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.


  1. Megan, that is nuts! I am glad you don't have to work for a shitty company like that. I hope they go out of business.

    I think you will find a really awesome job and be happy and stuff. I think I will come home.

  2. Megan Camile! That job sounds perfect for you! I mean, really, I read that other site, and you know what I came away with:

    a) Office is cool if you pull pranks on others - how could this backfire?!
    b) You are allowed to work 80+ hours a week - Um Hello!? That is so cool, because you know when i get home from work, (lol) all I think about is working some more!
    c) people put you in your place: Come on! I love when people are cruelly honest about what i am hired to do and refuse to help me do my job better/easier and constantly try to degrade me.

    Really Megan, you are missing out big time.