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Thursday, March 19, 2015

The Bizarre Story Of The Interview I Never Finished

Once upon a time, I worked in retail. And like many people in retail, I wanted to get the hell out of there.

So, like a lot of people who are stuck in retail because that's pretty much how everyone I ever knew in retail felt, I checked the classified ads and job postings every chance I could and when something looked like I could fit the description, I sent a resume.

Most of the time I made very sure they were reputable companies, but sometimes you ran across something know as a "blind ad." Blind ads are job postings where the employer doesn't identify themselves in the ad. This is generally not a great sign because it usually means they're a company that's got a lot of bad press associated with it. On occasion, however, it means they're replacing someone who doesn't know they're being replaced yet. 

You can usually pick out the ones who come from the companies with the bad press. They write ads that promise you the moon, starting out with stupid grabbers like "No experience necessary!" while they promise you a six-figure salary for having none of that experience. Right.

But this ad was smart. It didn't promise ridiculous riches for interbred idiots of questionable IQ. It said it wanted smart people, people with strong sales skills, people who were willing to work hard for the opportunities that they could assist you in finding. They wanted people who wanted to move up and make money while doing it. It sounded like it was something I could do (even though I honest-to-goodness hated the sales part of my job) and it was a way out of retail, which was what I wanted. 

So I sent out that resume, and a week later, they called to tell me that I had one impressive resume, and after a short telephone interview (in which they still didn't reveal much about themselves), they told me I was not only what they were looking for, but I was definitely management material.

And I dutifully agreed to be there at 10am the following Thursday morning, at the Ramada Inn, just of the turnpike, Suite 104.

I'd never had a job interview at a hotel before, but what the hell. Maybe they were opening an office in the area and hadn't moved in yet. Maybe they didn't want candidates going into the office and tipping off whoever it was they were running out on a rail. Not my problem.

Thursday dawned and I arrived after battling traffic for over an hour and I straightened my navy blue skirt on my navy blue suit and tossed my long, blonde hair over my shoulder and I walked into Suite 104, briefcase in hand.

And then I stopped and looked around in dismay at the equally confused and dismayed faces who were looking at me. Thirty men in business suits - most of them middle-aged (and I was in my late twenties) all stared back and I immediately checked the suite number on the door again, just to make doubly sure I hadn't screwed up and walked into some low-budget porn shoot or something. 

And then I thought, "Oh God, what if the company is a low-budget porn studio?" A moment later, our "Interview Facilitators" showed up, and let us all know that we were in a group interview (Oh, did they not mention that on the phone?) and they were so excited to see all of us!

Okay, then. 

I took a seat, still a little uneasy because I'd never been in a "group interview" before and I really didn't look like I fit with all the other candidates at all - which could be a good thing - but judging by how many of them there were to me, it was most likely a bad thing.

What happened next was a solid twenty minutes of corporate doublespeak with the vaguest possible descriptions to define their work. Their company offered a wide variety of products and services across multiple industries in many different sectors. They were exciting! They were dynamic! And they wanted people who were equally dynamic! They were everything we were looking for, and a bag of chips!

What they weren't, however, was bothering to give us a name. Or a good, solid job description. I looked around at the other people in the room, and we were all kind of looking like this:

Then came the really weird part: They wanted us to come up one by one, give our names, tell everyone where we went to school, how old we were, how long we'd been married and if we had any kids. 

What. The. FUDGE.

Part of my job with the retailer I worked for as a District Manager was hiring, training and employee reviews. I knew full well that it is completely f---king illegal to ask anyone their age, marital status or if they have children at a job interview. Or any other time on the clock.

What's more, if they worked for a genuine, reputable corporation, they would know that, too.

Why didn't they know that?

I had a very, very bad feeling about this, and it only got worse. I took my place at the front of the room and I was the only one who had the balls to ask (quite diplomatically) why my age or marital status was necessary. I got some bland double-speak answer about them being invested in their employees' lives that didn't really explain anything, so I soldiered through and eventually - over an hour and a half later - we were all through.

Then they sent us out out to the lobby to cool our heels as they interviewed us each individually, eating up another hour and a half of my damn day. Finally, it was my time to sit down face-to-face and maybe get some firm answers.

But I didn't. I asked them for a detailed job description and got "our dynamic varies from client to client - you'll be wearing a lot of hats!" I asked them how their company made their money and got some circular logic explanation that made my head whirl. 

The final straw came when they told me they were going to spend the next two hours going over all their notes on all of us and they'd then call us back if they thought we were ready for round two, which was going to happen at 6pm that evening, right in the same suite.

They hadn't taken enough of my day with their nonsense (and by now, I knew for sure it was nonsense), and they wanted me to come back and give up my evening, too.

They wanted me to bring my husband back with me.

You read that right. They were interviewing me, but for round two, it was absolutely imperative that I bring my spouse with me. It was vital that my spouse be "100% invested" in my future with this company.

I balked, of course. I reminded them that they were interviewing and trying to hire me, and not my spouse. The answer I got was another recitation of the absolute critical importance of my spouse and I being a team invested in my success, delivered with the creepiest pasted-on smile you could possibly imagine.

I pasted a smile of my own on, shook their hands and said I looked forward to their call. Then I backed slowly toward the door, and I got the hell out of Dodge.

I remember standing in the parking lot with a group of other candidates and we were all looking at each other like this:

A bunch of them invited me to lunch, but I passed. I'd had enough.

So I drove home, and when the phone rang, I didn't answer it. I didn't call them back after they left the message telling me how perfect I was and how much they wanted me to come back for round two and bring the guy who was going to be cheering me on to success.

And I never did find out their company name. Not ever.

There are many theories as to who the hell they were. Some kind of pyramid scheme comes to mind. Maybe time shares. Scientology. Someone even suggested to me that they might have been gathering all kinds of personal info in order to steal it and commit identity theft. Another theory is that they wanted my husband to come back with me because they planned to send a team out to rob us while we were busy at the "interview."

I don't know, and I don't care much. If they were honestly trying to hire me, they were never going to get me after all that nonsense. No freaking way. I'm just glad I didn't end up sitting in front of a whirling black and white patterned wheel, chained to a chair with mind altering drugs being pumped into my system as I became indoctrinated into the new world order. 

Have you ever had a job interview that left you wondering what the hell they were trying to sign you up for?


  1. Not totall the same, but when I was 20, I interviewed with a major airline for a customer service job at the airport. The application requested 10 years of job and/or schooling experience, but since I was only 20, I didn't have much of that to share. As I had on every other application, I went back as far as 16, when I first started legally working.

    I sat down in front of the interviewer and was asked why I hadn't provided a full ten years of work/school history. Well, ten years prior, I was ten years old, of course. The interviewer handed me back my application and requested that I update it and include more thorough information. I asked him to clarify and sure enough, he really DID want me to account for where I was between the ages of 10 and 16. I was immediately angry, but I wrote down the information about my elementary and junior high schools anyway.

    The interview went south from there. I think we actually got into an argument at one point about the acceptable amount of sick days an employee should take in one year. I DON'T KNOW. I'M 20 YEARS OLD AND I'VE NEVER GOTTEN SICK DAYS BEFORE AT MY JOB AT MCDONALD'S AND OMG I HATE YOU AND I DON'T EVEN WANT THIS STUPID JOB ANYMORE.