Thursday, June 9, 2011

    Bad interviews: An interviewee’s perspective

    I talked about my great interview with Wednesdays, so today let me share a dreadful interview experience.

    Much has been written about bad interviews from the interviewer’s perspective, but in my opinion, the interviewee’s side of the story rarely gets told. A couple of months ago, I had an interview that was absolutely terrible and I would just like to share the experience.

    I was interviewing for an internship position at a start up in Shanghai. Before the interview, I had talked to my professor, who told me that my interviewer was a “bright kid” and recent graduate from Berkeley. However, things started off on the wrong foot, when my interviewer arrived twenty five minutes late. He then proceeded to give one of the worst interviews I have ever had.

    The interview started going downhill after a couple of minutes when I realized I was the only candidate and that this was not really an interview at all, but rather an introduction to the company. From the beginning it seemed that the interviewer was not quite sure what to ask me and was going to accept me so long as I did not exhibit any obvious problems.

    When I asked my interviewer what I would be doing at my internship, his answer was vague at best. He explained that I would be doing marketing, but the details of what kind of marketing escaped him, though what was most concerning was the admission that the company had no marketing goals. From what my interviewer told me, I gathered that he wanted me to create the whole marketing strategy for the company which was not exactly something you ask an unpaid intern to do. At this point, I was having serious doubts about how successful this company was going to be.

    In the middle of describing the internship, my interviewer uttered something along the lines of “a self-driven position where you get as much as you put in.” This phrase is the bane of my existence for any job description, because it loudly states that the employer has no idea what to do with me. In addition, it conjures up the idea that I will be running around the office making copies and getting coffee, where the only time I will be doing anything meaningful is when I discover it myself. At this point in the interview, the interviewer must have sensed my hesitance because he assured me that I would have support from the rest of the team and that they had “some” marketing ideas.

    Towards the end of the interview, my interviewer told me that after consulting with his boss, the internship was no longer going to be paid. Shocked by this admission, I could not help but loudly exclaim my surprise at this job application blasphemy and it took a lot of self-control not to ask him why he was wasting my time. Lying about compensation in a job description is akin to me lying about my experience on my resume, it is the ultimate betrayal of trust in the job application process.

    Needless to say I walked away from that interview with an extremely negative impression of that company.

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