The Job Interview

June 13, 2008

On Tuesday night, six people interviewed me for a job. The office dog also participated, though after she sniffed me vigorously, she went to sleep on a table and caused no problems. I am not a dog person, and aside from describing her as small and black and not a Chihuahua, I can provide no further information on the breed. In any case, the interview was not held at the work location, so I would not be dealing with the dog on a daily basis.The interview location was near the courthouse and the jail, so I missed the big fire on Monday night. The jail caught fire. Not, apparently from prisoner mischief or protest, but from greasy rags in a dryer. The fire generated huge amounts of smoke and was difficult to locate and, so all the prisoners had to be evacuated, which I presume was a lot of fun. No one was injured and no one escaped. I am glad I escaped the experience.
I liked the people who interviewed me, and I think their department is a good one, as far as I can tell. At one point, I said, “I studied your web site and searched the Internet looking for a sign of a big problem or flaw in your program. I didn’t find it. I did this for two reasons: 1) I might find something that I could solve and be a hero you should hire or 2) I might see a sign that I should stay as far away from you as I can. Come on, tell me, what is the problem on the way to Solla Sollew?”

Somewhat to my surprise, just about everyone in the room was a big Dr. Suess fan, and picked up on my reference to my favorite Dr. Seuss book.

I think I presented myself reasonably well. Unfortunately, it’s pretty clear to me (and I suspect to them) that the job would be a bit of a reach for me.

At one point, I said, “I don’t like it when someone gives me the “hard sell” treatment when they are trying to get me to buy something, so I won’t use a hard sell to sell myself.” At another point, the person who would be my assistant described a difficult problem I would have to deal with and asked me how I would handle it. I said, “This is a difficult problem. I won’t tell you I have a magic solution that will solve it with a snap of my fingers.”

Many years ago I was part of a group sales presentation from a small start-up company. They were trying to pick up a contract to provide some services to Intel Corporation. At one point, the Intel team presented a problem and asked us if we could handle it for them. The president of our company, who was bright and clever but a major jerk, said “Sure, we can do that.”

I later learned (from a fellow employee who later went to work for Intel) that the question had been a “set up.” They knew the problem was insoluble with the technology of the time. When my employer offered to solve it, they knew he was a lying fool and immediately made up their mind (correctly) not to hire us. Intel is a very smart company and plays very hard ball. (In a different context they suckered me once when my wife and I owned our own small business.)

However, in terms of my interview, I don’t know if I gained any points by giving them a realistic answer in regard to their difficult problem. Though when they mentioned another difficult problem, I had encountered that problem in my job and solved it a few weeks ago, so I did have a good answer.

The job is underpaid and under-supported. It’s a full time position (good), but they want someone who will work 1.5 of a job. As I spend four or five hours commuting in my car now; essentially wasted time, I suppose I could figure that’s time I could donate to their needs, but I don’t have a positive feeling about that idea. This job also involves a lot of driving and travel as well, though probably not quite as bad and expensive as my current one. They said the pay scale might be re-defined in six months, but they made no promises and the times being what they are, I am not optimistic about that prospect.

More troubling to me is that the job doesn’t play to my strengths. It’s basically administrative work; not a type of task I’ve ever liked or been especially good at. It would be a good job for a younger person at a point in their career where they don’t have many financial or personal obligations and are willing to live their job for a while because it will look good on their resume and they can use the opportunity to do a lot of good as well. I’ve worked under a couple such people in a previous job. (One of those younger supervisors later was hired by Intel as a matter of strange coincidence.)

If they offer me the job I will accept it, but it’s clear to me that such an offer on their part would be a sign they are desperate and when I accept, it would be a sign that I am desperate.

We live in desperate times.




9 Responses to “The Job Interview”

  1. catfishaway Says:

    You could be right about all the mutual desperation.


    There is the Seuss thing. It could just be that they think you would ‘fit in’ …. not a bad thing in my book.

  2. abarclay12 Says:

    I wonder if they’ll consult with the dog to make their final hiring decision.

  3. modestypress Says:

    I wonder that also, abarclay. The dog, whose name is Olivia, may secretly be “Olivia the wonder dog of human (or canine) resources” who can determine an employment candidate’s character and competence with a few sniffs. All the other questions were for show and protocol.

    I can imagine that a few minutes after I left the conference room, Olivia, raised her head, barked once for “Yes” or twice for “No,” ate a snack, received a few strokes and a few “Good Dog!” and went back to sleep. Probably she’s cousin to one of the dogs who sniff the cars waiting for the ferry for bombs.

    By the way, last weekend as Mrs. Random and I were returning to the island after our visit to the Barely Extended Family, the state patrol bomb sniffing dog assigned to our parking lot of cars was a cocker spaniel. I don’t know why a cocker spaniel police dog charmed me so utterly, but it certainly did.

  4. David Says:


    Even in desperate times, there’s a right and a wrong thing to do. Sounds like this would be right on a gut level, even if it’s not ideal. It sounds a lot less not-ideal than the unideal situation you’re currently in.

  5. renaissanceguy Says:

    Very interesting. I would certainly hire you for almost any position. I mean it.

  6. pandemonic Says:

    Wow. Some bloggers have office Martins, and some have office dogs. I have nothing in my office. I used to have turtles in a tank, but they died.

    Oh, and I’d hire you too.

  7. I love your little tidbit about Solla Sollew. One of my favorite books and one of his best. I would hire you if you had said something like that. Anyone who likes Dr Seuss is great, IMO.

  8. vroni1208 Says:

    Amen, brother! Amen! Yes, we are in desperate times. If the pay MIGHT be adjusted in 6 months, well, what would happen if you retire? That is to say how much will that really benefit you if you won’t be there long for it? Or would you consider staying on after the big 6-5 mark? So many questions…

  9. spectrum2 Says:

    I bet interviewing you is fun. A cocker spaniel police dog would have won my heart as well.

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