“I’m a customer,” she says. “Approach me.”
I hate role playing.
“I just walked in,” she says. “I’m looking at phones. Okay. Come over.”
If I had to choose between job interview role playing and polishing a trumpet while the trumpet player is trumpeting, I would choose the trumpet. Every time.
“Hi,” I smile, but oddly, like someone is holding a shiv to my side, “can I help you?”
“I’m looking for a phone,” she says. Her name is Sally. “Something new. Something really cool.”
“Do you like iPhones?”
“Okay. Stop right there. Ask what she currently has.” This is Sandra. She’s watching from the side, a few feet over at the table we were all just interviewing me at. “Meet them where they’re at.”
It’s always wise to learn from mistakes.
“What phone do you currently use?”
“The Dell Aero.”
Some mistakes I’m happy to leave behind.
“But I don’t want the Dell Aero anymore.”
“Right,” I say. “Do you like iPhones?”
My job hunting and interview history has left me with many regrets. Like, for instance, the time I applied to AT&T as a retail representative, somewhere in Washington state, circa 2010.
It didn’t start off very well either.
I was four minutes late. I remember that clearly.
Because I’m never late to a job interview. Never. Being early is a sacred cow. Show up with extra 15 minutes, at least. Acclimate to the office temperature. Slick the hair in the bathroom. Breathe.
I squeezed in this interview on my lunch break.
I was a produce clerk back then. I asked for an extended lunch. I left hastily, swapping a kale-stained apron in the car for a Van Heusen and a ten dollar pre-tied tie and driving 40 minutes.
The hope was to gain a bump from $8.50/hour to $9.25/hour. Totally worth it.
There was traffic probably. Either way you cut it, Sandra hated me the moment I waltzed in. She had me figured out: This guy comes late to interviews. It was all in the eyes.
Good thing, too, the interview lasted 40 minutes. Sally, the other one, she was alright. She gave me a little grace. But Sandra. Man. It was the most uncomfortable interview of my life. We all knew it wasn’t going to happen. While I can understand going through with the interview (everyone needs practice, even the interviewers), role play?
A total hail marry. Or maybe, let’s just make this guy squirm. That’s what you get for coming late!
“Sell me something.”
This went on for another five minutes. I left red-faced and humiliated, like a deflated Patriots football.
Here’s what I don’t get: Why ask someone to role play, who has no sales experience, on the spot? Why correct them as if they should already know? What the hell, man.
The answer, of course, is that they were looking for someone with sales experience, even if the ad said no experience required. Salesmen and women, they can sell anything on the spot to almost anyone. I’m just not like that. I’m more of a long-con type of guy. I get to know you. I bring you in. You never leave.
No surprise, I didn’t get the job. But that’s okay. It wasn’t for me anyways. I think I knew that going in, and it was apparent that they didn’t want me either.
Still, years later, the experience has stuck with me. It was so awful. Honestly, I think of it often. Every time I apply for a freelance writing job or a PR job or whatever. I hear it:
“Sell me something.”
And I’m caught with no words.
Here’s what I learned from the experience:
- If I had really wanted the job, I would’ve been there on time. Sandra was right to dog me. I was wasting her time. If your heart isn’t in it, let it go. Let it go.
- Do some research on the company/industry before the interview. This is a classic tip. Nothing new here. But, back then, I never took it seriously, and I was caught. I could’ve at least named one or two more phones if I took five minutes to search the web.
- Travel time is a thing: I still am learning to account for travel time. Maybe I’ve watched too much 24, or Star Trek. I don’t know. The point is, we don’t have teleportation technology yet. Consider stop lights, slow drivers, and the time it takes to walk across a parking lot.
What job interview horror stories do you have?
NOTE: Names were changed for protection and alliteration purposes.