Wednesday, May 24, 2006

And that's why I didn't go to grad school
Apropos of nothing, I was thinking about one of my worst job interviews this morning. (I come up with my blog ideas in the shower – it is very stream of consciousness. No pun intended.)

I met with this guy, he was the founder and CEO of some little internet start-up in Chicago that did something with lifestyle stuff… I can hardly remember now. I also can’t remember what my situation was when I agreed to talk to this guy. I like to think I was desperate, but I suspect I was bored. Oh the go-go 90s! Things were different and e-whatever and cybery back then.

I walk into the office. I believe he wanted to meet with me on a Saturday morning. The place is like your first apartment, but worse. It is filled with broken furniture organized to look like desks and office configurations. It was weird.

If it were a movie, I think the scary music would have started.

A skinny, disheveled, middle-aged man came out of the office and greeted me. He was nice enough and offered me a seat (at a chair missing an arm) and we started to talk.

He started to talk, actually. A lot of my job interviews in the 90s remind me of bad blind dates. This was one of them. He talked a lot and I believe he was very proud of his MBA from some fancy university. He blabbered on about that at length. Then he started asking me questions.

The first question was: how old are you?
Me: I don’t think you’re allowed to ask me that.
MBA guy: What?
Me: I think that’s frowned on by the government. EEOC and all.
MBA guy: Oh. Okay. I was just trying to understand your resume.
Me: I see.
MBA guy: So tell me, how would you determine how many refrigerators are sold in China each year?
Me: What?

The guy repeats the question. I start to stammer about the Internet. Then he tells me I can’t use the Internet to do the research. Oh - and I am not going to work for him selling fridges in China. The guy looks very pleased with himself. I suspect he has a checklist somewhere that he's been referring to.

At think at that point I had a big breakthrough: I do not need an MBA. This may be a weird revelation, but for a while everyone I knew was either in an MBA program, about to leave the program, or mulling entering the program. Most of those people were liberal arts grads, like me, and we kept getting beaten out by MBAs for swanky jobs. There wasn’t any specific reason to have an MBA – but it seemed to be the magic combination of letters to help insure you got employed.

But what Chinese refrigerator guy helped me to understand is that you feel weird around some (not all) MBAs because that’s all they talk about. It’s like the way some (not all) Harvard grads slide that into conversation within like four minutes of meeting them. I knew a woman like that. These people have additional education, some of them may even benefit greatly from that education – I wasn’t necessarily going to and clearly the Chinese fridge guy lacked social savvy and any semblance of street smarts.

I stopped the interview early and said thanks, but this didn’t seem like the place for me. I left the guy sputtering as I walked out of the office.

I like to think the Chinese fridge guy would be the first to admit that there is nothing more powerful than being able to walk away from a deal.



Anonymous Jody said...

Ah, sounds like one of those questions that interviewers get out of those "how to interview" manuals. You know, to see how you'd tackle bizarre work situations and strange requests. I hate those. I don't play those games (and yes, have walked out of interviews as well, as a result.)

8:53 AM  

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