Wednesday, August 02, 2006

My Top Five Bad Interviews So Far

Company A

Company A has been interviewing me now for more than ten years, and I have yet to hear a definitive answer yes or no. In the latest series of interviews, I was sent to "psychometric" testing.

Some Israeli companies are big on these tests. They pay $1000 or so to the psychometric institutions so that you can go in for a half day or full day of voodoo testing. They will analyze your handwriting, examine the type of tree or family that you draw, ask you personal questions and tilt their head as they listen to you, and observe you try to solve puzzles together in a big group. There may also be some technical testing relevant to your field, and some general intelligence testing.

Because they pay so much for these tests, the companies and the institute won't reveal the results to you, and they may refuse to hire you without telling you why. The next company who wants to hire you and is dumb enough to think this is important has to then pay for all this testing all over again.

For Company A, I was one of five people who survived the first half a day of testing, and graduated on to their secondary testing. We five candidates sat around a table while two representatives from Company A and two representatives from the institute asked us questions around the table.

They started with some guy, then some non-religious unmarried woman, and then the married religious woman. I was to be last.

After asking the guy and the non-religious unmarried woman your typical questions, they asked the religious woman some typical questions and then dropped this one: "What makes you think you can commit to this work when you have a husband? What if he decides to move somewhere else, or you decide to leave work to take care of your baby?"

I slammed my hand on the table and said, "You can't ask that!" And four heads (eight heads actually) swung around to look at me. "No, it's ok, we are allowed to ask that." "No you can't," I continued, "you picked out the one religious woman and the questions you are asking are sexist and illegal." We argued for some time. I'm not sure if they are illegal in Israel, actually; they are illegal in the U.S. But if they aren't they should be.

I found out later that she was a cousin of a cousin of mine, and I saw her again a few months later at a bat-mitzvah. Naturally, I didn't get a job offer, and the religious woman did. And naturally, she declined to accept the position because her husband wanted to move and she wanted to devote her time with her baby.

Company B

For this one, it hinges around a single question.

I was asked to join the development team for product W. I sat and listened to the CEO of the company describe the product to me, and it sounded ok, but familiar.

"Well, that sounds interesting," I said, "but how is your product different from product X by company Y?"

"Excuse me?" said the CEO

"... product X?"

"I never heard of it."

"Oh. Uh, try"

And that was the end of that. Amazingly enough, the company never took off with that product. And amazingly enough, the same thing happened again at another company a few years later.

Company C

At this job interview, the guy interviewing me went on and on as follows: "And you will be expected to work long hours, beyond regular hours, whenever necessary."

"Uh, ok, that's ..."

"And maybe weekends. And you'll have to be on call."

"Fine, I sup..."

"And no one will thank you for it. It's part of your job description. No one will even mention it. They will only mention it if you screw up. Nobody will give you any special rewards for doing your job like you're supposed to. You'll get no special compensation for it."

"I don't want this job."

"And ... excuse me?"

"I said, thank you for your time, but I'm not interested. Why would I want to a work at a place that does not reward me for my service?"

"Well, there are benefits ..."

"Such as?"

"Good salary?"

"How much?"

"[some middle amount]."

"Not enough. In fact, no amount is enough to work somewhere where you get no acknowledgement for doing your job well and can only expect complaints. I'm not interested. Thank you."

"Oh. OK. Thank you."

Company D

A similar incident. This one wanted me to be the sole system administrator for sixty Unix workstations. Every user used whatever flavor of Unix they wanted, and every user had root privileges to their station, changed things whenever they wanted to, and installed or deleted whatever they wanted to. I would have to keep them all operating and networked, and fix them whenever they broke. And in my free time, I would have to learn how to run the network for two hundred PCs.

I said, "No thanks." I recognize a doomed situation when I see it.

Company E

This is the one where the interviewer looked left and right and then whispered to me that he thought the company was mismanaged and about to go bankrupt from incompetence.



Dominic said...

The last interview was my favorite! :-)

Yehuda said...

I suspect that this was not a unique experience; I'm sure others have faced the same.