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Which is worse? An explosive interview or a slowly
imploding one? You be the judge:
This is a true story. And I do not blame Kinko's.
I got a call from the HR director of a financial
software company in Nashville. He'd gotten my resume
from the web and really liked what he saw: The company
was small and very into documentation - and liked to
mentor new writers.
I felt VERY good after the phone call, and he did,
too. They hadn't found anyone who "fit" the company's
personality yet, but I seemed to be the best (He told
me this). The interview, he explained, was a 4-hour,
tag-team event. I'd interview with him first, then
with the editor, then with the rest of the team.
I called a friend of mine who lives in Nashville and
had her do some checking. She really liked to company
and thought it'd be a good move, so she invited me to
come up and stay overnight with her and her husband so
that we could catch up.
Everything went downhill from there.
I was late getting to her house (because of
Tennessee's wonderful road construction) and we're up
to 2 am talking. Can you guess what happened? Yep, I
With an hour to FIND a copy center so I could run off
my writing samples and get the meeting, I jump out of
bed and rush to the computer to print out my resume
and writing samples. While they were printing out, I
showered. While dressing, I discover that my shirt was
ripped. Of course, I didn't bring a back-up or
undershirt. Luckily, it was in an inconspicuous place,
so I didn't worry too much about it.
What was worse was discovering I didn't bring my dress
shoes. All I had was my high-tops. Determined not to
let it worry me, I put them on and leave, grabbing the
stuff off the printer as I went.
Lucky for me, there is a Kinko's right next to the
place I'm interviewing, so I went in and had copies of
my writing samples made. Since they were extremely
busy, I don't get my copies until 10 minutes before my
interview. I stuff them into my briefcase, without
noticing that they bleed black ink onto my hands.
Now, this day was extremely hot, and my car doesn't
have air conditioning, so I'm sweating bullets. What's
the most natural thing to do? I wipe my face with by
So there I am, going to an interview wearing high-top
shoes; a torn, sweat-marked shirt; and black ink on my
face (which no one ever tells me about and I notice
only when I get back into my car AFTER the interview).
So much for a neat appearance.
I gave the receptionist my name and reason for being
there, and she called the HR guy. I sat down. And sat.
And sat. Finally, 20 minutes later, I was to the
fidgety stage (and had forgotten all about my writing
samples) when the HR guy came out to shake my very
sweaty hand (but no longer dirty - it was either on my
face or on my pants, which were, luckily, dark). He
apologized for the wait and informed me that he'd
forgotten to tell the writers I was coming, so they
weren't prepared. While they got ready to talk to me,
he decided that I should talk to the editor.
She was really nice, but we had no chemistry. In fact,
talking with her was downright cold, especially after
making a bad impression by giving her my crinkled
writing samples that:
1. were out of order, out of focus, and out of square.
(thanks to the wonders of my not checking them). They
were also not stapled.
2. had a typo in the first line of the first page. (a
draft of an unproofed document that she wasn't
supposed to see).
Strike three was my trying to explain that the
document wasn't supposed to have been a sample - that
it was still in progress. It sounded even to my like
an excuse. Needless to say, that meeting was short.
Things pick up when I met with the rest of the team.
We are relaxed and getting along well. Two things
happened to change all that:
(1) we're joking about the relaxed environment of the
company, and I mention that the editor had her shoes
off when she was interviewing me. Everyone in the room
kind of eyed each other nervously. I don't know why
this became a polarizing moment, but the excited and
relaxed feeling suddenly became tense and cautious. To
this day, I have no idea what happened at that moment.
(2) the web developer tossed me a packet of materials.
When I stood and reached to get it, the inconspicuous
little rip in my shirt turned into a full blow out.
Everyone fell silent and I froze. Too scared to look
at the damage, I sat back down and kept my arms close
to my sides.
I pushed on, just wanting to get out of there. My last
interview was with the HR guy. He met me in the lobby
and didn't bother to bring in anything - no job
description or benefits list. All he asks is if I had
any questions. I think at this point I was in shock
and couldn't remember any of the well-formed questions
I had written down and conveniently left in the car.
I do remember that he asked for a clean copy of my
resume, which I thought I'd left in the car. That was
really the last strike against me - I had to go get
it, only to discover that I didn't bring a copy with
me (when I got back to my friend's house, I found the
printer sitting there, still waiting for someone to
stick paper in it so that it could finish printing. It
lacked one document: my resume).
The moral of the story:
(1) Make plans for the interview. And make back-up
plans. It wouldn't hurt to keep a checklist of your
plans handy so that you can make sure you're following
it to the letter.
(2) Make all preparations well in advance. I had a
week to get ready for the interview, but kept putting
off getting copies of my writing samples.
(3)Carefully choose which writing samples you want to
present to the interviewer(s) and proofread them well.
Take only these samples to the interview - not your
(4) Always keep a spare suit of clothes in your car.
(5) You can't control everything. Accept that fact.
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