Retro-rage: The Worst Job Interview Ever

jobinterview.jpgI wish there was one long, Teutonic word for this feeling: a memory that infuriates you, even though it has no bearing on your life as it is lived now. I don’t mean someone mistreating or betraying you, because that has a continued, negative impact on your existence. I mean something that is ancient history, something that has zero influence on your day-to-day life, yet still irks you whenever you think about it.

I’m going to call this sensation Retro-rage. I’m thinking about this concept because recently, I heard a friend of mine was looking to bolt his current place of employ. This piece of info reminded me that I once interviewed at the same company. And that memory stirred up another memory that enraged me, even though I’m gainfully and happily employed elsewhere.

Two-plus years ago, I was laid off from my job (another angry memory for another angry time). I had about a month before this lack-of-jobitude would seriously hit my family (including a one-year-old baby) in the pocketbook. Needless to say, I was quite anxious to find something, anything, very soon.

Eventually, I landed an interview for a production editorial position with An Unnamed Publishing Company–not a fly-by-night operation, either, but a pretty established, respectable house. I show up nice and early, filled out the requisite paperwork, and wait. And wait. And wait some more. And wait some additional, excruciating time.

The receptionist calls the person I’m supposed to be interviewing with several times, but there’s no answer at her phone. I call the person myself, as if my cell phone will work better than the receptionist’s desk phone, but predictably, they still don’t answer. Thirty minutes pass. Forty minutes pass. I’m already getting a very bad vibe from the whole experience and am tempted to split. Unfortunately, my employment situation means I can’t afford to have dignity or self respect.

Finally, 50 minutes after the scheduled start of my interview, the receptionist tells me “they” are ready for me, and instructs me to get on the elevators and report to a certain floor. I do as I’m told, expecting to be greeted by someone when I emerge.

But when the elevator doors part, no one is there. And I mean, no one. All I see are several banks of cubicles–all of which seem weirdly empty–and a preternaturally quiet hallway, snaking off into the distance. I think there’s a 50/50 chance I’ve been lured to the scene of my own murder.

As I wonder what I should do next, someone passes by, looking very busy. I ask this person where I can find My Interviewer. She doesn’t say a word, just points vaguely at the hallway she just emerged from and continues on her way. So I wander in that general direction, looking at the nameplates on all the offices, hoping to see the right one, and also hoping I don’t get thrown out for trespassing.

After a few minutes of slow, tense wandering, I find My Interviewer. She greets me in a very brassy way, as if I was the one who was running late and she was worried about when I’d arrive. She apologizes for “the delay” but has no explanation, and though I want to ask WTF?, I keep my mouth shut. She has a very large, very fragrant tin takeout tray of Latin food on her desk (arroz con gandules and what looks like pernil), which she eats liberally from as she talks to me.

My Interviewer hands me lots of paperwork about health insurance, holidays, gym reimbursement, etc. It quickly dawns on me that I’m speaking to an HR person, not someone associated with the department in which I hope to be employed. She leaves little room for me to ask questions, and honestly, I don’t know what I’d want to ask her that she could possibly answer anyway. I’m not particularly interested in the dental plan when I don’t know anything about the job itself yet.

When she can think of nothing else to say, HR Lady asks me if I’d like to speak with the head of the department. I’m a hair’s bredth away from saying OH, MAY I?!, a la Steve Martin, but again I resist my sarcastic impulses. HR Lady calls up Head of Department, and apparently I can speak with her BRIEFLY.

HR Lady shuttles me into the Head of Department’s office. She is a lady of a certain age. She is still moving into this office, as evidenced by large, unopened cardboard boxes and a passel of unhung artwork. The Head of Department looks mildly annoyed to see me, as if I’m interrupting some very important work (though her desk is pretty much clean).

She asks me extremely cursory questions about my experience with certain aspects of production. Like, kindergarten-level questions. If I were interviewing to work in a repair shop, the equivalent query would be, “Are you familiar with tires?” I answer, and try to elaborate on the nature of my production experience, but the Head of Department seems not at all interested in my responses. I almost expect Alan Funt to emerge from a closet and tell me I’m the latest victim of “America’s Shittiest Job Interviews”.

I ask the Head of Department a few questions about their procedures, and she barely answers them, as if she herself doesn’t really know what they are. In fact, I am 99 percent certain she doesn’t know much about the inner workings of her own division of the company. Our chat lasts no more than 10 minutes, but it feels like a week-long torture session.

But the worst part of it all? The absolute worst part? They never called me back. They never emailed me. I even sent them the phoniest, least sincere “thank you” note ever. Because apparently that’s what you do nowadays after job interviews. You can’t just say thanks and be on your way. No, you have to send them a god damn thank you note, as if the prospective employer invited you to stay at their house for the holidays.

I got no word from these creeps ever again. Not even a “thanks but no thanks”. Which means, even though they weren’t remotely close to having their shit together, they still felt they could do without me.

So when I heard my friend was looking to move on to greener pastures, I wished him luck and hoped he would find a new position soon. And I also hope that immediately after he finds this new position, his old office burns to the fucking ground.