Saturday, October 30, 2010

Halloween 2010

If this isn't exactly how my Halloween goes I'm going to be very disappointed.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Dog Incident

My job search has been going on for a long time and has resulted in many interesting and horrible experiences. More than seems fair, really. Here is a story about one of them.

Earlier this year I had an interview at a Public Relations Boutique in Seattle. It was one of my first interviews after graduating from collage and I was super excited. The job description I'd read online made it seem like a cool, hip place to work, full of interesting young people who probably went to coffee shops and listened to alternative music while wearing skinny jeans. The job description even said they bring their dogs to work! How laid back was that? And they must have a sense of humor, because the header for the job description read "Must Love Dogs!" I was sure I'd fit right in, since I wear skinny jeans and drink coffee and am awesome. Everyone would love me and I'd make a bunch of new best friends.

I got there (Pioneer Square) very early and decided to compound my extreme nervous excitement with some coffee from a nearby Starbucks.

That was my first mistake.

I finished my unnecessary coffee and, twitching with nerves and caffeine, entered the building and told reception that I was there for an interview. The receptionist told me it would be a few minutes and asked me to take a seat. I sat on one of the couches and fidgeted while I looked around. This PR boutique seemed so cool. They had trendy art on the walls, and slouchy couches, and everyone was drinking coffee and the receptionist had cool artsy glasses and there were dogs in the office! Dogs!!

I should explain that I don't particularly care for dogs. I am a cat person. But the idea of pets in the workplace? such a very cool concept to my young, inexperienced mind.

Eventually a young woman came over to lead me to her office and begin the interview.

I barred my teeth at my interviewer in a strange, caffeine filled grimace and gave her my full attention as she told me more about the position I had applied for. I decided that the best way to show I was paying attention would be to maintain eye-contact. And that is why I sat there, for about ten minutes, trying desperately not to blink, all while maintaining my insane grimace (because you should always smile in an interview). I was concentrating so hard on smiling and keeping up eye-contact that I didn't hear a word she said about the job. When she stopped talking and asked me if I had any questions about the position, I was stumped. My smile absolutely dripped off my face and my empty, unblinking eyes widened.

"N..No. No questions," I stuttered and, realizing my smile had slipped, immediately barred my teeth again.

And so the interview continued. She went on to ask about my study-abroad experiences, my communications classes and my previous work experience. We reminisced about the University of Washington (since we had both graduated from there,) and I thought the interview was going really well.

Then she asked about dogs.

"As you can see, we have a few dogs in the office. People bring them to work. Are you allergic to dogs?" She asked.

"No," I said. "I love dogs." Which was a lie, but I had decided that I could tolerate dogs in exchange for a job.

"Do you have a dog?" She asked me.

You must understand; I was desperate for these people to like me, so my first instinct when she asked if I had a dog was to lie and say I did. My imaginary dog's entire life history was on the tip of my tongue, name and breed included, but I knew how dangerous that could get, having become tangled in my own web of lies before. So I said no, I had cats, and insisted that she look at pictures of them because that's what I do whenever anyone shows even slight interest in my pets. She didn't seem overly impressed with Kiki and Archie, so I decided to move the conversation back to dogs.

"Do you have a dog?" I asked, staring unblinkingly at her.

She replied that she did not.

"Well, if you did have a dog, what breed would you want it to be?" I asked. I was desperate to stay on the subject of dogs, having somehow gotten it into my head that if I pretended to really like dogs, they would hire me on the spot.

"Um...I don't know. I've never thought about it, I guess," she said, shifting uncomfortably in her chair. I'm pretty sure she thought I was autistic or something, with my wide crazy eyes and weird smile and my inexplicable fascination with dogs.

"If I ever got a dog," I continued, "I'd get a Beagle. I think they're cute. Snoopy was a Beagle." There was a brief silence during which I smiled widely at her, proud to have demonstrated my dog-related knowledge.

