Both Sides of the Fence

A Tosa resident since 1991, Christine walks the dog, cooks but avoids housework, writes and reads, and enjoys the company of friends and strangers. Her job takes her around the state, learning about people's health. A Quaker (no, they don't wear blue hats or sell oatmeal or motor oil), she has been known to stand on both sides of the political and philosophic fence at the same time, which is very uncomfortable when you think about it. She writes about pretty much whatever stops in to visit her busy mind at the moment. One reader described her as "incredibly opinionated but not judgmental." That sounds like a good thing to strive for!

A tale of two interviews

Job hunt

The first job interview on the auspicious day I finally got a job started inauspiciously.

For one thing, it was in Waukesha. Since the jobs were in Milwaukee and Madison, the interviewers picked a spot midway between. I don’t know about you but I often get lost there, especially when it comes to navigating the confusing intersections of the newer I 94 and the old Hwy 18. I can get to Carroll University, I can navigate downtown on foot, but outside of that, forget it.

So even though I could see the motel from the freeway, I took a couple wrong turns before finding the actual entrance in that road engineering nightmare around the mega Menard’s and the Majestic.

A senior Hindu gentleman with a tilaka, the third eye dot made of red ochre powder and sandalwood paste, pottered around the door in the mysterious way older gentlemen bent upon personal quests do, and a younger one, smiling welcome,  pointed me to the basement.

But when I entered the sparse room, it was clear that this was not going to be a usual interview.

For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure and pain, most interviews these days take place with the candidate facing a somber squad of interviewers and answering a list of five “behavioral” questions along the lines of “given this situation, what would you do?”

The two interviewers and I sized each other up and, in an unspoken second, decided to get real. We plunged in. And when it was time to leave, we both knew we’d be an excellent match. “What would I have to tell you about this job to make you not go to your next interview?” was the parting question.

Heady. But don’t get too excited, I kept telling myself as I headed west to Madison. That might jinx it. Even if you're not superstitious, a long period of unsuccessful job hunting will make you fear hope.

The Madison job was a temporary one, a public relations potpourri from writing press releases and copy to speeches. I brought my writing samples: a brochure, a bit of testimony given to the Department of Defense, some social networking stuff. But as I walked into the building—a tall gray State office building on the Square—all I could think was I don’t want to come here every day.

First there was the security gauntlet at the entrance. Very professional, very pleasant. Get me out of here. Then the walk down the long gray halls, cheaply constructed and blank. Get me out of here. Then the planting in an empty room to wait. Get me out of here. Overhearing the conversation in the next room about the previous candidate – nothing unprofessional or inappropriate, but get me out of here.

Finally I was ushered into the Room of Scrutiny by the pleasant and competent but hurried assistant and faced the professional and competent panel, at least one of whom never made eye contact with me. Get me out of here.

And of course, there were the five questions on a sheet of paper on the desk. Deep breath, plunge in. Then this:

4. You have been given a major assignment for a written project. The person who requested the project is not available to answer questions, and the deadline is near. What do you do?

If the person who wants an excellent piece of work done by someone coming in from the outside, not one of his team, isn’t available to answer questions and hasn’t authorized someone else to do that, why the hell would I want this job? Is that the kind of job it is? I have been there and I have done that and I am pretty good at it but, dear Lord, it is wrong and dysfunctional and about bad politics, management, and priorities, and I do not want this job.

Of course, that’s not what I said. I gave what I suppose was the right answer, what I'd actually done in such situations in the past. But it was not as right an answer as the one I should have given.

I can see that this is not exactly what I’m looking for, and I’m not exactly what you are looking for. Thanks for your time, and good luck with finding a great person for the job, but I’m getting out of here.

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