The only thing worse than sweating through your suitcoat in an interview?
Not getting the job.
The only thing worse than not getting the job?
Getting a rejection letter. The only thing worse than that?
Getting a four minute long voicemail from a Big 4 recruiter explaining that you didn't get the job because, “Yeah, so… your personality just isn't a good fit…”
Now, I'll admit that I'm a little rough around the edges. You guys know that. I sometimes forget to brush my hair when I get busy and I won't hesitate to tell you all the creepy shit I know about Florida.
But personality? I have tranches of that. (See what I did there? Tranches? It's funny because it's a financial term.)
With this firm, things failed from the start. Usually firms take candidates out to eat the night before the big office visit, and I was totally prepared for that because like you, I'm a GC troll, and Caleb and Adrienne have been prepping us for office visits for ages.
Well, change of plans. Instead of the regular small group dinners, the firm decided to give us walking tours of downtown Detroit and then, because the Tigers were in the playoffs, the firm was throwing a “baseball tailgate” in a tent outside the office for the entirety of the Tigers game.
I generally hate a lot of things: the color blue, oyster crackers, Jennifer Aniston, the Chicago Blackhawks organization as a whole, large groups of people singing in unison, accounting, the state of Florida, and the collected works of Steve Martin to name a few –- but the one thing I hate more than any other things? Above and beyond all other things? Baseball. I’d rather work for free than spend three hours of my life in the hot sun watching some obese center fielder in stretch pants hit a ball with a stick and run in a sloppy circle around an open field.
So imagine my demeanor when the firm bused us from the hotel to the holding tent, handed out Tigers t-shirts, supplied us with peanuts and beer, and forced us to sit through an entire Tigers game from start to finish while firm associates circulated among us. Poor Leona.
When associates asked, “So -what do you think of all this?” I managed a fake “Wow, this is so nice,” but I guarantee it sounded more like a “I'm trapped in Dante's seventh circle of hell and can't escape.” The mixer turned into three straight hours of small-talk punctuated with cheers from the actual Tigers fans. When the game wrapped up, the firm mercifully released us from the holding tent and bused us back to the hotel. I don't know much about prison work camps, but I imagine they're a lot like that.
The day of the interview, I sweated through my suit jacket three minutes into the initial group introduction. We had to tell a little bit about ourselves to the other fifty or so candidates gathered round the huge conference room. I was so nervous that I can't even remember what nonsenseI sputtered. All I remember is sweating profusely.
Then came the actual interview. Up until now, the whole thing -– from the baseball mixer to the introductions -– had been a shit show. My jacket had pit stains, my hair had frizzed out from all the stress, and I'd already snagged my nylons in two separate places. What next?
I'll tell you what next — the partner asked me some really uncomfortable questions one-on-one. “So your family lives in Chicago. What are you going to do for holidays? What do your mom and dad think of you moving to Detroit?”
What was I supposed to tell him? The truth –- that I'd gotten kicked out of the house when I was a senior in high school and hadn't spoken to my family ever since? That seems like an intimate discussion for a job interview, eh? Needless to say, the question caught me off guard. I'd done multiple practice interviews, and I'd practiced all my answers in front of a mirror. I'd prepped for every other possible interview question but not that one. Never that one.
My answer was a lie: “They're really happy for me.”
His response: “I doubt that.”
What I should have said is “They're dead.” That would have made it awkward for both of us.
I think the partner could sense that I was lying. I was still sweating profusely. On a scale of 1 to "Full blown panic attack” I was at a nine, and at that point in the interview, I felt so humiliated that I just wanted to crawl into a hole and die.
But hey, I hadn't completely blown it at that point. We still had another post-interview lunch to talk more with some of the associates. I'm an extreme introvert and group lunches aren't my thing, but luckily, the conversation at my table drifted to something right up my alley — crazy neighborhoods! At that time, I lived in a crazy neighborhood, too, with my nocturnal musician roommate -– we rented from a slumlord in a clap board house next door to a meth lab and across the street from a townie bar.
“Yeah, we don't live in the best neighborhood, either.” I told the group. “I woke up one morning and found a homeless man rolling a cigarette on my welcome mat.” True story. I was terrified. It was one of those life situations that all the episodes of Law&Order:SVU in the world can't prepare you for.
After I said it, the table fell silent. Over my plastic plate of crappy sub-par Mexican food, all I could see were side-eyes from the others. “So anyway…” one said.
My heart fell. I excused myself, dumped my plate, and got the fuck out of there.
Days later, the recruiter's voice mail droned on… and on. “So… yeah… it isn't going to be the answer that you want because… yeah, your personality just wasn't a good fit. The job, well, the job requires that you have a certain professional sheen, and yeah. We just didn't see that in you, Leona. So… we're not extending an offer to you because, well, there were several points in the interview that we just didn't feel…”
To be fair, the firm really wasn't the right fit. Who am I kidding? I don't belong at a firm with a bunch of baseball-loving, personal-question-asking, professionally polished people who've never sweated through a suitcoat or had a homeless man pass out on their front porch.
But as for my supposed (lack of) personality? I like to think that it's not me – it's the firm.
Let's talk awkward interview situations – either interviews you've gone to or interviews you've given. Any crazy stories? Discuss.