Thursday, July 29, 2010

Awkward Interview Moments


Last week, I had a terrible interview. It was so bad that I’ve been debating for a week if I should write about it at all.

It was not an in person interview but a phone screen for a position that would have significantly less responsibility, better hours, and more money than my last job.  It would also be much less interesting. A recruiter friend suggested I apply although it may not be the right fit.

My first job out of college was as an office manager and administrative assistant of a small architectural firm. The job I was applying for was essentially the same role with some light project management on top of that. The carrot of a normal workday and a good salary had me thinking I should apply and if I was offered the job I could ask myself if it was really the right job for me at that time.

Over a decade after leaving that first post-college job to help with the installation of a multi-million dollar public art project, I find myself answering my cell phone on a blanket in Central Park, agreeing to an unscheduled phone screen.

The man on the other end of the line doesn’t have questions for me. He has concerns. The first concern was innocuous enough. He was concerned that the office environment would be different from my last job. I had no trouble making him feel better.

That’s when he said with all seriousness, "We're concerned you've never directly managed a contractor. Since that would be a large part of this job, it’s a serious concern.”

It took a lot of strength for me not to say "Would you mind taking 10 seconds to glance at a resume before calling someone you are looking to work with five days a week?"

Instead, I swallowed my pride and told him about the jobs where I've directly supervised contractors, starting with an office move as an intern at a museum in 1996.  He could probably detect that I was offended by the question so I wasn’t surprised when I didn’t get a call to schedule an in-person interview.

That question echoed in my head for days. How could anyone who has taken a passing glance at my resume ask me something like that? This is the part of the job search process that I was unprepared.  In the past, by the time someone is talking to me about a job, they are excited to meet me or at least optimistic that I have something to offer.

This reminded me of the end of an interview I had in May. The person who would be my boss told me he was concerned about that my computer skills were not advanced enough to handle the position.

I said “I’m confused. Are you asking about my computer experience?”

“What do you mean?”

“The computer based aspects of the work sound straightforward.  Since we haven’t discussed my computer skill, maybe we should.”

“Well, this program we use is pretty complicated.”

“I learned a dozen programs created by the internet company I worked at for the past few years and helped them redesign a program similar to the one you use here. Before that, I taught myself Photoshop, HTML, and basic AutoCAD. I got my first computer in 1984.”

Clearly, these are not the right jobs for me. I’ve had several incredibly positive meetings this week so my mood has improved.

On Tuesday, a recruiter I didn’t know called about the exact same job where the man in the phone screen told me they were concerned that I had never supervised a contractor.

“That’s crazy. It’s all over your resume! You’re a perfect candidate. I was so excited when I saw your qualifications. Sometimes people don’t know what they’re looking at and they miss out. I’m sorry that happened to you this time but I’ll keep you in mind for other positions. With a resume like this, you’ll find something great soon.“

Spending two minutes of the phone with her, having a stranger give me a pep talk saying all the right things, made me feel so much better. I know I’ll end up in the right place but getting there certainly has it’s awkward moments.

Job applications: 1

Networking events: 2

New contacts: 1

No comments:

Post a Comment