Disaster of a Job Interview

I went for a job interview today. I’d tell you what job I was applying for, but I never quite figured it out. I’d tell you who the company was, except that I’m not completely sure my impressions of the company are true, and I don’t want to falsely cast aspersions. Nonetheless, let me tell you a bit about this:

I responded to an posting on Craig’s List last week. The posting was pretty general, talked about looking for people who are team players, and want to be involved in an exciting Fortune 500 company. Pretty (extremely) vague. Yesterday (Monday), I received a call from a hiring manager. I asked what the position was. She asked what ad I’d responded to. I told her, and ,she said they were hiring for a number of positions, but didn’t give me more details. She asked me to come in for interview this morning at “11:05 AM.” She did tell me to bring a resume, a reference list, and to dress professionally, “because we are a Fortune 500 company.”

She did give me some company websites to look at. I looked at them, and discovered something that looked a lot more like a multilevel marketing scheme for life insurance than a company that was likely to be hiring real employees. I couldn’t quite tell where one company left off and another began. I certainly couldn’t tell which of the three companies which were thoroughly enmeshed would be hiring me, or whether any but the holding company would qualify as Fortune 500, but I have my doubts.

This morning, I showed up for an interview, and was asked to fill out a form, asking some of the usual job application questions, including for references. By this point, my instincts were all pushing me away from this company. I decided I wasn’t comfortable giving my references to this company until I knew more about them or the job. After all, I have very little invested, at this point, in the potential employer’s opinion of me, and a great deal invested in the opinion of those who serve as references. At the very least, I wanted to know what position I was applying for.

There were maybe 5 of us in the small waiting area, dressed professionally for interviews. The hiring manager came out, and called one of us in, and 5 minutes later the interviewee returned. Shortly thereafter, it was my turn.

We came into the room, and began talking. But her first questions were all ones she’d asked yesterday: “how long have you been looking for work?” and “what kind of work are you looking for?” Verbatim, she’d asked those jobs over the phone. She also asked for my references.

I explained I wasn’t comfortable giving my references until I knew a bit more about the job and the company. The interview went downhill from there. Apparently, that just isn’t their process. They talk to references first, call back some people for a group orientation, and then tell you about what job opportunities exist. Which to me, sounded a little bit too much like the process for being sold a timeshare. When I asked once again what the range of jobs they were hiring for, I was invited to go home, do more research on the company, and contact her again if I were interested in proceeding. Total elapsed time since I entered the room: 4 minutes.

I still don’t know what was going on. My best guess is that I did just fine by being as defensive as I was in the interview process, and that the company was not one I could have worked for (and that the job I would have been offered was as a life insurance salesman). What I”m taking away from this is that I need to trust my instincts. This one felt wrong from the beginning: too vague, and asking me for too much information without offering enough in return. On the other hand, I’ve now completed a first job interview, and feel pretty confident that I’d rather work as a barista before I sell life insurance.

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10 Responses to “Disaster of a Job Interview”

  1. realsupergirl Says:

    wow that sounds majorly sketchy…like ponzi scheme kind of sketchy. I don’t think you want anywhere NEAR that company. good for you for not giving them your references.

  2. Sam Says:

    Good call. When I first moved to Portland, I had a similarly dysfunctional interview, where nobody seemed ready to tell me what they were actually looking for. (Honestly, if you’re going to hire a developer, you should have some idea what they’re going to do, or what skills you’d like them to have.) At some point, one of them said something like “This is all being run by him” — and pointed at the wall.

    I excused myself, asked the receptionist for my application back, thankyouverymuch, and left. Never heard from them again.

  3. Kathleen McDade Says:

    I would have been totally suspicious, too.

  4. Sarah Says:

    Wow. Sounds like you made a good call.

  5. Verso Says:

    I almost went to an interview like this. I asked a friend of mine if he’d heard of the company, and he said no. I got all gussied up and dressed appropriately and headed toward the interview. It gave me a weird feeling from the get-go but it had been so long since I’d had an interview I went anyway. I got halfway there and got a frantic phone call from my friend who looked them up on the web and the first two pages of Google results were lawsuits against this company for various degrees of shady behavior.

    Sometimes people forget that interviews go both ways, and you are interviewing the company as much as they are interviewing an employee. It is frustrating to be treated otherwise. It can be a hard call to make so I’m glad you made it.

  6. Rana Says:

    What a waste of your time!

    I agree – that sounds either like a scam, or a company that’s so dysfunctional that it would be horrible to work for. Sounds to me like they’re just interviewing random people in case someone useful shows up, and that’s a recipe for disaster. It suggests that they have no sense of what their budgets are (who are they hiring, what would they cost, etc.), what their company needs in terms of specific skill sets, etc. They might as well be throwing darts at a board blind-folded and hoping one hits a bullseye.

    NOT the kind of place you want to work!

  7. Igal Koshevoy Says:

    You did the right thing, this was probably a scam.

    There are many bad folks out there collecting references’ contact information so they can sell it at high prices to spammers, and also collect resume data to resell to inflate resume banks — without ever having an actual job to offer.

    If they can’t tell you in advance what company you’re interviewing with and what job you’re interviewing for, you can’t prepare for an interview and no sane company would want that. If they demand references up front and won’t budge, there’s something wrong.

  8. Rory Bowman Says:

    I had an interview like that once, where it turned out they wanted us to do some sort of audition in front of everyone else. The ad was for something that I thought sounded like teaching, but the actual job was for sales at a shady business college. I left within the first ten minutes and had completely forgotten about it until just now.

    I was pretty desperate and physically hungry, but not that desperate or that hungry. Well done!

  9. martin Says:

    Apparently they were looking for victims. You don’t need to feel guilty for not being one. :)

  10. Robb Shecter Says:

    I’d have titled this, “An excellent job interview”. Because: you’re interviewing them as much as they’re interviewing you. That’s how it should be. You went there, they failed the test, and it took only 4 minutes. Success!


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