Thus revealed, the creature buried its nose in the tire-tilled soil...
February 26, 2008
I am the worst interviewee in the world.
Category: Travels

Seriously. I think I look pretty darned good on paper, but then I get into interviews and blow them so badly that the hiring organizations don't even bother to contact me to tell me that I didn't get the job -- they just repost the classified ad and only let me know when I write to find out about the (fairly obvious, but still) status of my application.

Anyway, I mention this because I had an interview last Friday that was flipping brutal. I'm not sure how appropriate it is to mention many of the details in an online forum -- what I was applying for, specifics of the interview, etc. -- but let's just say that I felt like the lead interviewer essentially called me an ignorant American and at one point told me that I'd given a terrible response to a specific question. It was the kind of interview where I almost wish I'd flipped out, cursed everyone relentlessly, and maybe even tossed in a few German suplexes for good measure. Yeah, that kind of ferocity isn't really in my nature -- and I certainly wouldn't have gotten the job unless I'd been applying to the UFC competition (which I wasn't) -- but I a) wouldn't be worried about whether I got the job (which, amazingly, I'm still hoping for at this point despite the utterly abysmal nature of the interview) and b) could have walked out of that room with my pride intact. As it was, I felt utterly emasculated when it was over.

If I did anything right at all during the interview, I think it was that I probably came across as wholly docile and non-threatening -- which may be good considering that half of the interview consisted of the interviewers telling me how reviled and potentially feared I would be in the position owing to the color of my skin. I guess there were other parts of it that may not have been completely terrible. I got a chuckle out of my mention of octopus-flavored ice cream, even if I did choke on the word "octopus". I probably choked on more words that I don't precisely recall -- I know I choked on my words at least five times while saying goodbye to another interviewee with whom I had the pleasure of chatting during the bus/metro ride to and from the interview. Yep -- my Smoothest Dude Ever Award is in the mail.

I may have accrued some positive karma points, though -- and not just because the interview went so terribly, either. At the bus stop en route to the interview, this old woman happened to drop one of her gloves before going off to hail a cab (apparently the bus was taking too long for her). Now, I didn't notice her dropping the glove, but another woman at the stop happened to see it and stated flatly, "She drop [sic] her glove." And then I found myself in one of those moments where time stands still, because I was totally waiting for the woman to reach down, pick up the glove right in front of her, turn to the other side, and hand the glove to the old woman -- who, at this point, was still standing on the curb about an arm's length away. Instead, she did flipping nothing. When it became apparent that no one else was going to do anything either, I found myself dashing forward (I was standing on the opposite side of the bus stop enclosure), scooping up the glove from the ground, and running up to the woman just as she got inside a cab while waving the glove and shouting, "Ma'am! Ma'am!" The cabbie rolled down the window, the woman got her glove, and all was right with the world -- until the bus showed up about a minute later and carried me off to botch that interview in a very real and very, very unfortunate way.

But while I may be a terrible interviewee, at least I'm not an entirely terrible person. Right? 😐

-posted by Wes | 7:39 pm | Comments (11)
  • T.A.B. says:

    Wes, that's a pretty horrific job story, but I've been through worse. What kind of job was it?

  • Wes says:

    If it sounds like you've been through worse, TAB, it's because I'm withholding details -- there's seriously almost no possible way you could've had a worse interview than this one. (It was worse than a thousand ninja bobblehead incidents!) I was applying for a position as an assistant English teacher at a Japanese school.

  • Ro says:

    Yikes, worse than a thousand ninja bobble head incidents?!? That's brutal. I'm sorry you had to go through that. I hope you are feeling much better now.

  • Wes says:

    Well, it's sort of a given that it'd be worse than a thousand ninja bobblehead incidents -- because anyone who endured that would at least come out with a thousand ninja bobbleheads, which would be totally awesome. With this interview, I gained nothing (except perhaps the experience of being humiliated and some ideas for avoiding said humiliation in the future, which I suppose is worth something) but totally lost my dignity and pride. 😐

  • dave says:

    Was it a worse experience than sitting through the Dalek/hybrid episode of Dr. Who last year?

    BTW, if it's any consolation, they're jerks for making an interviewee feel that way. Imagine if you worked there?

