Tell us why you’re such a loser

I remember the interview like it was last week.

I had applied for an internal  job within the company I was working for at the time.   I figured I had a good chance.

After all, I was on good terms with the Friendly Manager, who liked me and basically encouraged me to apply for the position.

Plus, it wasn’t like I was a newbie.  I had 12-years of successful experience,  including five at the company itself.   This job was more like a horizontal transfer, for a change of scene.

Unfortunately, the Friendly Manager was nowhere to be found at the interview.   Instead, he had put his 2nd-in-command in charge,  who interviewed me with two others.

Things were going well, until they asked the standard put-you-on-the-spot interview question:

“Tell us about a co-worker you’ve had conflict with, and tell us how you resolved it.”

Sigh.   Another one of those God-Damned Human Resource bullshit questions.

But I had been to enough interviews that I knew how to handle this one.

I gave a story about how I didn’t get along with a lab technician in a previous job.  Yadda yadda yadda.  How I approached her and asserted myself, and we ended up being very good friends.   Yadda yadda yadda. 

Always put a positive slant on things, I told myself.   Good job, Friar, you handled that well.

Then they asked:  “What’s the biggest disappointment of your life?”

I gave an honest answer, about how I was heartbroken not to have gotten an offer for a professor job I had interviewed for.    But again, I put a positive slant on it.

That was 6 years ago.   Yadda yadda yadda.  And looking back in hindsight, I think things worked out for the best, because I’m making the same money and I have normal work hours and balanced life.    Yadda yadda yadda.

Again, I thought I handled that well.

But the questions kept coming, from all three directions.

“What don’t you like about your present job?”

“Going back to that other job you mentioned:  what didn’t you like about your old boss?”

Oh, for Chrissakes.  It’s going to be one of THOSE interviews.

Again, I  tried to answer the best I could.    I talked about trying to apply “win-win” principles to bad situations.   I talked about learning from my experiences, and continuously trying to improve myself.

But they wouldn’t let up.   It’s like they were sharks circling around me, looking for a weak spot.

“Tell us what your faults are.”

WTF is with all the negative questions?

What are they going to ask me next:  “When did you stop beating your girlfriend?”

“Tell us about another conflict you had with a co-worker, at THIS company.   And how did you deal with it?”

At this point I was getting tired.   I tried to think of the least harmful example I could, but I ended up stammering.

Umm…there was this co-worker, he was difficult to deal with,  he kept distracting me,  I said.   I was being harassed and I ended up talking to my manager about it.

Then came the barrage:

“You said two things:  he was distracting you, and you were being harassed.  Which one was it?   Are these two separate issues, or just one? ”

“What did the manager do?   What did you tell him? ”

“How did you handle it?   How long did this problem last?   What was the outcome?  How was it resolved?

Wham!  Wham!  Wham! They just wouldn’t stop.

At a loss for words, I decided the only thing to do was to be perfectly honest.

I told them, the problem was resolved, when I left the department, and moved to another position.

Right then, and there, looking at the faces around the table, I knew I blew it.

Wrong answer.

At this point:   Piss.   Me.   Right.    Off.

If I didn’t’ know any better, I’d almost swear they had been trying to DISCOURAGE me from getting the job.

They obviously weren’t that interested in my qualifications as an engineer.

Or the fact that I’d been in charge of major research projects.   Or that I’d presented papers in front of hundreds of people at international conferences and had received major awards.

Or that I’d put in my time on the plant floor, supervising extremely hazardous work, responsible for the safety of others, where people could DIE if I wasn’t vigilant.

Or that I’d successfully met deadlines, satisfied clients, and always had good performance reviews.

No, obviously they didn’t want to hear about THAT.

What they were more interseted in was putting me under pressure, like I was some 21-year-old apprentice, and watching me squirm.

So that they could play their bullshit head-games with me.   Until they painted me into a corner and caught me saying something I shouldn’t have.

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Needless to say, I didn’t’ get the job.

In fact, some feedback I got afterwards was that they picked up on me leaving the other job, as a way to deal with my being harassed.  That apparently didn’t present itself very well.

Well, congratulations.

You win.

But just as well.

Because…if THAT’s they way they treated me in just the interview (when they were supposed to try to impress me)…I can only imagine what it would be like if I had started working for them.

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18 Comments on “Tell us why you’re such a loser”

  1. Brett Legree Says:

    If it’s any consolation, as you know, the company is run by sociopaths and imbeciles, who promote others of their kind, and suppress anyone with a spark of potential or experience.

    And as you know, the organization that provides the funding for the company is on to the sociopaths and imbeciles, and will be culling them from the herd in the next year or so.

    Perhaps it is best to remain largely unnoticed until someone who values talent is placed in command of the Good Ship Lollipop.

