Tuesday, August 16, 2005

My job interview from hell

We all had them – job interview from hell that leaves you drained, upset and second guessing yourself. Once you land a job, you are too busy to recall what you went through.
So for all of you (potential) jobseekers, when you feel like you had the worst interview in history – read the following stories and smile. And whatever you do, don’t doubt yourself!

In 2004, I went for my third job interview at an Israeli biotech company in Hackensack, New Jersey. I had met their female Vice President half a year ago during an event in NYC, where she told me that the company was looking for someone like me. “Bingo!” I thought.
We set up a second interview at their premises. Despite a constant email exchange between the the VP (aptly named “Asia” considering her country of origin), she was not in the office to interview me, since "she was out of the country on business".
So I double checked this time, and was informed that she was ready to see me. So far, so good….

My b-f drove me to my job interview and told me not to worry about him and to take as much time as I needed. (A prince among men, non?)
I went in at 11 am and stumbled out at 12.30am. The interview was a disaster.
Asia started by informing me that she is an excellent boss who never stabs people in the back. (Excuse me?) Furthermore, when she is unhappy, she will give her employees hell, but not in front of others.(how nice) “I am very loyal to my people, you see” she said. Needless to say, I did not see; my laser eye correction in 2000 must be less successful than I thought…

She told me that the present position is for a Director, but that she will appoint him/her as a manager, so “I can place another person over his/her head if I am unhappy”…(great HR)
She also told me: “Are you married? No? And you have no kids? Excellent! You can work long hours!” Thus neatly breaking several US laws.
She went on telling me that I have to work “at least twice as hard as I did before”.
Since I work an average of 10 hours a day, it would mean that I have to forfeit sleep, eat and other such unnecessary activities to meet her demands……I started to feel like Dilbert facing Catbert.
I asked about the financial situation of her company. The investment round only generated $1M. which is for a technology-driven company peanuts. They are under pressure to be commercial ASAP.
We did not discus salary, but she told me that all employees received a salary cut of 20%….She said that nobody left the company, despite the salary cuts. I wondered if that was because they are chained to the wall and cannot physically leave….I decided not to ask.
When asking “where I see myself in 2 years” she informed me that she loves to hear a candidate telling her that he/she wants her job. I looked at her nose, expecting it to grow like Pinocchio’s, but no such luck.

She also talked about the Israeli CEO as a “wonderful, caring, honest man” in a dreamy voice, looking at the ceiling with a smile around her lips - which gave me some clue about the dynamics in this company.
Her plan is simple: appoint a tandem consisting of a Marketing Director and a Business Development Director. Their successes are hers, the failures are theirs (and “off with their heads” as the Queen said in Alice in Wonderland).

She then went on criticizing and second-guessing all my qualifications, wondering if I was really “up to the job” and that she had “some reservations” about my being able to write materials. This did not stop her from making notes of all my suggestions and opinions that I am sure she happily implemented afterwards.
She polished it off by informing me that she had given me 1,5 hours (and not the standard 30 minutes) since I came in vain the previous time, thus nifty making me feel responsible for her messing up the previous time.
Her parting shot was the best: “I am interviewing 30 other people, but keep in touch, I expect questions from you by email”. (Sure, and please hold your breath until I do!)
I stumble out of the building, emotionally drained. B-f was very supportive (he always is!) and gave some colorful feedback harboring on character assassination. (Asia’s, not mine).
B-f knows me well, so he treated me to a wonderful lunch (salmon in a cream/mushroom sauce on a bed of wild rise with cooked asparagus + a glass of excellent dry white wine) to cheer me up. Guess what? It did the trick!
Needless to say, I never heard anything back, not even a polite “thank you, no thank you” email.

If you have horror stories in the job-searching field you would like to share, please do not hesitate to respond to this blog!

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