    You're definitely not a terrible person (I think. I mean, I've never interviewed you for a job, so I might be missing something. jk)


  • mickelodeon says:

    I'm with Dave, Wes. Imagine if you actually did work with those people!? =(

  • Sarah says:

    I once had an interview where my ability to speak the English language went completely out the window. In retrospect, it was pretty funny. Especially considering that the interview was for a teaching position at a special ed school. The principal must of thought I had all sorts of speech delay disorders and that I would be more suited *in* the special ed class rather than teaching it 🙂

    That was really nice of you to return the glove. I was once on a non air conditioned bus in the middle of July and all of the windows were open. I leaned to one side and my sunglasses (which were on the top of my head) fell off and out the window. Because this was near 34th Street and there were tons of people and traffic, a guy on the street literally chased the bus a few paces, yelling, and he picked up my glasses, got on the bus and returned them to me! That is good karma!

  • Wes says:

    Dave: It was worse than a lot of things -- even poor Human Dalek Sec has nothing on that interview. I wouldn't be working with them if I got the job. And really, two of the interviewers were nice enough; it was the lead one that really seemed to have it out for me -- I think the prevailing idea was that living in a foreign country is difficult, so she wanted to try to make me as uncomfortable as she could to see if I could take it. Thing is, the situations are entirely different, and I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have Japanese people bombarding me with questions about American policy and then essentially shouting, "WRONG! UNINFORMED AMERICAN!" if I hesitated to answer in the face of the barrage.

    What's most frustrating about the interview is that I do know the answers to many of the questions that the interviewer asked, but I was completely thrown off by the tone/rapidity with which she asked them. And I'm aware that the Japanese tend to view Americans as arrogant, know-it-all bastards, so even when I did answer the questions "correctly" I found myself backpedaling and saying things like, "But I'm no expert on the subject" or "But I'm not a politician; I don't have all of the answers" to try to preserve a certain humility and get the woman off my back. I don't think I did very well in any respect, though.

    Dave/Mickey: And even though I wouldn't be working with those people, your point may stand given that a good chunk of the interview involved them telling me just how much Japanese people dislike black people. I mean, they're generally distrustful of foreigners anyway, but are (typically) even less accepting of dark-skinned foreigners. I'm pretty sure I could handle it, but hearing them go on about this didn't make the interview any easier or make me any more comfortable. In fact, if I get the job, I'll be convinced that it in large part has to do with the color of my skin (assuming that the applicants to the program this year aren't terribly diverse). There was one point where I responded to their comments about this by saying, "That's why it's so important that Japanese interact with black people who are not, ah, thieves... so that maybe, someday, hopefully... those stereotypes can be overcome." I don't think I sounded all that confident and convincing when I said it, but I think all parties recognized the validity of the point.

    Given how poorly the bulk of the interview went, though, I still remain doubtful.

    Sarah: Well, you're doing pretty well now -- what with the fun teaching job and the world travels and whatnot! -- so I guess things have worked out fairly well for you since then. And the story about the glasses is definitely pretty impressive -- given how crowded and busy NYC can be, I'm surprised anyone even noticed the falling glasses!

  • the Jax says:

    What a bizarre experience. What was the interviewer looking for? Someone who would get in a shouting match with her? Guess what, all Americans are uninformed, but at least we can speak English!
    It could have been worse. You could have been beheaded by a samurai.

  • Wes says:

    Jax: I'm not sure what they were looking for, but it felt like the interviewer's approach was to draw blood and then go relentlessly on the attack with Killer Instinct-style ultra combo questions. I mean, considering how Americans are apparently perceived in Japan, it's entirely possible that turtling during the interview was more helpful than not. Then again, it's entirely possible for one to be confident and not arrogant (potential cultural interpretations notwithstanding), so I'm assuming that's what they were looking for. I don't know, but we'll find out the results of that brutal interview in a little over a month.

    And I don't know -- if I'd been beheaded by a samurai, at least maybe I could've been resurrected and hooked up with a cute goth girl with a thing for dead guys. Hey, it happened in Livelihood!

  • De says:

    I'm told there a few agencies that handle staffing English teachers for Japanese schools. No doubt you'll land a spot eventually.

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