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.