A job interview is like a first date — you know within the first five minutes if there will be a second date. A few years ago when I had an entry-level position available in my department, I felt like I’d been on an endless speed-dating circuit of potential job candidates. In the case of one particular interviewee, the moment the young woman walked into our conference room, I knew there would be no second “date.” She was probably twenty-two or twenty-three, fresh out of college. She flung her giant purse on floor and plopped into the seat across from me with a resigned sigh.
Honestly, I sensed something was off a few days earlier when I left a voice mail to set an appointment for the interview. The outgoing message left me a little, well, concerned. It was along these lines, but worse. Two words: hip-hop.
I tried not to let the message color my opinion of her. This was back in the day when people had answering machines. Perhaps she had mischievous roommates. Perhaps she was auditioning to be a member of a Sugar Hill Gang tribute band. Perhaps she thought the message was a memorable way to set her apart from the other job candidates. Well, score one for her.
This was a particularly hot and humid summer afternoon in New York City. The air was thick and the sun was unrelenting. It was the kind of day you’d want to spend at Coney Island or ensconced in your apartment with your window air conditioner set to “North Pole.” Waiting on a sticky subway platform with fetid, stale air and walking blocks along steaming sidewalks to an interview while praying that your handshake won’t be sweaty is the last thing you’d want to do.
So, give her another point for showing up.
I’d located her in the lobby based on the fact that she was the only person waiting there, not because her demeanor screamed Interviewee. I should pause here to note that my company is not conservative with regard to our dress code (or our conduct, but that’s another post). This isn’t the Financial District. State dignitaries don’t routinely walk our hallways. I have never seen the president of our division in a tie. The employee handbook simply asks staff to use their best judgment, and one would guess/hope that an interviewee would err on the side of formality.
Maybe she was confused. She thought that today was the day she was interviewing for the lifeguard position at the Red Hook pool or the day she would be taking over for her friend at the Summer of Love cart in Union Square. Because she showed up wearing a tank top (yellow), tie-dye broomstick skirt and Birkenstock sandals.
I have nothing against Birkenstocks. Or tie-dye. I have tied and dyed with the best of them. But I had to question her ability to handle the workload of this position when she obviously had issues grasping the gravitas of a basic corporate job interview. That, and her feet were caked with dirt.
Before you get concerned that I wrote off this young woman based solely on her appearance, worry not. Talking to her was a bit like her answering machine message: lots of babbling but nothing interactive.
Alas, there was no second date for the Birkenstock girl. Or the guy who listed “anal retentive” under the Special Skills section of his resume. Eventually I found the perfect fit for the position. He had sweaty palms, but he wore a white button-down shirt.
What was your most memorable interview experience?
Have a great weekend, everyone!