Job interview, aka complete waste of time

Cheesy picture of a woman interviewing for a job in cheap-looking office

I love how you've decorated your office. This desk is oak, right? (courtesy of

I had a job interview for an Account Manager position… a very odd job interview. I don’t really know what to make of it. So maybe teasing out my thoughts into an epic blog post, laced with humor and vitriol, will clear things up. What would really clear things up… having this post picked up by a publisher, expanded into a book bought by millions of people and turned into a movie, with the part of Norm, the fearless unemployed blogger, played by George Clooney. Maybe it wouldn’t. And George might not want to endure the months of gym time necessary to fully become the character. But I really think we should try, just to be sure.

I arrived early for my interview. So I stood outside the nondescript downtown office building, scrolling through emails on my phone. A leisurely stroll from the subway, past City Hall and through the neighboring park, didn’t kill enough time. Nor did a quick and depressing stop at the bank machine. But being early is good. It shows eagerness. It shows discipline and drive. It shows that I have nothing better to do.

The company’s office sat at the end of a meandering hallway, next to a sketchy-looking medical office. I walked in to find the receptionist vacuuming around her messy desk. It was jammed into a corner with some boxes and a couple of broken fans. A narrow walkway, lined with shiny metal chairs and blurry pictures of New York City, led to three offices. Had they furnished the space with leftovers from the previous occupant? The place was uninspiring for a marketing company. It was uninspiring for any company.

I asked to use the bathroom, and the receptionist directed me back out of the office to a door marked “Out of Order.” “Ignore the sign,” she explained. “It works.” And technically it did, thanks to copious amounts of duct tape. The bathroom appeared to have exploded recently and been pieced back together by MacGyver. Times are hard even for former television stars. I went about my business quickly, touching only what I had to.

The receptionist handed me a clipboard upon my return. A basic information sheet was attached, along with an interesting questionnaire. It contained 20 or so groupings of four adjectives, with directions to choose which of the four most and least describes me. The purpose was to create a psychological profile and ferret out the people who would excel in a certain role. I’ll make up an example to illustrate…

  • Watchful
  • Theatric
  • Fucoid
  • Helpful

I would probably check off “most” for “helpful” or maybe “watchful” and “least” for “fucoid,” since I’m not “of or like seaweed.” But the appropriate answers weren’t always so obvious. Sometimes none of the words applied, leaving me to pick the best of the worst. Sometimes all of them applied, forcing me to pick the “least” tag for something positive and sell myself short.

After completing the application, I was called in to interview. The interviewer’s office was dominated by a huge curtain-less window overlooking Broadway. Sunshine streamed in. Still the room was only slightly less depressing than the waiting area. It contained a desk and a couple more metal chairs. I don’t even remember a computer or any personal effects. The office seemed to belong to no one.

My interviewer was tall, well dressed and barely out of college. Being closer to 40 than 30, I’m increasingly aware of people way younger than me in positions of power. He asked questions as if seeing my resume for the first time. “So… you worked at company X. How was that?” I answered simply, praising the company and the experience of working there. He didn’t really listen. His cellphone rang at one point, and he checked it. After a few stale exchanges, he asked why I was applying for an entry-level job. This was news to me. My rather direct response was that I didn’t know I was. Account Manager isn’t usually an entry-level job. He ceded my point. I ceased to care about the job.

With the interview portion of the meeting out of the way, he launched into his spiel. This is the type of company we are. This is our way of doing business. This is the project we’re hiring for. He’d obviously delivered the words many times and been instructed exactly how to do so. He maintained strong eye contact throughout, as if trying to hold me in place. He leaned slightly forward, as if trying to engage me more. There was a thought-out method to all this.

I listened and tried to figure out the angle. Everything sounded reasonable, sort of like a pyramid scheme does until you actually explore a little. This seemed like a scam, but I couldn’t figure out why. I just knew that I wanted no part of it.

I imagined all the applicants who’d sat exactly where I was sitting. I imagined all the applicants who would sit where I was sitting. I felt stupid and small. Stupid for putting on a suit and dragging my unemployed ass halfway across the city for something I suspected would be a waste of time. Small for not having a choice. Putting up with such nonsense is so frustrating.

