I don’t know about you, but one thing I seldom enjoyed during my working years were job interviews. From my first job interview in March 1966 until my retirement in January 2014 I sat through scores of job interviews; on both sides of the desk.
Many of those interviews have faded from my memory. A few, however, will never be forgotten.
Early in my career I responded to a “help wanted” ad for a public relations position. I was called and an appointment set up. I drove three hours on a Saturday morning to get there and upon arriving was ushered into a large room where men and women were singing and shouting cheers for their employer. With the fervor of an Alabama revival meeting people bragged about how much money they had made the previous week.
Turns out this was a weekly sales meeting for itinerant life insurance sales agents. A cursory interview was held at the end of the meeting but I had already “noped” out of that situation.
A few years later I interviewed for a marketing position. The job sounded challenging and the interview went well. A week later the interviewer called and offered me the job… at a ridiculously low salary. When I told the man I could not afford to move my family for that amount of money he replied, “Your choice. If you don’t want the job I have a woman willing to work for that money.” And at the tender age of 20-something I became aware of the appalling reality of unequal wages based solely on gender.
Sitting on the other side of the desk in job interviews can be a lesson in humanity.
While serving as a newspaper advertising director we had an opening for an inside sales position. A young woman had applied for a sales job a couple of times before but I had not hired her because she seemed far too timid.
At the end of this interview I asked, “Why should I offer you this position?”
The very petite young applicant sat up straight and with fire in her eyes said, “Because if you give me a chance I will work my butt off for you.”
I was surprised by her assertiveness and realized I may have underestimated her. I offered her the position and she did an awesome job. Several months later she won a major departmental sales contest.
Unfortunately, not all interviews work out so well. We had an opening on the sales staff and one of the resumes came from a middle-aged man with years of experience. He had worked in advertising for a large company in Chicago and though he appeared to be over-qualified I felt it would be wise to interview him.
He came to the interview impeccably dressed and he seemed self-confident. Early on I noticed he sniffed every few seconds. He may have had a head cold or a nervous habit but it could also have resulted from a cocaine-snorting problem. As the interview progressed he became fidgety. That all was a red flag, of course, but nothing like his response to my question: “What prompted you to move back to Iowa?”
“Because I wanted to get away from all the n------,” he answered coldly.
That interview was going downhill already but it ended at that moment.
At another newspaper I was interviewing candidates for an advertising sales position and the applicant was an attractive and personable young woman. Her resume indicated that a recent job was operating a bulldozer for an earth moving company.
While discussing the uncommon situation of a young woman operating large equipment I learned she was the only female on the job so I asked if she was ever harassed by her male co-workers.
She grinned and said, “They only mess with me once.”
The young woman had moxie; I offered her the job on the spot. She was an excellent salesperson.
It is difficult to forget the interview where the applicant, out of the blue, told me the parents of a person already on our staff were members of a swingers’ club in her town. TMI — too much information.
Over 48 years of employment I met hundreds of folks and although job interviews were seldom fun they are where I met some of the most interesting people.
(Arvid Huisman can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. ©2021 by Huisman Communications.)