I just went through a somewhat intense interview process for a new job and it reminded me of all the interviews I’ve participated in throughout my career. I fondly pondered some of the more memorable ones and realized that interviews make for pretty entertaining material – when you’re not involved.
Early in my career the dot com bubble was still inflating and there were a billion eensy-weensy companies popping up everywhere. During this time I interviewed with a company that was based out of San Francisco’s Mission District. The day of my interview, I made the 45 minute drive into the city. As I got closer to the company’s location, the area I was driving through became more residential which seemed odd. I finally reached the “office” and saw that the business was being run out of a Victorian. (Later, someone mentioned that the CEO owned the place and used to rent it out). I rang the doorbell (isn’t that how you always announce your arrival at an interview?) and the hiring manager answered the door. In hindsight, I should have told her I was selling Girl Scout cookies, but instead I just followed her up the stairs. Thinking she would lead me to a room or office space to talk, instead she took me into the kitchen – where we sat down for the interview. With the dishwasher and the sink. The interview was fairly short (perhaps because someone needed to get a cup of coffee or defrost their lunch) and I didn’t get hired. Maybe she wasn’t impressed with me but I think the real reason was because I didn’t come across as the type capable of working on a laptop while balancing on a toilet seat.
Bill Lumbergh: Milt, we’re gonna need to go ahead and move you downstairs into storage B. We have some new people coming in, and we need all the space we can get. So if you could just go ahead and pack up your stuff and move it down there, that would be terrific, OK?
Milton Waddams: Excuse me, I believe you have my stapler…
I’ve also been on the other side – doing the interviewing. Again, early on in my career I worked for a start-up where we were all required to dress like slobs. Truth! I think it was even in the employee handbook. “Since we are a start-up and start-ups are known to make their employees work late hours, to maintain this pretense all employees are required to dress in the saddest, most crusty clothes they can peel off the floor that morning.” Anyway, I was moving on to a different position in the company so I had to interview my replacement. One of the candidates was a girl my age who we ended up hiring and later became a friend. A couple months after we hired her, she happened to mention to me that the thing she remembered most about our interview was how wrinkly my pants were. Never mind the penetrating and thought-provoking questions I’m sure I asked her. I had been wearing wrinkly pants. I’m all about a great first impression.
Bill Lumbergh: Oh, and remember: next Friday… is Hawaiian shirt day. So, you know, if you want to, go ahead and wear a Hawaiian shirt and jeans.
The last set of interviews I just went through were not quite as quirky, but definitely the toughest. These people asked real questions. Hard ones. It was like they wanted to know if I could actually do the job or something. Plus, I interviewed with nine people in one day. Thank God the hiring manager took me out for a drink afterward.
But honestly, I enjoy working hard to get a job – it makes me feel like I actually deserve it. And it could have been worse. I could have been interviewing with The Bobs who would no doubt have made me justify my job, my salary, and my Swingline stapler.