He handed me a business card at the end of his little speech. He was a partner. The company would decide quickly who to bring back for a more in-depth interview. I could expect a call as soon as that afternoon. He instructed me to keep my phone line open. I said that I would, though I was really looking forward to actively ignoring the call. I didn’t even get that chance. He never called.

Be Sociable, Share!
If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed!


  1. Anya Weber wrote:

    Yeeeccccchhh, how gross. Sorry Norm. Hang in there–not all interviews will be that sleazy.

    Curious–Were there any warning signs _before_ they called you in?

    Hey, you should cross-post this at “We the ‘Bistro”!

    Sunday, January 31, 2010 at 8:25 am | Permalink
  2. Norm wrote:

    Yeah, I had a weird feeling going in. I can’t say why exactly. Something just felt off.

    I couldn’t find any record of having applied. But that’s not that unusual. Postings on job boards often don’t list the company name.

    Sunday, January 31, 2010 at 9:21 am | Permalink
  3. Melinda wrote:

    “Fucoid”? I’ve been asked a lot of strange questions on interviews, but that takes the kelp!

    Sunday, January 31, 2010 at 2:19 pm | Permalink
  4. kelby2012 wrote:

    That experience remind of the sales insurance interviews I had right after I got my M.B.A.. I kept saying to myself, I can’t believe I spent 3 freakin years in grad school to end up in some bullshit interview, I could have gotten right out of high school. On the one hand, I knew I had to do the job interview because I broke, but on the other hand I knew it was a bullshit interview.

    Sunday, January 31, 2010 at 5:57 pm | Permalink
  5. Dalilama wrote:

    Reminds me of my interview with an ‘expanding marketing agency’ looking for everything from entry level to director positions. I just would have had to start out canvassing at stores for 9 months, earning a fee per lead, until I showed I could be leadership material… Oh yeah, and the ‘expansion’ was really only 1 guy, 5 yrs out of college in a 1-office suite looking for more suckers to feed his pyramid… After I expressed my frustration with his misleading job posts and pre-screening process, it appears that they have since adjusted their ads to the more appropriate: ‘Entry Level, Stop being a waiter’ cadre.

    Incidentally, not sure if you intended this to happen (since I know you are a true literary genius), but in your list of psychological questionnaire answers, the formatting looked off to me and I noticed that if you take the first few letters from each answer, they make an appropriate phrase for this article:

    Wat The Fuc? Help!

    Sunday, January 31, 2010 at 8:36 pm | Permalink
  6. Norm wrote:

    Well it seems I got a little too clever for my own good. I was trying to create an acronym with the first letter of each of 4 words. The acronym was “WTFH,” which people may recognize as “What The F***ing Hell.” Clearly that didn’t work, oh well.

    Sunday, January 31, 2010 at 10:31 pm | Permalink
  7. Dalilama wrote:

    I was going to go with that originally, but since ‘help’ was right there, I just went with it. Plus, I have never really heard it as WTFH, the H just didn’t seem to fit.

    At least people are looking for your attempts at cleverness…

    Monday, February 1, 2010 at 11:05 pm | Permalink
  8. Jon wrote:

    Your post reminds me of an interview I had a number of years ago with a venture capital firm based out there in NYC. Sure these VC guys had a slick office and such but the minute I walked through the doors I could feel something was off. Sleazy, sketchy. In any case, after a couple of useless interviews with “partners” who looked like they had just gotten their MBAs, they sent a freshie out of college to “interview” me. He did exactly to me what your infant did to you. I ate him alive but for some reason I didn’t walk out on him. Not sure why I didn’t. In any case, never heard back from them and never heard of the firm again and I’m pretty sure they don’t exist anymore.

    Tuesday, February 2, 2010 at 2:20 am | Permalink
  9. Have you seen In The Loop? There’s a great bit in it with a youthful government “big wig” who looks like he’s about 17. It’s hilarious, as is the rest of the film. And it’s full of great profanity ideas.

    Thursday, February 4, 2010 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

One Trackback/Pingback

  1. […] Job interview, aka complete waste of time Share, like your mommy taught […]