She moved the conversation back to work related things and we talked for a little longer. Then finally, the interview was over. I stood up shakily, the caffeine rush having worn off mid-way through the meeting, and held out my clammy, slightly trembling hand for her to shake.

As we were walking out of her office, I was overcome with doubt. Had I convinced her of my awesomeness? Did she know how perfect and amazing I was? I decided I needed to do something drastic to establish myself in her mind as the perfect candidate for the job.

The first thing that came to mind, of course, was dogs.

"I think I saw a dog on my way here," I said, coming to a halt right outside her office door. She stared at me uncomprehendingly, so I clarified. "In the office. Is there a dog here?"

"Yes," she said, frowning and looking down the hall towards the exit, probably hoping I'd start walking again.

"Can I pet it?" I asked hopefully.

I don't know why I thought this question would help me get the job.

She looked confused. "You want to pet the dog? It's in another office. I guess I can go get it..?" She paused, clearly waiting for me to withdraw my request.

I just looked at her vacantly, unblinking. I tried to appear hopeful, but probably just managed to look desperate. I could feel the interview spiraling out of control but had no idea what to do to fix it. I was committed.

"Okay...just...stay here a minute." She left and returned shortly with a Golden Retriever. He sniffed the hand I offered but, as is usual for dogs when meeting me, seemed uninterested. I gave him a few perfunctory pats on the head and looked up with a smile. "Thank you," I said, "it was lovely to meet you. Thanks for your time." I was speaking to her, but she could very well have thought I was addressing the dog after my bizarre insistence upon meeting it. I shook her hand again, the one not holding the leash, and walked out of the office.

I did not get the job. In hindsight, I am not surprised.

Thus ends the Dog Incident of 2010.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


Still looking for a job. Starting to think that my policy of not taking jobs when they're offered to me is somehow faulty. Requires further reflection.

On a job-searching note, I sent in some writing samples for a possible blogging job with the company Maureen works for. I'm not feeling good about it though, because everyone at the company has been really hard to get a hold of--not 'playing hard to get' a hold of, more like 'we're not interested in you so we're just not gonna call you back' a hold of. And Maureen's been avoiding my emails. She was present at my interview (which occurred in a bar), and her radio silence has made me wonder if I did something ridiculously inappropriate without realizing it.

It seems like the sort of thing I'd do, especially when you consider my past interview experiences (See The Dog Incident).

Thursday, October 7, 2010


Alaska Structures called back and offered me a job!

I start on Monday.

Not really. They did call to offer me a job, but I totally blew them off because they're crazy jerks. It was very satisfying. I hope I find another job.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Interviewing is Hard

I've had a few crazy interviews in the past couple days. Both were at Alaska Structures, a company in Kirkland that makes tents, mostly for the military. I was super excited to get a call to come in and interview at this place, especially since I'd applied only the day before. If only I'd known...

The first interview (on Wednesday) was a group interview with three other interviewees and four interviewers, though two of them never asked a single question and i suspect they were just on facebook the whole time. I believe they had so many people interviewing us as an intimidation tactic; this suspicion was reinforced in my second interview when it was just me versus eight interviewers, five of whom were superfluous, as they never uttered a word.

So back to the first interview, which started an hour and a half late. These people were so weird. An example: they did not introduce themselves. And no, I didn't zone out and miss the introductions, they made a point of not telling us their names or positions in the company. (Another intimidation tactic). Being a Sherlock Holmes fan, I deduced that the bald guy who talked a lot was the CEO of the company, name of Richard, and the only other guy who spoke during the interview process was the head administrative guy and his name was Matt. But they certainly didn't want us to know that.

Also, they were consistently off topic and reluctant to give any information about the company or the position I was applying for (receptionist). In addition, I suspect Richard has a crush on Bill Gates. He told us Gates' entire life story and was adamant about comparing himself to Gates, insisting that their management styles were similar. The CEO also bragged about having been homeless in the past and about having an IQ of 78 (that little factoid was acquired when the woman sitting next to me answered "intelligence" in response to the question, "What is the main quality you look for in an employer?" It was extremely awkward).

