The worst job interview … ever

I knew that as soon as I made a decision that I would just be a copy editor, I’d get an interview for a job that was not for copyediting and go through this whole dilemma of whether or not to take it. I did not think, however, that it would be a FAKE interview.

Yeah, it was kind of a fake interview for me, too, at that point, but I thought maybe I’d want the job if they offered it to me, especially if it paid well and had good benefits. It was coordinating a university program dealing with East Asian studies. I happen to have a master’s degree in Chinese literature,  and the job description indicated they were looking for someone with a background in East Asian studies as well as experience living abroad in East Asia and working with faculty and students from there. Hey, that’s me!

But the kicker was that I had also applied for a position as assistant in that center. So when I got the interview and arrived there, I didn’t ask which position I was interviewing for. Big mistake. They just started by asking me why I thought I was right for the position. So I said stuff that I thought was relevant for both roles, having supported faculty a lot in different roles, event coordination at a church, budget oversight, etc.

They said I had not mentioned the event coordination in my resume, but it was there in both my resume and my cover letter. Oh yeah, and the first sentence of my cover letter said that I had also applied for the assistant position, but they had obviously not read it carefully.

The woman then said that it didn’t sound like I knew what the position was, and that it was for a student affairs coordinator, mainly advising students in a master’s program. I said, the job description didn’t indicate that it was a student affairs position coordinating a master’s program. I checked afterward — it did not say any of that.

She said, “You should really read the job description before you apply.”

WHAT?!

I said, “I did read the job description, and it didn’t mention student affairs.”

The other guy said it did mention student affairs and that event coordination was only mentioned briefly at the end. Again, I checked the job description afterward, and the whole first paragraph was about event coordination.

The woman then said that this was clearly not something I wanted to do, so she’d have to terminate the interview.

I was, as you can imagine, rather put out at this point. I said that I was interested and asked, if I wasn’t qualified for the position, why did they ask me for an interview? She said I was qualified but that I didn’t reference the right parts of my background.

I replied that I might have been confused because I had also applied to the assistant position.

“That’s the problem with applying to every position,” the dragon lady said.

By this point, I was fuming. I did not just spend the afternoon ironing my good linen pants for this shit, to be told that I didn’t read the job descriptions and applied for all the jobs at the university.

I told them they should look at the job description they wrote; maybe I was mistaken, but they should really take more care in writing them. And I stormed out.

Later, I was sad and angry that I had reacted in that way, but I can only conclude, in retrospect, that I had felt wrongly accused of nonchalantly applying for a job I didn’t want. Which is kind of true, but I guess I did want it at the time that I had applied, which was about a month ago. But then I felt stupid that I had applied or gone to the interview at all, or at least I should’ve asked what position I was being interviewed for — I mean, I hadn’t been keeping it a secret or anything.

That night, I received an email that appeared to be sent to all candidates, thanking them for their time, but that they had found a suitable candidate.

Not a likely story, because I interviewed on the first day available, the day after I was notified that I was being interviewed. Did they really get through the interviews that quickly? My feeling, and my husband’s, is that they already had a candidate, but because the university requires them to conduct a search, they had to go through the motions.

I’m not sure what I would do differently put in the same position again — maybe to say gracefully after they mention wanting to end the interview, “Thank you for your time; please keep me in mind if any other positions open up.”

But y’all know me, I have very little grace, and as my father told my in-laws upon meeting them for the first time, I have a bad temper. Maybe I was channeling too much cocky wonder woman (see earlier posts on “power poses” and self-confidence), but I wanted to obliterate that nasty woman for wrongly accusing me of things I didn’t do, putting the blame on me for their own lack of preparation, and most likely I’d be just as argumentative as I was yesterday.

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The lesson I’ve learned, however, is to ask what position the interview is for, if I’ve applied to more than one at the same place. Yes, that was my bad. I doubt that will happen again, but at least I know now.

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