"Do you consider yourself a team player?"By
I just walked out in the middle of a job interview; the weirdest job interview of my life. It all started on Sunday. It turns out the country is out of jobs. As everyone keeps reminding me, Ireland’s economy is in the worst recession anyone can remember. Job postings go up and tiny little restaurants get hundreds of applications. My theory is that people don’t want to waste their time interviewing the odd American transplant when there are countless people with more bar experience from within the country. That’s why on Sunday I decided to stop trying with those places. Look at my résumé, I’ve worked at some pretty respected organizations for print journalism, broadcast news and advertising. It’s high time I start marketing myself as a skilled potential employee, not a dishwasher.
That’s what brought me to Google on Sunday. I typed in “video editing in Ireland,” “ad agencies Galway,” “journalism jobs Ireland,” “marketing jobs Galway.” That last search brought me to a decidedly lo-fi jobs website that had a job posting for a company looking for specialists in marketing, customer service and sales. I didn’t think much of it. I just submitted my standard cover letter and a CV and forgot about it. Less than 12 hours later I received a call. “Hi, John, this is Jenny calling from Diamond Ventures (not their real name). We received your CV from the web and would like to invite you for a job interview. Are you available tomorrow?” I scrambled to remember what the hell Diamond Ventures was, then just spat out a “sure thing!” I hopped on trusty old Google and found buzzwords about Diamond Ventures. We work with our clients to penetrate the market and achieve real results! …that sort of business. It seemed I would have to go into this interview with absolutely no idea of what the company did.
The next morning. I found myself in a small room with cheap chairs set up all around. It was filled with an odd mix of people — a Brazilian dude who needed the receptionist to define what “past employment” meant on the form he was filling out and a 16-year-old kid in a shirt and tie far too big for him. After I had filled out a form, the manager, a guy who looked my age if not younger, called me into his office.
You know how in the movies there are those front companies with the fake office to cover what’s really going on in the warehouse? That’s what it seemed like I was in. The room had white walls, a cheap desk, a chair on each side of the desk and nothing else. The big office was so empty our voices were bouncing off the walls as we talked to each other. He asked me the sort of questions that come straight off a script.
“Where do you see yourself in five years? Are you a goal-oriented person? Do you consider yourself a team player?”
(What do they honestly expect us to answer on that last question? Does anyone just say “No,”?)
At one point I started asking him about the company and he started repeated the same buzz lines I saw on the web. Then he invited me back to a second interview the next day where “all my questions would be answered.” This was, as he explained, just a screening interview. So I showed up today for my interview and was introduced to a short Tunisian and a tall, gorgeous Lithuanian woman wearing a business suit. These two would be my training managers. Training? I didn’t realize I was hired. The gorgeous Lithuanian told me to grab my stuff and we went outside. Forty-five minutes into her explanation of the concept of direct marketing. It finally began to dawn on me: I had been interviewing to be a door-to-door salesman.
I was ready to walk out at this point but stuck around because, well, I knew it would make a good story for the ol’ blog. She and the Tunisian led me to the post office (she needed to mail some postcards) and the bank (she needed to make a deposit) then we went for a walk. A TWO MILE WALK. All along the way she’s quoting some script she’s memorized: “All of our managers started off doing what we’re doing now;” “The last manager just retired at only 33 years old!” etc. Then we started walking into every storefront we passed.
“Hello,” she would say in her thick Lithuanian accent, “Have you any women working now?” The confused bar owner or hotel manager or catering supply store supervisor would respond “Em, yes?” then she’d launch into her pitch to sell makeup. Invariably, she’d be cut off with a “Not interested,” then we would move to the next office to stage another awkward, unsolicited sales call. Around the time she lead us to a group of gruff-looking auto mechanics to sell makeup was when I decided I’d had enough. I thanked her for her time, but explained that this wasn’t what I had in mind; I thought I would be working in customer service or marketing. I left her and the Tunisian to stop by the next industrial storefront without me.
The economy is awful here in Ireland. I’m looking at opportunities across the country, but in times like these I can’t afford to say no to anyone who wants to interview me.
…But a guy’s got limits. Selling makeup door-to-door at a 20% commission – that’s just not my bag — of makeup.