Unspeakably Stupid
Unspeakably Stupid Story #26:
Job Interviews From Hell, Part 2

Being a contractor means suffering many job interviews, and even worse, interviewers. Now, to be fair, most of them are nice people just trying to do their job. Some of them are just going through the motions, doing their boss a favor by pretending to listen to the interviewee, meeting a quota, knowing the boss has already decided on someone else.

Then there are those who relish the opportunity to practice everything they learned in Psychology 101.

I had the displeasure of interviewing for a job with an outfit called 800.com not once, but twice.

800.com was an online-only company that sold home electronics such as stereo equipment, DVD players, VCRs, TVs and the like. Every year before Christmas, they went on a hiring binge in anticipation of being flooded with orders. My resume was submitted to them by recruiters two years in a row around the holidays.

The first interview was one of those where you arrive to find that the person who was supposed to interview you has blown off the interview, and left you to be interviewed by some flunky. This means you have already been eliminated from the running, and the coming hour will be a waste of your time and theirs.

The second interview, the following year, was much worse.

First, I was interviewed by a guy who would have been my co-worker. My skills seemed a good fit, and the guy seemed really nice. He introduced me to some other people in the department, including the woman who had blown off the interview the year before, whose name I recognized. Then, he handed off the interview to someone more senior, an old, fat guy with a large, sloppy beard and horn-rimmed glasses.

He sat down and told me how I was no good for the job, I didn't have enough experience, and I couldn't tell HTML from ASP (what an idiot), and it was clear that he had already convinced himself of these things before the interview began.

Then, of all things, he starts in with a series of questions right out of some trite magazine, shit like "Are you more of a leader, or a manager?" and "Do you like a neat, organized workspace or a more chaotic one?"

After answering five or six of these pop-psychology riddles, he informed me that I was well suited to what I was doing, career-wise. Oh, thank you, great fortune-teller! Lucky me, I came for a job interview and got a complete psychiatric evaluation! What do I owe you, you overpaid, fat-assed, time-wasting sack of shit?

So as you can see, being a contractor means putting up with a lot of stupid assholes from time to time.

And sometimes, the recruiters are worse than the interviewers.

The following example is an actual e-mail I received from a recruiter, in advance of an interview he had arranged for the following day.

I am going to do the comically inept "Ryon" a favor by not revealing his last name or the name of his agency, a "technical" recruiting firm. The letter is reproduced here verbatim:

This is just to confirm that you are all set for a phone interview with Tektronix on Wednesday at 12pm. Expect a phone call from Toni Piwonka-Corle, Operations Manager for Internet Business Group. She will probably have her webmaster, Jennifer (think she goes by Jenn) with her. Toni has the ultimate decision, but she takes Jenn's opinions very seriously. Check out Tek's corporate website to learn a little more about the company: http://www.tektronix.com

Below are some recommendations for the interview, please review and let me know if you have any questions.

1. Be personable and friendly, but never forget that it is an interview. Hiring Authorities (HAs), like Toni, will look for clues as to personality quirks through inappropriate responses to casual conversation.

2. After some rapport building chit-chat, the HA will almost always begin the interview with a statement like "Well...tell me a little bit about yourself," or "Tell me about your last job," or "Let's talk about how you might fit this position". When they do that, your immediate response should be "I'd be happy to give you any information you need, but I would really appreciate it if you could tell me a little more about the job that I am interviewing for. I don't want to waste your time with information that isn't applicable. My recruiter, Ryon, only knew a little about the job. Could you tell me about the position, and then I'll be happy to answer all of your questions."

3. The HA will be quick to start to fill you in at this point. At least at the beginning of the interview, they recognize the inherent awkwardness of a conversation between two strangers and will attempt to make you comfortable by quickly stepping up and explaining the job in detail. Take good notes and use the info you get in the rest of the interview. If the HA explains that the job is 80% technical skills and 20% people skills, and you spend 80% of the time talking about your people skills, you are blowing the interview! Listen to what she says and sell yourself to the job.

4. When she completes his description, it will be an easy transition for you to start to tell of your fit for the job. Give examples of your experiences. Do not just say "I can do that" or "I did that". Tell of the experience! Say, "I did that when I was in xxx position at YYY Company. We were doing a project that involved....." etc. etc. Tell of your successes!

5. Do not make a judgment as to the level of your interest in the job based solely on the HA's description of the job. If you do, you will begin to reflect your low-interest-level immediately and HAs can sense your enthusiasm. Many times, a candidate will hear something late in an interview that will turn them completely on to the job or the company, but if they were "low enthusiasm" up to that point, I usually hear back from the HA that they aren't interested in that candidate. "They just didn't seem very excited about the job," they say. And the candidate has lost an opportunity that they want. After the interview, if you aren't interested, you can tell me. Don't tell them.

6. At the end of the interview, you will hear some kind of a signal that the interview is ending. "Well, I appreciate your time today" or "Well, you seem to be a good fit" or "Well, let me talk to some other people here and we'll get back to you." When you hear that, it is time to express interest in the position. Unless you are certain that you don't want the job, (and in that case, say nothing of your feelings), you need to tell the HA of your interest. Something like, "Well, this certainly sounds like a great position and I think I could do a good job at it. I'm very interested in continuing the interview process. Where do we go from here?" The likely answer is that they want to talk to others and will let your recruiter know where we go next. That answer is fine. If they ask of your availability for a face-to-face interview, congratulations! You had a great interview. But even if they don't ask, you may have done very well. Every company is different. I will find out what they thought.

After you hang up, call me right away. I will have told Toni that I will call her about 10 minutes after you end the interview and I need to talk to you first. We will discuss the interview and your interest in pursuing it and I will call Toni right after and get feedback for you.

Good Luck in your interview and I look forward to speaking with right after.


The interview didn't go too badly. But it was two women making the decision here, and when this is the case, they inevitably pick another woman, which they ultimately did.

And so, having read Ryon's fabulous diatribe on the proper usage of a fucking telephone, I called him back right after the interview, like he asked me to do, TWICE, in his stupid e-mail.

This clueless boob seemed to have no idea who I was at first, but eventually regained partial consciousness long enough to tell me he would be getting back to me by the end of that day to tell me how it went.

He never did. I called again two days later and, although he still seemed to have no clue who I was, told me I didn't get the job.

As for Ryon's letter, I showed it to another recruiter, who shared it among the other recruiters at his office, and everyone laughed their ass off. What a fucking dweeb!


I got a job about three months later, NOT at 800.com nor Tektronix.

800.com went out of business about 15 months later.

I don't know if Ryon is still a recruiter. But I hope not.

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