  2. Eyeteaguy Says:

    In the words of Tom Waits. “you’re doing it all wrong”

    They weren’t listening to your answers, they wanted to know if you could take it. You should have pulled a Jim Kirk and given them a smirk, said “I know what you’re doing, and it isn’t going to work” Then smile and tell them a story of a hike you went on where there was just you and a headlamp and silence.

    There, I’ll send you my Career Coach invoice next week when I do my billing.

    Eyeheadhunterguy

  3. Brett Legree Says:

    Another thought, I’ve had tough interviews like this.

    And after a couple of days, I realized that everyone at the company was a complete asshole for acting like this, and I would have hated the job anyway.

    Like Eye said, they weren’t listening.

    You wouldn’t want to work with fuckheads like that.

  4. Kelvin Kao Says:

    Yeah, I hate those “Now please shoot yourself in the foot” and “Please sabotage your interview now” questions. Wow, this is worse than “what’s your greatest weakness?”

  5. Brett Legree Says:

    “What’s your greatest weakness?”

    My fave question.

    To which I answer, “well, I sometimes take on a lot of responsibility, but I know how to make it work by communicating effectively with my leaders and peers – I ask for help if I need it to get everything done”.

    I seem to be able to turn these types of questions around on the fly pretty well, most times.

  6. Friar Says:

    @Eyeteaguy
    If this was a place I had never worked before, I had have come prepared for such treatment. I instantly write those type of interviews off, and I just dont’ care.

    But this was different. They were actively RECRUITING me… I had expected they’d want to try to get me interested in working for them.

    Wish I had pulled a Jim Kirk. At least it would have made for a better story.

    @Brett
    I tell you. It put the job in a whole other light. Looking back, it was probably a GOOD thing that I didnt’ get the job. Because like you say, who wants to work a group like that…if that’s how they treat serious job candidates.

    @Kelvin
    I’ve had countless interviews in my 20 year career. I give this one a C minus. (And that’s being generous).

    They probably got these questions from the Company Human Resource Manual. It was probably based on someone’s PhD Thesis in Industrial Folklore Psychology.

    It’s like the title of the post. Basically they were asking for me to tell me why I SHOULDN’T get the job.

  7. Friar Says:

    @Brett

    Q: “What’s your greatest weakness?”

    A: “I have little patience for lame-ass head-game interview questions like this, and I have to work really hard at NOT telling the interviewer to go **** themselves”.

  8. Eyeteaguy Says:

    Ok, that made me LOL. Fere reel dood.

  9. Karen JL Says:

    The world you guys live in just blows my mind sometimes.

    *shudder*

  10. Friar Says:

    @Karen

    Wonder if there are any openings in the animation industry?

    I could sweep the floor, and bring coffee and sammitches to the artists, while they work.

    Maybe I’d make only 2 bucks a day. But the work would probably be much more satisfying. 🙂

  11. Linda Says:

    Been there, done that. You are no doubt better off.

  12. XUP Says:

    At least the government hiring process is just supremely retarded – not downright nasty. Is Brett right about the sociopath cull?

  13. Friar Says:

    @Linda

    Problem is…I been there, done that…TOO many times. (*sigh*).

    But I am better off.

    @XUP
    In my 20 year career, this ranks as one of the top three nastiest interviews.

    And there are rumors about changes taking place. But nothings’ for certain. If anything does happen, I expect it will take place at the speed of glaciation.

  14. Peter Says:

    Bummer. ‘Sorry to hear.

    Just wondering … do Vikings have such management issues?

  15. Friar Says:

    Peter

    No…Vikings would have deal with such bosons by forcing them in a boat, and casting them adrift in the Northern Sea.

  16. Khalil Says:

    Despite the earlier comment that they might have been testing you to see how you respond, I am with you. This is what I’d call an organizational ass-showing. An interview is about how well you fit with the organization and how well they fit with your desires, goals, and values. If they were simply trying to see how you’d respond under pressure, that interview tactic is outdated. There are other ways to test you under pressure – such as simulations and task assignments.

    What organizations need to keep in mind when letting morons, er, uh, committees develop interview protocols that ask “trick” questions is that such games do little to show how you respond to pressure and definitely don’t show their best side. Ultimately, they should be looking for your competencies to make sure they fit with the job. Leave the games to kids.

  17. Donald Mills Says:

    I can’t tell you how happy I am not to have to subject myself to that type of horsecrap any longer. You brought back some pretty nasty memories – and not just of job interviews but of “managers” who had no common sense, no decency and no god damned clue.

  18. Friar Says:

    @Khalil
    What’s funny, is that I had already been with the organization for several years at the time. It’s not like I didn’t already have a successful track record that they could have looked at.

    You’re right about them using dated interview techniques. This one felt like I was back in 1985.

    @Don
    There’s a lot of seniors in my painting class who say exactly the same thing. “Thank God I’m retired and I don’t have to put up with that @#*& any more!”

    I envy you guys. But I have another 40 years to go (if I want to make Freedom 85).

    Always delighted to have you drop by.


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