Posts Tagged ‘crasher’
Toward the end of the interview I had no business attending, our potential employer asked all of us in the group interview all of the basic questions. What qualifies you; what’s your strength; what’s your weakness. At the end, though, he added a particularly devious question:
Besides yourself, who in this room would you hire?
Twenty-three job candidates in a cramped classroom suddenly became very nervous. Even the lady who had graduated from this correspondence school seemed uncomfortable.
In true group interview form, our interviewer asked for the candidates in the back to go first. I was in the front, and I would be almost the last person to answer the question.
Candidate the First had prepared quickly. After a confident pause, she answered the question by making what seemed to be the obvious choice, choosing Cindy, the graduate of this correspondence school. Most of the rest of the room affirmed that decision. As one put it:
She knows the product.
Cindy was a good choice. Cindy was probably the best choice. However, Cindy was almost certainly the safe choice. Seldom do I make safe choices at job interviews. Blending in is a marvelous apocryphal adaptation of chameleons in the jungle of Madagascar, but it won’t help me get a job. Besides, Cindy looked like she tired of the all of the attention.
Looking toward the back, I saw a man in a blue shirt. He had spoken about having been a listener for years, and how that would help him telemarket to students who had already expressed interest in the program.
He was a wide man with graying hair and Latin features, and his warm smile radiated genuine satisfaction. He looked competent; he looked quiet.
I chose him.
He didn’t have to talk about spin selling, or being a great salesman. He talked about listening. That’s a skill hard for adults to develop if they haven’t already, and if he is that good of a listener, he’d do excellently in sales. He has to match what this school has with what the client wants.
In addition, I think that he’d make an excellent mentor figure to the correspondence school students trying to get restart their life, too. He’d make an excellent father figure, or grandfather figure …
That’s where my 30-second soliloquy stopped, broken by laughter of the interviewers and the other candidates. The wide man in the blue shirt smiled quietly.
Given my defense of my youth earlier that day, I supposed they thought I was trying to undermine his chances of getting hired. I wasn’t trying to make it a dig at his age, though. With age comes awareness, comes respect.
Appearing like a grandfather figure doesn’t make him a bad candidate — it makes him the best candidate. As I began to talk myself through this, I began to believe this, and I never meant to use my opportunity to help out someone else to take someone else out of the running. I don’t know whether the laughter was because they thought I was being a jerk, or whether because they recognized that I didn’t meant to harm the wide man’s chance of getting hired.
Either way, I didn’t get a callback.
On a tip from an acquaintance, I heard that a local correspondence school was hiring and had a roundtable interview scheduled within a couple of days. She said she had just been hired, added that her job pretty much involves answering phones. For a candidate with negligible work experience, phone-answering sounded just fine. I touched up my resume, and, after calling ahead, I went off to the interview.
I ended up showing up half of an hour early — I wrote down the wrong start time — in my dress shirt and slacks. Phone answering, I reasoned, doesn’t warrant suit and tie. Other interviewees started showing up not three minutes after I arrived, promptly quashing that hypothesis.
One of the first to arrive was a loud, brash man at least 24 years my senior. Then, the quiet, demure lady with elegant pearl earrings and a dark-colored pantsuit who was a little older. There was, in a classy pinstripe, the confident but subdued gentleman old enough to be my father. By the time we moved our group into the smallish classroom, we numbered 20 or more, and all but two or three had graduated college before I entered high school.
I assessed the situation.
I’m a little out of my league, and I probably don’t have a chance. Still, since I’m here, I might as well stick around.
Besides, as one of the other, few youngsters told me:
I hear they’re interviewing for a “wide variety of positions.” I’m not sure what that means, but I need a job.
I hoped that it involved answering phones or being a receptionist, but I wasn’t sure.
All things considered, the interview went as well as it could have. Between questions, there were a few presentations — lectures — about the specific business, and how it gets run, and how it outperforms its competitors, and what positions were available. How it wants flexible go-getters willing to take orders and to do what it takes to close a sale.
Low-level openings involved selling the college to interested candidates and screening applicants — probably still out of my reach.
I stuck around, believing that the very worst that could happen was that a meteor would crash into the Earth, obliterating all forms of life except the cockroach. I also believed that the worst thing that could realistically happen was that I’d remain jobless this summer, but with more practice at interviews.
Improving the quality of this practice, the interviewers asked the typical interview questions, and I was prepared.
What’s your greatest strength, and what’s maybe a potential weakness?
I started with a weakness.
I’ll start with a weakness, because I think it’d be hard to evaluate me as a job candidate without considering it — it’s my youth.
The room, normally filled with muttering and whispered chattering, fell silent. I took a breath to calm the nerves; I continued. Paraphrased:
I don’t have the years of experience at the job or in life that a lot of other candidates in this room have, and there’s this impression that everyone my age thinks they know everything. Maybe that’s true for other kids my age, but it isn’t true for me. I don’t think I know everything.
You spoke for a time about wanting employees who are flexible, and who want to learn how to do it your way. That’s me, in part because of my youth and relative inexperience. I don’t think I know everything, and that’s probably my greatest strength.
That’s the speech I had in my head, and, redundant as it was, it was even more galbred in the translation. I could tell that the message got across, though, and I believe it was the right message. As Randy Pausch said, quoting his father:
If there’s an elephant in the room, introduce it.
Not that my introduction helped: I still didn’t get the job. There’s always next time.