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.
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.
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.
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.