3/8/13

Well, Uh, What? . . .

I've been having a LOT of chats lately. I use "chats" on purpose . . . some of them are formal interviews, some informal interviews, some "networking" interviews, and some are just straight up chats. I have no real preference what the model/label is.

I'll over-hydrate, trim my ear and nose hear and put on my navy blue hopsack blazer and a set of penny loafers for just about anything these days. As long as the direction is positive.

And GENERALLY, they have been. Generally. I've put off making this post live though because - in the recent past (being directly vague here to protect those involved) I had a real doooooozy (that is the correct spelling, by the way) of a chat. (In my best En Vogue voice) . . . Like to hear it? Here it go?

I show up at the agreed time. I am ready to go. Fresh breath, full Windsor knot, print out of my resume on card stock, full research on the person, position, and company done. I'm ret-tah-go! But they are not. So I wait. And I wait. In that sort of uncomfortable way where even the receptionist keeps looking at me with that "Damn, this person must not respect your time." way. But I smiled back in that "No big deal, really. I'm not even mentally recounting all the things I w/c/should be doing versus thumbing through your old trade magazines right now." After about 42 minutes (but who's watching the clock) I pulled out my cell phone and fired up the data plan. And 30 seconds later the person walks out to the lobby and says "Well, if you could pry yourself away from your phone . . . I'm ready to give you my full attention." WHAT?!

So I put the phone away, apologize, and make a joke about keeping up with all the latest emoticon trends. We walk back to their office - past a vast cubicle farm of unhappy looking people and weird "approach mirrors" so no one can "sneak up" on them (NOTHING says strong corporate culture like whisper-quiet cubicles and mirrors for employees who fear being watched).

We get back to the office and I'm offered my choice of chair filled with random crap or chair with coat and bag draped on/over it and told "Just throw that stuff on the floor." I opted for the bag/coat chair and, instead, hung the coat over the back of the chair and put the bag, gingerly, at the foot of the chair. The interviewer sat down and immediately made a phone call . . . complete with the "one second" finger gesture - one belied when they put their cordless head set on and leaned back in their chair, fingers locked behind their head. Four minutes later they said they "Had to go. I've got someone here in my office looking awfully impatient." WHAT?! I have spent this time subtly looking around (my head never swiveled on my neck/shoulders). Pictures of a family that seems oddly photoshopped on their desk and curio. Company calendar on the wall. Some random golf trophies on the bookshelves that are oddly vacant save a few managerial books and some random company coffee mugs that somehow look both stored and on display on the shelves. The air is  thick with Curve (JOOP?). The music of Sade, super low but somehow still audible, plays from under their desk. A visibly dusty bowl of M&Ms sits on the corner of the desk.

So we started to chat . . . well, they said "Tell me about yourself." and then proceeded to fire up their e-mail (I could see the reflection in their window - like the reverse approach mirror it is). Remember that scene in Wayne's World where they go on the radio show? Yeah. It was that sort of a discussion (without the blatant toying with the listener). And it didn't last much longer. ONE more question is asked, inbox scrolling continues.

"Sean. This is all great stuff. I've gotta' say, I'm impressed with your resume, with your approach, your attitude, skills, network, and you would be a real asset to this organization." and you know what's coming next . . . yes you do . . . sure you do . . . ready? . . . "BUT I just don't know that you are right for us. I would love to talk more about it but I'm already late for my next appointment and I hate to keep people waiting." WHAT?!

"I see," I lied. "I guess I don't understand . . . I sent you my resume and we had some great e-mail discussion and it seemed like you did want to talk about me for your position. You even just said that I have a lot of things you need and that I'd be an asset. So why, if I might ask - and I'll happily sign something to go off the record if you're worried about me suing you or something crazy like that (insert hearty laughter here to show that I'm being playful) - why I'm what you need but I'm not right for you. I may come off as desperate here but I'm unemployed and need the feedback as much as the validation."

"Well . . . huh (they actually said 'HUH') . . . I guess I didn't realize this was such a big deal to you or I'd have probably asked tougher questions and been more direct with you over e-mail." WHAT?!

"Which tough questions would you have asked? And of course this is important to me. I see real opportunity in this position and was excited to talk about it and see if we could do some great work together. I really don't know understand the disconnect. I've done nothing more in this room than told you about myself and answered one question you had about digital billboards. How did I lose your attention or interest in that context?" (I PROMISE you I was being very polite and professional.)

"It's just not going to happen, Sean. I can see you're getting defensive and clearly a little graspy so - before this gets any more awkward for me - let me get you outta' here and back to your day. But feel free to grab one of those coffee mugs off my bookshelf there. A souvenir of what might have been, right (awkward guffaw)?! Hell. Take two. You can always sell one later when you run out of unemployment. Get some of that powdered soup you just add water to with the money. Drink it from the first mug, right?" (I shit you not - the preceding is 99.9% verbatim.)

I stood up. Closed my leather-like padfolio. Put my pen in my breast pocket. Reached out my hand. Gave a confident shake to the person. Wished them the very best. Thanked them for the time and apologized for any disconnect that got us to the point we were. Reached over. Took ONE coffee mug (I have my pride, people.) put their bag back in their chair and followed the interviewer back to the front desk. I wished the receptionist a pleasant day, shook hands one last time (trust me - one LAST time) with the interviewer and walked out to, as they put it, get back to my day.

Please. Someone. Hire me. Get me back to work. Before I have to sell this coffee mug.