The Similarities Between a Tech Company Interview and Waterboarding

A few months ago I was called into a well known tech company to interview for the manager of events position. I haven’t had many interviews over the past 17 years, so I viewed this as good practice. The job was also very interesting and I was excited to meet with people at such an innovative company.

Let me give you a little background…Before the lay off, I worked as the SVP of Special Events for an entertainment company, so my experience in planning and producing high profile events is extensive. I started at that company as a temporary worker and became head of the department in six years and promoted to SVP in eight. I am a logistics person who can move 2,000 people from point A to point B, feed them, booze them up and get them home without batting an eyelash. It’s fun and I love it.

I was called by the in-house tech recruiter who scheduled an interview and also emailed me several documents that needed to be filled out before the meeting. One document asked for an Executive Summary to be written. This was not to be a mirror of my resume, but needed to highlight eight to ten top accomplishments from my career. I wrote eleven. She asked me to fill out the online application and other confidentiality agreements. The application asked for my college GPA. Now I can’t remember what I ate for dinner last night and they wanted to know my GPA from 25 years ago? It did read that if you’d been in the work force for more than 10 years you didn’t have to provide this tidbit, however, you couldn’t move onto the next section if it wasn’t filled out. I gave myself a B average.

The interview was on a Thursday at 10:30AM and I would meet with five people for 30 minutes each and leave by 2PM. Lunch was included. The recruiter met me first and then gave me a tour around the facility — super cool and yes, very high tech. After the tour, she brought me to a small conference room which I believe was set at a bone chilling 26 degrees Fahrenheit.

The first meeting was with the current event manager via phone. Good cop. This was followed by the angry short man who made my brain hurt. Bad cop. During that interview, he asked me what year I graduated from college. For a split second I thought ‘he can’t ask that, it’s illegal.’ California is a state which protects people over 40 from age discrimination and asking the year you graduated is a roundabout way for asking your age. I told him my graduation year thinking that it wouldn’t bode well for me to correct the guy during an interview. His reasoning to ask was he felt that the jobs you have right out of college help form the employee you are today. Really? So that summer I spent scanning barcodes at a newspaper until 2AM helped me become the person I am now? Doubtful.

Then came the the nice woman with a flat personality, who bought me lunch. We picked up our food in the cafeteria and brought it back to the Polar Vortex. As soon as I started eating, my entree was iced cold. I didn’t quite finish when the next interviewer arrived. At this point I started feeling extreme fatigue and a bit feverish. Then the first interviewer, who I spoke with over the phone, stopped in to meet me in person and we talked for another 30 minutes. TAKE THE FORK OUT, I WAS DONE!

I left in a daze and slightly hypothermic. It’s hard to review and process how you think you performed in an interview under these conditions. Was I mumbling answers under bright energy-efficient fluorescent lighting? Will I ever regain circulation in my feet? Was food stuck in my teeth during the last 3 meetings? Did I look like I was shivering? My head was spinning as crazy thoughts bounced around my skull.

I woke up the next morning with aches, chills and laryngitis. I was sick for the next ten days. The recruiter called me the following week to schedule a 30 minute phone interview with an executive in another state. At least I wouldn’t have to go back to the North Pole. That call turned into 60 minutes by the time it had finished. Another week went by and I was asked to come back for two more interviews. I was over the sinus infection but was very happy when the recruiter brought me to a warm office for these meetings. Though I had packed an extra sweater and hand warmers just in case.

Including two people I had met with more than once, I had interviewed nine times at this juncture. 9 TIMES! The recruiter called me again. She asked me to come back for yet another interview. And she wanted me to REVISE my Executive Summary honing it down to the top four or five most important items. I told her that at this point I would need to know the salary range for the position as I didn’t want to further waste anyone’s time.

Twenty years ago, there was a guy who apparently liked me and had a mutual friend set us up on a “Group Date.” What’s a Group Date you ask? It’s when a guy doesn’t have the balls to ask you out on a date, so his friends and your friends organize a group outing to a bar where you two can get to know each other a little better under a more casual setting. Usually at the end of one Group Date he’ll ask you out. Not with this guy though. He didn’t believe in the old adage No Risk, No Reward. He needed to be absolutely, positively sure about me before he’d ask me out. By the fifth Group Date I told my friend he’d very effectively turned me off.

I felt the same way about this company. Initially I was excited and gung-ho to work there, but by the time they called to set up the TENTH interview I was so turned off and mentally exhausted. The recruiter called me back to say they don’t give out salary information until the offer is made. That was it. I couldn’t continue on the Bataan Death March without at least knowing the salary range. I respectfully pulled myself out of the running.

Was it the right thing to do? I’ll never know. But I was done with the process. I no longer wanted to be part of a company that couldn’t make a decision. In all of the jobs I’ve ever held, I’ve gone on three interviews at most. Today, there’s a groupthink phenomenon that’s taken over hiring decisions so no one person will be held accountable if they choose poorly. I’m an EVENT PRODUCER, not a FUCKING SURGEON! Odds are between my extensive experience, impeccable references and the fact I can speak effectively without drooling they could have made an offer by the fourth interview and wouldn’t have regretted it.

The position was recently reposted on several job boards.




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