You Gauge While I Rage

, , , , , , , , | Working | November 26, 2018

Shortly after I graduate from college, I’m working part-time in retail. I apply for a full-time event photographer’s position online and receive a call back. I’ve had several other interviews that didn’t pan out recently, so I quickly agree, despite the location in question being over an hour-and-a-half drive away, when the position listing had said it was more local. They inform me that they have multiple candidates to interview that day, and would like to meet on neutral grounds in a chain coffee shop.

Being a bit paranoid about traffic and not knowing the area well, I arrive early on the day and read in my car while I wait. About five minutes before my appointed time, I head into the coffee shop. The interviewer is clearly in view, with a laptop and large drink in front of her, and a small placard with her name on it like you’d see on someone’s desk in reception.

I walk up to introduce myself, and she points vaguely behind her without even looking up to see who I am, and informs me that there are two interviews ahead of mine, so I’ll have to wait.

A bit annoyed now that I was paranoid about being so early, I sit down. After half an hour, none of the interviews have started, and staff have pointedly come by to wipe my table down twice, so I get up and order a cold drink. After another fifteen minutes, the interviewer calls all three of us to her table and says we’ll just do some of the interview all together, to save time. She waits until we’re seated, turns her laptop around, and a video starts playing.

I can feel the other two candidates deflating next to me as the video plays: the job listing advertised for a professional event photographer for a new company, but is actually just a newly named branch of a well-known yearbook photography company, who has decided to expand into the market of preschools.

The video is all about their ideal candidate:

“Good with kids!” “Cheerful and punctual!” “Willing to go above and beyond!” “No photography experience necessary!”

The more we hear, the worse it gets compared to the original listing, and the more it sounds like a scam. They don’t compensate for driving time. They don’t compensate for set-up time. There’s a fee that acts as a deposit on the equipment that we apparently have to pay before we start. They pay a flat rate per school no matter how many kids, or how much time it takes. So on and so forth.

After we watch the video, we split up again for individual interviews. By the time it’s my turn, I’ve been at the location for roughly two hours, in addition to the drive to get there. By now, I’m considering whether to leave or stick it out. I decide to finish the interview, and do my best throughout, because a full-time position might still be better than my current job, even if it isn’t what I’d expected it to be. I put genuine effort into the interview, though the interviewer seems distracted and keeps looking down at her watch as we talk.

Towards the end of the roughly fifteen-minute interview, she asks if I have any questions, and I give the usual responses:

“What kind of training do they provide if experience isn’t necessary?” “What kind of equipment do they use?” “What is the deposit fee like?” “Are we expected to do retouching, or just straight photos?” “When can I expect to hear back about this interview, and when would I be expected to start if I receive an offer?”

She glosses over most of the questions, but sticks on the last one. Her expression changes entirely and she finally looks me in the face and says, “I don’t know why each of you has asked that. We’re not even hiring for the new school year yet. This was just to gauge the market.”

And suddenly I feel like screaming. I’m pretty sure my face turns bright red from holding in that sudden surge of absolute humiliated rage. I say that’s all I have, thank her for her time, and shake her hand. I then march straight to my car with my portfolio. By the time I leave, rush hour is starting, and the drive home takes two hours. The minute I get in the door, I find the nearest couch cushion, and finally scream into it.

I’ve never received a call about the interview, and even if I had, I think I’d have told them quite politely to shove the offer up their a**es.

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