied that we were in Conference Room 2. So we headed off to Conference Room 2. However, there was a problem. Johnny was looking at names of rooms as we walked down the hall. He had no idea where Conference Room 2 was. Luckily, I had passed it on the way in, so I led Johnny to the room.

He had me sit down, handed me a two-page job description to read, and announced he was going to get the General Manager, who wanted to sit in on the interview. I began reading the job description, which was full of vague banalities with no specifics whatsoever. Soon Johnny returned, looking a little bewildered, with the funny looking guy from the office in tow. "We're going to do something a little different," he announced, as warning alarms began to go off in my brain. "The General Manager is tied up, so Brian here is going to sit in with us instead." With that, "Brian" folded up his arms and began glaring at Johnny. Johnny didn't notice this until "Brian" began shouting at Johnny in some gibberish I didn't understand. "Eeya Ike!" he shouted. "Eeya Ike!"

"Oh, sorry," said Johnny, "it's Mike, not Brian." That was when I spotted the huge hearing aids in both Mike's ears and realized that Mike was functionally deaf. "Eeya Ike" was just his attempt at saying "It's Mike." For the entire duration of the interview, Mike sat glaring at Johnny with his arms folded, obviously pissed off and never trying to speak again.

Johnny read haltingly from a piece of paper containing questions, obviously written by someone else, that he was supposed to ask me. I could tell by the look on his face that he had no idea what I was talking about when I gave the answers. I glanced at my watch, already starting to get pissed off that I had taken half a day off for this bullshit.

"Okay, now we're going to do something else a little different," said Johnny, who at this point was a lot more uncomfortable than I was, what with not knowing what he was doing, and having a pissed off deaf guy glaring at him from six feet away. "We're going to call the client and have you talk to her. I can't tell you who the client is." Oh, great, I thought. Could this get any more lame?

So Johnny calls the client and explains to her that he is going to have her ask me the questions. He handed the phone over to me, and the woman on the other end, who I'm pretty sure was with U.S. Bancorp, exchanged pleasantries with me. Then the real interview began.

"So, you write Java servlets?"

"Huh?"

"You write Java servlets?"

"No."

"Oh. We're looking for someone that writes Java servlets."

Soon, I was handing the phone back to Johnny, who was apologizing profusely to the client.

After hanging up, Johnny asked if I had filled out an application. Of course I hadn't. So off we went, back to Millenium Internet's tiny office, to get an application. At this point, I just wanted to get out of there. He handed me some 15 page application, and I asked if it would be okay if I faxed it to them. He said that would be fine, thanks for coming, have a nice day, we'll be in touch. "Don't you want to give me your fax number?" I asked. "Oh, sure," said Johnny, who was of course befuddled by this. "What's our fax number?" he asked the receptionist. By this time, Mike had simmered down enough to blurt out something resembling a phone number, which Johnny wrote on a Post-It and stuck to my application.

"Thanks," I said.

On my way out of the building, I tossed the application into a trash can.

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