Thursday, June 30, 2011

A Tale of Two Interviews

It was the best of interviews; it was the worst of interviews. With apologies to Dickens, here's my tale of two interviews.

First, the good interview. Tuesday I set out to the country. Remember the peony farm I visited the other week? Well, the barns you see above are the home of the firm for which I interviewed, located one town west of the peony farm. Beautiful countryside; I shudder to contemplate a winter commute. But one thing at a time! I met with several people simultaneously, whom I convinced (I hope) that the lab no longer calls to me. I addressed the points in the job ad for which I already have required skills, and pointed out the one or 2 areas that would be new to me. Being that the firm is literally miles and miles from any sizeable town, and being that gas prices are still high, I can't imagine that their doors are being beaten down by MDs or PhDs with expertise in oncology or other branches of medicine. At least, that's my hope.

Now the bad interview. To be accurate, it was a non-interview. This was the firm for which I already had a phone interview with (let us call her) Catriona. I aced that and thought I'd do well in person too. I had to submit a writing sample. Only fair, I'm applying to be a writer so submit I will. The sample was based on a paper and the instructions gave a maximum length, excluding reference literature. Instructions also asked one to specify how much time the assignment took, and that time would not be graded. The paper picked was out of my field, and that was intentional. First thing I did was do a literature search to learn about the field. Then I highlighted the results, both the good and the bad. I discovered mitigating factors for the bad results, and ended with a summary statement. I was well within the maximum length. Now Catriona told me there was no rush to submit the sample; after my interview was fine. However, the e-mail from the HR recruiter (let us call him) Yates with the sample assignment asked to have the sample back within 2 to 4 days, and definitely before the interview. Hmmm, what to do? Since these firms thrive on pressure and speed, I decided to do it à la Yates, finishing it inside of 2 days. Time it took was about a half-day, evenly divided between the literature research and the actual writing.

Well, there I was at the firm yesterday, and no one was expecting me. No One. I asked for Catriona. Surely she was expecting me; she set this up for when she came in from the UK. Catriona is at a meeting. I'll wait. Fifteen minutes later in comes Catriona, with apologies. Yates was supposed to e-mail me, obviously that didn't happen, she is so sorry, business meeting cropped up and she now has no time, etc. I asked: What about a future appointment? She hesitated, then said maybe when next she's back in the US, in August.

I was so furious I could have killed somebody. Like Yates. Drove to the office and went back to my new job of finding a new job.

At 4 pm, the phone rang. It was Yates. Who could not stop apologizing for never sending out the e-mail to me canceling the appointment. So being that Yates screwed up, I decided to press my tiny advantage home.
>Me: Did the position really disappear?
>Yates: More like we're not ready to create a new position right now but August is more likely.
>Me: Did my writing sample have anything to do with this decision?
>Yates: Well a bit.
>Me: Can you be more specific? I want to improve my writing skills so I'll be more marketable.
>Yates: Well you were definitely better than a lot of candidates. We can train you. These things are formulaic - you extract the data and plug into the writing template. My best advice to you is to take a course on how to write these kinds of studies. The grader said you used outside sources (Me thinking: if it's plug in the data, why not give me the template?? word limit said excluding references; that would imply outside references) and had 2 errors.
>Me: Can you find out what the errors were? I really want to improve.
>Yates: Being I screwed up and inconvenienced you, I will find your paper and get you the information. By the way, what did you think of our firm otherwise?
>Me: I thought that Catriona and I could work together, I'm impressed by the firm's offerings and philosophy, and I could be essential to the firm's success. (I hate spouting this stuff, but it's required if you want to work for a company.)
>Yates: I think you'd be a success here too. I'll keep your resume on top and let you know when there are openings for you.

Nothing like using guilt to get a favor.


fleegle said...


kristieinbc said...

What a nightmare. I can't believe how much pressure people are put under for some job interviews. I hope you find something you like really soon!

kristieinbc said...

What a nightmare. I can't believe how much pressure people are put under for some job interviews. I hope you find something you like really soon!