Worst Interview Ever!

Two weeks ago today I had the absolute worst job interview I’ve ever had in my entire life! Let me back up. I saw this job advertised back in mid-September and applied. It was for a mid to high-level technical writer job. The job seemed perfect. I had done everything they wanted. I seemed like a good fit. I didn’t know who with though; it was through a recruiter. Well, I heard from them and they wanted some additional information, which I sent in. Then I didn’t hear from them again. For two months. Then out of the blue, a different recruiter with the same agency called me to tell me this government agency wanted to interview me for the position. I was surprised, pleased, and nervous. I haven’t done too many interviews for awhile now, so I’m rusty. Still, I went to my interview and had an excellent experience. I really felt like I connected with the man who interviewed me. He liked my writing samples and liked me and told me I was pretty much at the top of his list. I then heard from the recruiter in a couple of days. She told me I was one of the two final candidates and had a very good chance of getting the job. I was elated! It wasn’t a perfect job. It was a two year contract job, and I would prefer something permanent with benefits, but it paid well and I need the income, so I was excited. I was then told another person wanted to interview me over the phone — a second interview. I prepped and felt ready. Then, two weeks ago after lunch, I got a call from this person. He jumped right in and wanted to know about my experience with all sorts of things that … I’d never heard of. WTF? Was this the right interview? He wanted to know about my process, and as I tried to describe how I design, write, proof, and edit user manuals and other technical documents, he interrupted me and said that’s nice, but I want to know how you extract code and about your data modeling methods. Excuse me? Extract code? I’m not a developer, I’m a tech writer! However, he kept using the term “tech writer” even while he talked about things like Agile and Scrum and logical and physical design and UML, and I’m sorry, but we weren’t even on the same page — not even close! I’ve been vice president of a chapter of the Society of Technical Communication, the tech writer’s organization, and I’ve been writing for two decades and have known many tech writers and I’ve never heard of this stuff in my industry. I tried to talk about interviewing SMEs, about writing policies and procedures (per the ad), about user manual design and writing, about intranet design and maintenance, about database design and maintenance, about using Visio and Adobe CreativeSuite and he would have none of it. He didn’t want to hear it. He just wanted to hear about my experience extracting code and data modeling, etc., et al. It was humiliating! He wanted a developer, not a tech writer. Had he even conferred with the first person who interviewed me? Who wrote the ad? This guy was the one who would be managing the position, but he sure didn’t put together the ad.

I ended up doing the unthinkable — I tried to talk him out of considering me. I realized after about 20 minutes of going back and forth in frustration and never connecting that it was a lost battle and that I wasn’t the person for him, so I told him that. I told him I’d still love to be considered and that I can learn — although he said he didn’t want to train; he wanted the person to “come in and hit the ground running.” I said I’d love a chance, but I just didn’t have the experience he was seeking and he might want to move on. Then he tried to argue with me, and it just disintegrated. He wasn’t very friendly and I didn’t feel very friendly after 20 minutes of talking with him.

After I got off the phone, I emailed the recruiter with the news. She called me right away. She was dumbfounded! She couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t either. She wanted details and wondered if he was interviewing for another position without realizing it, but I didn’t think so. She said she’d get to “the bottom of it” and get back to me. We hung up. That was two weeks ago. Since then, I’ve emailed her several times, only to be told she’d call me. She hasn’t. Clearly she’s blowing me off. Why? I have no idea. I’d love to know where the disconnect occurred. What happened? I clearly couldn’t have been the one to mess up! I fit all of the criteria for the ad. The first guy loved me. Then this guy wants someone completely different and now no one will talk to me? Great. I need a job. I’ve been unemployed for awhile now. I do some contract work out of my home, but it doesn’t pay much and I need a permanent job. I also do some volunteer work, which is good, but it doesn’t pay the bills obviously. Back when I lived in Los Angeles, I could get a job in my field virtually any day of the week, but here in Chattanooga, there just aren’t too many tech writer/editor jobs at all. It’s quite frustrating. So, I guess I’ll just keep plugging away. I’m glad to know I can never face an interview as unpleasant, hostile and screwed up as that one again. That took the cake. I’m glad to have it behind me. Now, just get me an interview for a job I’m qualified for and get me that job — please!

6 thoughts on “Worst Interview Ever!

  1. Awanthi @ I Speak Awanthi

    Ouch. What a very unpleasant experience. I really hope that you do get a decent job soon; I understand how horribly frustrating it can be.

    Your experience reminds me of a job I applied for a while back. I have some experience being a project manager in the publishing field; I took a break for a while and wanted to get back into the swing of things. So I applied for the exact same position in another company. Like you I had a dream first interview, and a dream second interview. Then I had a telephonic interview with one of the people from HR which really threw me for a loop. Basically, the guy just asked me to tell him what it is that a project manager does. I did. I talked to him for well over half an hour, with me doing most of the talking, and with him saying ‘uh huh’ from time to time. Then he said he’d get back to me and hung up.

    The next day, the _same guy_ called again. AGAIN he wanted me to walk him through what it is that a project manager does. I couldn’t _believe_ it. Either this guy was just messing about or he was a dunce (you’d believe the latter if you’d actually talked to him). I told him that I’d told him all about it the previous day and he asked me to tell him again. I told him to send me his e-mail address; that evening I sent him links to the Wikipedia article about project management.

    Suffice it to say, I never heard from them again – and good riddance.

    Hang in there! I’m sure there is something out there for you.



    1. Wow! What a bizarre experience, Awanthi! I’m sorry that happened to you. At least I’ve found someone who can relate, right? Heh. I usually have good interviews, so this was disappointing and frustrating. Plus, I really needed this job. I’ve been unemployed for awhile now, and aside from this little free lance contract work I’m doing, I’m not generating much in income. It’s at times like this I wish I was back in L.A.

      How did you get into project management in publishing? I’ve worked in publishing — books, newspapers and magazines — for years. I really love it. Unfortunately, Chattanooga is not Los Angeles or New York and there really isn’t much here for someone like me, or you.

      Thanks for your input!


      1. Awanthi @ I Speak Awanthi

        Quite by accident! There is nothing about my life that has actually been planned – and that wasn’t intentional; it just happened that way.

        I worked in copy editing at first and I was very fast; I’d do something like a hundred pages a day as opposed to other people who did eight. So I was bumped up and promoted quite soon. I loved it; I loved everything about the coming together of a book (since I am a writer myself, although this was all technical stuff). The authors I worked with loved me right back; in fact, I worked with a Dr Devlin who included me in the acknowledgements of his book about Brachytherapy. It was a huge honour and I still think back to my time in that team as one of the most fulfilling times in my life.

        I understand that you must miss the buzz and business of LA. Could you not move back there for the sake of your career? Oh! And one other thing – have you considered writing articles and things online? There are a fair few technical positions going that you can work on from where you are – all you need is your computer and the internet.


        1. Scott

          One hundred pages a day is shockingly fast! Wow, that’s awesome. How did you get into publishing in the first place?

          I can’t really move back to L.A., unfortunately. I’ve moved some 27 times, but have settled in Chattanooga. One, my parents are here and I’m an only child. I feel obligated to be near them in their older years. Two, I’m in a house now instead of an apartment. Which is nice. If we were to sell this house and move to California, there’s no way we could afford to buy a house at all there with what we’d make off the sale of this one. Housing costs are very different between the two places.

          I hadn’t really considered writing online articles, although I suppose I could. Lord knows I’ve written countless articles over the years. I’m actually looking for a bi-weekly paycheck, though, with benefits too, preferably. Something steady. Does that make sense? I could write articles on the side, certainly…. Cheers!


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