If we’re friends on Facebook, you’ve seen an abbreviated version of this post.
We all know “enjoy a flexible schedule” means you’re working nights and weekends. But what about other hidden meanings in the phrases we hear and the situations we find ourselves in when it comes to a job interview?
Recently, I was asked to attend an interview on a Saturday morning. My first thought was that it was strange, given this company’s hours were listed on their website as M-F 8-5. Then I thought maybe they’re conducting their interviews on a Saturday morning because business hours are way too busy. Ok, I can get behind that. But, when the email ended with, “Coffee and bagels will be provided.” Well, that just screamed group interview to me.
I loathe a group interview for so many reasons. First, it comes across to me as a company’s way of saying, “I don’t have time to weed out applicants, so please, come waste your time with us and let us reject you with a herd.” Second, in no group setting have I ever, EVER found a moment to let my credentials shine.
So, when I got this email asking me to join them on a Saturday for an interview, complete with coffee and bagels, I hesitated for the obvious reasons. But then I asked my husband is it fair and acceptable to confirm my suspicions that it’s a group interview? Having been in management for years, he gave me the nod of approval and told me it’s absolutely acceptable to ask that question. After all, it’s only fair that you prepare properly.
I sent my inquiry and got a response within the hour, praising me for my preparedness and then confirming what I suspected. Yes, it would be a group interview, but each candidate would be tested individually on tasks that pertain to the job. Then she went on to tell me she thought I would do great and could she confirm my attendance.
I didn’t want to say yes. I really didn’t. However, in finding myself newly unemployed, I know that not only is it a positive sign to get a request for an interview less than 2 weeks after I was let go from my job, but it’s good to accept any interview, because it keeps those skills sharpened.
I arrived the standard 15 minutes prior to the scheduled time. I was greeted by the owner of the company with a compliment to my punctuality. Also, she was the one who appreciated my preparedness. I took this as a good sign. And, when only 2 other women arrived shortly after I did, I took it as another good sign that there were only 3 of us and this would not be a large group.
The process started off ok. We were offered coffee and bagels and did the standard, “go around the table and tell us about yourself” exercise. Then the three of us were taken into individual offices with one of the managers who had a binder with tasks for us to complete.
Instantly, I felt a connection with the owner of the company. She was charismatic, sweet and seemed really nice, overall. Of course, I didn’t get paired with her. I got paired with a very nice man who didn’t know what the hell he was doing. I’m sure he’s very capable in his daily role as a physical therapist, but he was nervous, and then he felt like he was making me nervous, so not only did he leave the room to give me space, he freaking disappeared altogether.
Normally, this would not have been a problem for me if this wasn’t an area in which I wasn’t comfortable. This job interview was for an administrative assistant in a speech therapy clinic. I have not worked in the medical field, even though I’ve always wanted to. The tasks they were testing us on were simple at first:
- Type a memo to a doctor asking for a referral. Ok, I’m good at letters, so I had no problem with this. I got through it, typed my memo and printed. Piece of cake. (Oh! I’m starting to wonder if they have cake!)
- Log into a healthcare system I’ve never seen before and request the patient’s benefit eligibility.
- The system was not intuitive AT ALL.
- The steps they had written for the tasks didn’t make sense, either.
- Figured it out and printed the information.
- Call and verify insurance on a different patient.
- I’ve never done this before, so this would fall under the category of I’ll have to be trained.
- I rolled with the punches and called the number to collect the information and sat frozen when the automated system started rattling off numbers that didn’t coincide with the paperwork given to me.
- I smiled and wrote down what I could, but not before I knew this was the beginning of the end.
- Call the cell phone number provided and confirm patient’s appointment, following the script.
- Piece of cake! (Seriously, is there no cake?)
- I nailed this task, how can you not?
- Role play with the staff as they set up a scenario with a double-booked client and how to handle the situation.
- Not my favorite scenario, but one that’s definitely real. I have seen this happen in a day spa where I once worked, and while spa treatments are not doctor appointments, women who miss their manicures will tell you otherwise.
- I handled the conflict with patience and poise.
- Conflict was resolved with how I role played, and the managers were happy with the outcome.
At the end of all of this, I felt good about most of it, but I was starting to have some reservations. I mean, I get that you want to put a potential candidate into a situational interview to see how they perform, but if you already know they would need training in a certain area, wouldn’t you at least stick around to answer any questions they may have? That answer was no. This began a slew of red flags for me.
Red flag #1: The group dynamic. Should have listened to my gut on this one, but at the same time, it’s an interview, right? Keep those wheels greased.
Red flag #2: The nervous dude facilitating my interview. He didn’t know what he was doing, and any time I asked a question, he looked at me like a deer in headlights before he disappeared altogether.
Red flag #3: Giving me a task to do when you know I have no experience with said task, says to me: “Here’s the deep end with no life jacket, swim!”
Red flag #4: A Saturday morning interview and 90 minutes into it, when I asked how much longer I could plan on being there, they told me at least another hour. Hmm…any time I’ve ever been to a lengthy interview like this, the company has always prepared me for the space of time beforehand if it was out of the ordinary for a typical interview. The fact that they did not, tells me there’s not a lot of consideration for my time.
Well, the first thing spoke volumes. If you don’t take the time to weed out your applicants with a phone interview to decide whether or not you want to meet face-to-face, that shows me a bit of arrogance.
If you’re going to throw me a task with no direction whatsoever, that tells me if I get the job, I’ll be thrown into it with absolutely no training.
And, most importantly, if you aren’t going to give me heads up beforehand that you are going to want nearly three hours of my time on any given day, that tells me you’ll never understand my work/life balance.
So, while I’m completely exhausted from interview after interview (Because I’ve been interviewing for over a year now.), I need to put this out there to any prospective employer: You’re not just interviewing me, I’m interviewing you! It’s important for potential employers to remember that.
Thank you for your time, thank you for liking my resume, but no thank you. If you can’t take the time to get to know me, face-to-face, one-on-one, and learn what I can bring to the role and see that I’m worth the time to train, then we don’t have a relationship. And, you know what? I’m OK with that, even if this is my 13th interview in the last year. YOU don’t fit my description of the perfect employer.
I want to hear from you! Tell me about an interview experience where you knew it was a no go! Fill me in on your thoughts and takeaways. And, seriously, does anyone have cake??