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When Even The Alarm Bells Have Alarm Bells

, , , , , | Working | August 19, 2019

(I’m hunting for a new job and manage to land an interview at a local company. They give me the address, and I’m pleased to see it’s a street name I recognize. I know that part of town very well, but just to be sure, I make sure to print off directions and set my GPS. On the day of the interview, I leave early so I should arrive with 20 minutes to spare. I arrive on the right street and start looking at numbers, but none of the numbers are even close to what I have been given. I drive back and forth several times, checking beyond intersections, and still cannot locate the business. My GPS says I have arrived; the map directions say I’m at the right place. But the business is nowhere to be seen. It’s now ten minutes until my interview, and I call them. The receptionist explains that there’s a second street by that name in one of the remotest parts of town. She gives me completely different directions. I explain I’m an interviewee, and I’m on my way, and I’m doing my best to get there in time. However, since I had to go all the way across town, I wind up being five minutes late. The receptionist is understanding and explains that this happens all the time. She adds that the interviewer is still dealing with the previous interview and directs me to a small meeting room to wait. I make use of my waiting time and re-read the printouts I made from their website, including their clientele, mission statement, and company history. The interviewer still hasn’t arrived, so I study the room. I make note of various plaques, photos, and periodicals. About twenty minutes later, the interviewer enters and we make basic introductions.)

Interviewer: “Thank you for coming to [Company]. Can you tell me a little about yourself?”

(I pull out the job description.)

Me: “Well, it says here in your job ad that you’re looking for someone who knows [Software #1], with which I have three years experience. I also have five years’ experience with [Software #2], which is similar. At my previous job at [Company #1], I—“

Interviewer: “Oh, I know [Company #1]! I had an uncle who worked there. He was in [department]. He worked there until he retired. Do you know [Uncle]?”

Me: “No, I don’t remember anyone by that name.”

Interviewer: “I guess that’s no surprise; he worked for [Company #1] in [State halfway across the country]. He actually is the godfather of my oldest child.”

(She proceeds to ramble about her children and family for fifteen minutes. I listen politely and try to find a way to steer the conversation back to the interview, but she’s completely enraptured with her own voice.)

Interviewer: “Now that you’ve told me about yourself, let me tell you a little about our company. We were founded in [year] and serve many businesses across the state. [Company #2] is our biggest client, but we also work closely with [Company #3] and [Company #4]. We print [Magazine] in house, which informs our customers about all our services.”

(As she rambles on about the company, I again look around the room. All the information she’s providing I already know and is within eyesight. There’s a wood plaque mentioning the year they opened, a photograph of them with the director of [Company #2], and an entire stack of their periodicals on the shelf. I also have all this information printed on my own clipboard.)

Interviewer: “What I’m really looking for is someone who will work closely alongside [Owner] as his personal secretary.”

Me: *nod* “I saw in the ad that you’re looking for someone who also knows [hardware], and I—“

Interviewer: *interrupts* “I’ll let you know, [Owner] is a crotchety old man. He should have retired a decade ago, but he just can’t give up control of this company to his kids. I mean that in the nicest way possible. He is very cranky, and very set in his ways. He likes everything done a very particular way, and if you don’t do it that way, he’ll let you have it. Don’t get me wrong; [Owner] has a heart of gold. If he got sick, I would wipe his a**. I mean that– I would wipe his a**. But he can be hard to deal with a lot of the time.”

(This sets off an alarm bell, but I badly need a new job, so I keep a smile and try to focus on the interview.)

Me: “So, [Owner] needs someone who can also run [hardware]? I have…”

Interviewer: *interrupts again* “I’ll give you an example. During meetings, you’ll have to sit right beside him and hand him the highlighters. He’ll want them uncapped, and he’ll just snatch them out of your hand. Then he drops them on the table, and he’ll just expect you to know to pick them up and recap them. But don’t hand him a highlighter with the cap still on. Remember to take it off before handing it to him or he’ll smack you on the shoulder and demand, ‘What’s wrong with you?!’ But underneath it all, he’s a huge teddy bear. When I was pregnant with my youngest child…”

(She spends ten minutes talking about her previous maternity leave.)

Interviewer: “The last person we had in this position was shaping up really nicely, too. I try to filter things between [Owner] and his secretary, I really do. But I took a week’s vacation, and she couldn’t handle dealing with [Owner] all by herself. She quit in tears, so now we’re trying to replace her. So, what I’m looking for is someone who can handle working for a crotchety old man even when I’m not around. Do you think you can handle that?”

(The warning bells are getting louder because this owner is starting to sound abusive.)

Me: “Well, I…”

Interviewer: “One thing you must know: I simply can’t stand people who are always late. Punctuality is very important to our company.”

Me: “Today was a fluke; it isn’t like me at all! I’m usually early to everything I go to.”

Interviewer: “I know. I have ten interviews today, and I know eight of them will be late. Google Maps always misdirects people. I understand.”

Me: “Again, I’m sorry. It would never happen again now that I know where you are.”

(I’m not sure I believe her about still being an eligible candidate despite being five minutes late, but I’m not going to argue and further sabotage my chances.)

Interviewer: *scoffs* “That’s why I tell everyone we’re right next to [Adult Toy Store]. Everyone in town knows where [Adult Toy Store] is.”

(I know I would have remembered such creative directions if I had been told, so I’m certain she forgot to mention that fact on the phone.)

Me: “That wouldn’t have helped me much. I had no idea where [Adult Toy Store] was.”

Interviewer: “There’s nothing to be ashamed about. I shop there all the time. Everyone goes there.”

Me: “I don’t; I’ve never been there.”

Interviewer: “I said you don’t have to be embarrassed about it.”

(I usually don’t advertise this fact about myself, but her patronizing attitude is wearing on me.)

Me: “I don’t shop there; I’m completely asexual.”

Interviewer: “Okay, if you say so.” *winks knowingly at me*

Me: *yet another alarm bell rings*

Interviewer: *starts gathering all her things and is halfway out of her seat* “Do you have any questions for me?”

(I actually have several questions prepared on my clipboard, but she’s a couple of steps towards the door at this point.)

Me: “No, none.”

Interviewer: “Thanks for coming today. We’ll call you if we’re interested in a second interview.”

(They never called. I know I dodged a bullet. I feel sorry for the person they did hire.)

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