Press on

If you’re a regular reader, you know that I’ve been on a few interviews. But, I don’t think I’ve ever talked about my experiences on the other side of the table.

That’s right, I’ve interviewed a few candidates in my day. Some more memorable than others. Today I’ll share my favorite three.

1. Repeat after me. The first candidate I remember interviewing and thinking I was on Punk’d was during my short time with an older gentleman that couldn’t get enough of my name. His resume was great, but it did little to prepare me for his comb over and polyester suit. I walked into the conference room and extended my hand for a shake. He quickly clinched my hand with both of his.

I said, “Hello So-and-So, my name is Mari –”

He interrupted, “– Mahrie?”

I said, “Mari, just Mari.”

“Oh, oh,” he responded. “Mahrri. Marrree, Mhahaharrieeeie”

It was over for him before it even started.

2. I married him. For a candidate interviewing for a creative position not to bring in a portfolio of their work is certain doom. Luckily, that was not the case for this particular woman. She brought in her portfolio. Only the work was her ex husband’s. At least that’s what she said. I had no further questions.

3. Accessory. Dress your best, right? Of course. Women get to accessorize their outfits with pretty stone necklaces and dainty bracelets. Oh, and we get to wear make-up and earrings. And if it’s really serious we can even wear an up-do. Wait, I almost forgot the manicure. That’s right, we get to show off our hands with a fresh manicure. So, it’s no surprise that this particular female candidate arrived to her appointment dressed in a perfectly matched suit, heels and purse.

Only, she had one Lee Press-On Nail stuck to the lapel of her jacket. Just one.

The best part: she already had 10 perfectly manicured press-on nails on her fingers.

So, here’s what I think happened.

She got up in the morning, took a shower, got dressed. Put on make-up and her Lee Press-On Nails, got in the car and drove to the interview. She found a great spot with fifteen minutes to spare. She took a deep breath and unbuckled her seat belt. Only the belt snapped off one of her nails and sent her into a panic. “Where did it go, where did it go?” She must have said as she looked all around the floor of her car. But, then she remembered that she had packed a few extra nails in her purse. So, she quickly glued one on her naked finger and ran inside the building, feeling satisfied with her preparedness.

Only it was really like a scene out of “There’s Something About Mary,” but I couldn’t pretend that the nail was hair gel. I just had to sit there and not stare at it. The nail on her lapel.

Interviews are hard. Whatever side of the table you sit on. You just have to press on until you find your fit or until you nail it.

Oh that was bad.

Waiting by the phone

Sometimes job searching is like dating — in high school.

You find out someone is having a party and your crush is going. You find out Company A is hiring.

A few months back, I heard from a colleague that Company A was looking for someone to fill a marketing communications position. Senior management was going to be in Miami in the near future and wanted to take advantage of the geographical coincidence to meet some potential candidates.

You want to be invited so badly that you slip a note to the host. You send in your resumé.

So, I dropped my name in the hat and shortly after was scheduled for a phone interview. Across thousands of miles and a few time zones, the interview went very well. It was very formal at first and then it turned friendly, relaxed and promising.

You are finally invited. You are contacted by HR to schedule a meeting.

I was quickly invited to the in-person session – not with the guy I had spoken to on the phone, but with that guy’s boss. We’ll call him Mr. X. I was told Mr. X makes the final decisions in the hiring process.

You go to the mall, get an outfit, get a mani/pedi, do your hair, get the car washed, etc. Same.

I prepared a thirty minute presentation for this meeting. No joke. The truth is I was a bit over qualified for the position, but in my phone conversation with the first gentleman, they said that they were open to an up-sale. And, boy, was I ready to convince Mr. X that hiring a junior person for this job was like only having an appetizer for dinner.

You show up on time and pretend to be cool, but no one is there to see you look cool. Same.

The day of the interview, I walked into those beautiful offices with that famous breathtaking view of Miami looking smart, professional and ready to wow the pants off this guy.

Only, he wasn’t available.

I was told to have a seat and to wait until someone would be able to see me.

While constantly scanning the room for your crush, you make eye contact with one of the friendlier cheerleaders. She comes up to you with her stuck-up boyfriend. You try to guess which of the people walking around will be your potential superior(s), until one of them actually walks into the conference room.

Two executives join me in the conference room. They apologize for Mr. X’s no-show, but assure me that they will give him a full report. Luckily, I had extra copies of my resumé to share with them. I spent a few minutes introducing myself and going over my skill set, when one of the two executives excuses himself from the room.

So, I was left with one, very friendly executive conducting an interview that should have been cancelled. But, I was there and she was there, so I started my presentation.

Realizing that the popular crowd is fake and boring, you decide that you’re going to have fun anyway. During an interview, the moment you realize you really couldn’t work there even if they paid you a million bucks.

Relaxed and indifferent, I decided to insert a lot of my opinion about the company within my presentation. Where they went wrong, where they were missing out on publicity, ideas on how they could become more integrated in the community. Suddenly, she gets up and asks me to hold that thought. I couldn’t believe it. I was siting there in an empty conference room interviewing myself.

You decide to cannonball in the pool and accidentally wet the most popular girl in the school, but everyone thinks it’s funny, so it’s okay. During an interview, the moment you think you’ve said something stupid, but gets a head nod from the interviewer.

She returned with her colleague by the arm and told him to sit down and listen to what I had to say. So, they both sat down and she asked to start my presentation again. And I did. Their heads nodded, their egos burst and then their eyes glimmered with hope. They both agreed that Mr. X needed to be brought in.

Suddenly your crush shows up to the party and even though you are soaked from the pool, he wants to dance with you. During an interview, the moment you think you are going to be hired on the spot.

Indeed, Mr. X was brought in. Not by the arm, but by his own volition. He sat down, said hello and I handed him my resumé. But, before I could backspace my way to the beginning of my presentation, he looked up and said, “It’s obvious that my team wants you, so now it’s just a matter of settling on a number.” What the? Was this his plan all along? Was I on candid camera?

Then, Mr. X said, “Don’t give me the number now, think about it and email me with it tonight. This way it will give me time to look at the budget, so I know where I stand.”

At the end of the best night of your life, your crush asks for your phone number. The interview is over and you nailed it.

I left. I left feeling a cross between what just happened and I’m awesome. I called everyone I knew. I asked for all of their opinions. Later that afternoon I sat at my computer and composed a wonderful thank you email to each of them. Only Mr. X’s email was a bit longer. It included my salary range and stated my willingness to negotiate.

Waiting for a callback. Same.



Just like a high school crush, Mr. X never responded to my note, or my follow-up note, or returned my phone call. I should’ve known he was too good to be true.



Waiting for the phone to ring?

The art of the phone interview

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Florida’s unemployment rate in October was 11.2% and in Miami-Dade County, where I live, it was 11.8 percent. Um. Yeah. That’s a lot of people. That’s a lot of people out clogging traffic in the middle of the day. That’s a lot of people competing for the same job. Every job listing gets dozens and dozens of inquiries the first day it goes public. Which means one discerning hiring professional must sift through the pile and conduct phone interviews to narrow down the process.

Before, a phone interview consisted of a brief hello with a couple of random questions. Its main purpose was to ascertain if you indeed had a pulse and if you were able to speak English and to make sure that you could formulate coherent sentences in said language. Today, the phone interview is something much more formal. And it could be the make or break of the entire interview process. You can’t “recover” from a bad phone interview. You either are exceptional or you will be hung up on and never thought about again.

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