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!