I should have known after the weirdness of the first interview that this was not the position for me, but they called back the next day to set up an interview and I said yes. I was just happy to be interviewing, I suppose, so I didn't think about whether or not I wanted to work there, only whether or not they wanted to hire me.

The second interview was scheduled to begin at seven am and started half an hour late. There were eight interviewers this time, though only 3 of them talked to me. That interview was mostly normal. They asked questions about my previous experience, education, etc. Then I asked about what sort of work the position entailed. The answer I got was surprising. "Answering phones, filing, making travel arrangements, regular office work. Though sometimes we might ask you to preform especially difficult tasks..." Here is an example, given to me by the CEO. Once upon a time, he wanted 100 goats delivered to a mountain village in the Middle East. He gave this task to three administrative assistants. Two of them quit, I guess one of them managed to get the goats. They had a cardboard cut-out of a guy with a goat in the office, which they used as proof. While I suppose I could accomplish tasks similar to this...I don't think I want to deal with that in a regular work day.

After this eight to one interview, they gave me some practical tasks to complete. First, they wanted me to find plane tickets from Seattle to Rome, with a stop in London, all for under $1200. Easily done, though I was on a Mac computer which I'm not at all used to and had to use the touch pad instead of a mouse, which I dislike. People kept coming over and bugging me while I compared prices and routes, one of them actually played annoying Christmas music loudly at my desk while I worked.

After I presented Matt with my findings, he gave me a packet of information to study. It was a big packet, maybe 15 pages, with instructions on how to answer the phone in various situations. There were different actions to be taken for all possible callers, and you were not supposed to transfer any calls, just write an involved message and walk it over to the appropriate desk. After I studied the packet for awhile, I was given a written test, which was itself about ten pages.

It was getting on in the day and I had other places to be, so I asked Matt how much longer the process might take and he gave me a vague response, saying there was a trial phone call and a letter to be written yet. As I had some time left before my next appointment, (working for actual money for people who respect me), I acquiesced and settled in for the oral exam, i.e. the trial phone call. Ugh. So a guy claiming his name is Boris Karloff calls and wants to buy a tent. Obviously a fake call. So it's a test, I get that and I play along. But this guy is just awful. He won't give me any of the information that the Alaska Structures Guide to Answering Phone Calls says I need to get. All Boris does is repeat, in an atrocious fake accent, that he needs to speak with a sales person, because he needs to buy a tent. And no, he doesn't have a contact number, because no one calls him because he hates people and lives with bears. He suggests that I tie a letter to the leg of a bear as a possible way to reach him. He also questions what my mother would think of how I was handling this phone call. He called me crazy several times and while I would have been well within my rights to respond in kind, I held back and endured the farce with equanimity. And the whole time the CEO was standing over my shoulder offering ridiculous advice and pretending the whole thing was a real call.

After the call I had to write a letter about how I thought the interview process was going and my concerns about my future with the company and lastly, my interest level in a position at Alaska Structures (which was zero at this point). I am an accomplished fiction writer and managed to get something down that wasn't just "OMG let me out of here you psychos," and then endured a brief wrap up chat with Matt and Richard where it was my turn to give them vague substances-less answers to their questions.

And then I was free to go, with advice to call if I was still interested in the position. I am not. Looking back I'll admit the whole process was kind of hilarious and I've had fun telling people about the craziness, but in the car on the way home I was so upset by how disrespectful the whole thing was that I cried. I just felt really offended. I might be young and not have that much experience in the working world, (though I have been working since I was 17, so six years), but I am a grown-up and I have two degrees and I deserve to be treated with respect.

Some other good Alaska Structures interview stories can be found here. Some are worse than mine, which is hilarious.