June 5, 2012

Last Interview Down...and Out

Job interviews...
I posted a couple of weeks ago that I had two job interviews in two days.  The first interview was pretty good, and even awesome compared to the second interview.

Have you ever sat down to an interview and a few minutes into it realize that you aren't getting the job because the job opening probably doesn't exist?  That was my second interview.

Now I've had interviews that were, to be blunt, painful.  I recall nicely telling one interviewer "thanks for wasting my time".  That interview, a good decade ago, was for a job posting that read like my resume at the time.  It was downright spooky.  Fortunately my interview was over the phone, but the head interviewer was the IT director and this position was more of a liaison function between the programmers and operations.  There was NO actually programming involved in the position.  My second question was along the lines of asking me if I could program in, and I kid you not, six different languages.  My response was to ask the IT Director if he could program in all of those languages.  He told me that he didn't know how to, but it didn't matter because that wasn't what his job entailed.  My follow-up question was simply if he had read the job posting and/or the job description.  The fact that he hadn't told me everything I needed to know.

At my interview yesterday, but a couple weeks ago by the time you read this, it took me a few minutes to figure things out.  I'm delaying this post just on the extremely slim chance I'm all wrong about this.  After getting up super early to drive across the state I arrived and checked in.  A few minutes before the interview a gentleman walked up and introduced himself.  For the sake of argument I'll say his name was "Adam".  Adam correctly guessed I was here for the interview and as he was shaking my hand he gestured to the wall behind me, "I should be on that wall."  I turned and looked.  The wall had a series of five official portraits, which isn't uncommon in government buildings.  I could only identify the Governor, but it is safe to assume the other four were part of this agencies' hierarchy.  I asked Adam if being on the wall was a goal of his, because if it was I was sorry that didn't happen for him.  He sighed a bit and said, "I guess not." before pointing out the last picture.  "That is 'Brian' who runs this district." Ok, good to know.  I sat down as Adam walked off and a minute later Brian came in.  As we passed a huge whiteboard that served as the sign in/sign out board for the office I noticed that there was only one Adam and he was the #3 guy in the department.

Brian introduced himself as the Boss and led me back to a meeting room where two others were.  After exchanging pleasantries he spent an inordinate amount of time telling me not to worry that I was overdressed because they were all pretty informal around the office.  That was just a little weird because I thought you were always supposed to dress up for an interview.  I was just wearing a jacket and tie.  It was cleaned and pressed, but it wasn't like I was wearing a bow tie and cummerbund.  I was handed a list of questions that they were going to be asking me, which was a first for me.  This seemed rather pointless because if I was reading the sheet that means I wasn't being attentive to my interviewers.

The next forty minutes consisted of me answering a lot of nebulous questions that were given to me by Brian.  The other two did not speak at all during the interview.  Several questions revolved around how I would do task X or Y, which was difficult to answer because I didn't have the insider knowledge of how things were done at this organization.  The best I could do was acknowledge that I'd need some particular guidance on specifics and then relate how I had done that task in previous employment, but how their procedures were different from previous employers.

I thought I did well enough, but it was readily apparent to me that this job opening no longer existed. It was probably filled long before the position was posted for applications.  I was only being interviewed because they had to do some interviews before assigning the job.  I came to this conclusion based on a couple of observances:

  • The encounter with Adam made me think that this office was highly political
  • The fact that the Boss did all the talking led me to believe that he dominated the office as well.  People like that don't pick an unknown from outside the organization.
  • They never asked for my resume.  The state application system utterly butchers resumes posted to it and this is the first time I have NOT been asked, and thanked, for a readable resume.
  • At the end of the interview they usually ask for your references, even when they don't intend to call them.
When I figured out this job offering was a bust I just had some fun with it because there was no pressure anymore.  Might as well just chalk it up to an educational experience.