Recently I’ve begun sending out resumes and applying for new jobs. Starting a new firm in a place where you don’t know anyone is difficult, to say the least. We’re actually doing pretty well getting our name out there. Our clients are growing and a number of new clients are referrals from previous ones, the best kind of positive feedback. But starting from the ground up is costly and building up a business takes time. While that continues, I am looking for jobs elsewhere, part-time or full, to provide supplemental income until we get more off the ground.
One place I applied was a national chain bookstore. I
am obsessed with love books and reading and certainly never minded working retail so it seemed like a good fit. The store was hiring for the holidays so why not, right? Hah, famous last words …
When the assistant manager called, she said it would be a ‘group interview’ on Sunday morning at 7 a.m. I wasn’t clear on how a group interview works but I didn’t give it a lot of thought. Probably just bring several of us in, talk to us as a group, then something one or two at a time. It didn’t strike me as all that unorthodox considering they’re simply hiring several people for the holidays, not for the next ten years. Obviously the hour seemed unappealing but eh, that’s how it goes.
Sunday morning arrived and I went in with about 12 other people ranging in various ages from much younger to much older than me. We put on name tags and then formed a circle. We had to introduce ourselves, tell where we’re from and a little about ourselves. As a long-confirmed introvert, I loathe these kinds of group intros but I wasn’t going to immediately slide into negativity and reminded myself, if you have a group of 12 people, this is likely an efficient introductory process Looking back, of course, I see just how naive I was.
After the intro portion of the interview, we then had to go around and explain which fictional character we would like to be and why. Now, at this point, internal alarms were starting to dimly go off as I wondered, exactly what kind of fresh hell is this? But I was still trying to be positive and find some logic to this method. Inherently, this portion would indicate whether we know at least a little something about books. Though, let’s be honest, there really isn’t anyone who can’t come up with ONE character and it isn’t difficult to offer a short reason for your choice. So, I was skeptical at how much substance this would offer. Admittedly, I’d learned I wanted to avoid at least one woman who said she was not only from Texas but proud of it. However, I doubt the managers also considered that a deal-breaker on hiring.
At some point in here, the four managers told us these activities were just to put us at ease and not a formal part of the interview … and wrote notes the whole time.
Then the real fun began.
We were each given a blank index card. We were told to write a “what if” question on it. The only example given was “What if Payton Manning had never come to the Broncos?” Um, okay. I finally came up with some inane question. Then we were told to pass the card to the right where that person had to write an answer on the back of the card to whatever question they’d received. Honestly, I would have liked receiving the ‘Payton Manning never coming to the Broncos’ question. I could have responded to that with a myriad of short answers, both substantive and witty. But no. I did not receive such a question. Instead, the older woman next to me had written, “What if you were an alien visiting Earth from the planet Cozoon?”
Let that sink in for a moment. Perhaps your thoughts will reflect mine, which could be deduced to, “What? The? Hell?” Granted, I haven’t been through the interviewing process in a while so perhaps I’m just a little behind the times but I’m at a loss as to how me answering a question about being an alien from Cozoon is indicative of whether I would be a valuable retail bookstore employee. (I did ask the woman if Cozoon was perhaps a literary or even pop culture reference I’d just missed along the way. You know, like maybe a question about attending school at Hogwarts or living in Panem but no, she was delighted to say she’d just made it up. Precious.)
Turns out, we then had to pass the cards two people down where one person read the question on their card and the next person read the answer on theirs – so that the questions and answers didn’t line up but would, ideally I suppose, be humorous. Like a very jacked-up form of Mad Libs. It didn’t really provide that many funny moments, unfortunately, just nonsensical responses and me wondering if I was being punked because surely, this wasn’t legitimate.
Turns out it was though, at least in their minds. There were other interesting aspects, like questions being posed to the circle of ‘what does sales mean to you’ that people were just supposed to spontaneously answer. The other aspect that stands out is when I was handed a stapler and told “Sell this to me.” I did at least ask if there was any context for this but was told, “No, just sell it to me.” A stapler. Not red.
The whole process lasted two hours. I’ve replayed it in my head a million times. I’m not really sure what I think that will accomplish since I don’t think there is any rhyme or reason to their methods. Frankly, it’s possible PTSD might rear it’s head the next time I interview if someone mentions the planet of Cozoon. I would wonder at the odds of that happening twice if not for how astronomical they had to be that it would happen once.
They were going to contact people for second interviews that afternoon but I didn’t hear from them, not that I in any way expected to. I told Jodi when I got home there was just no way I was going to be hired. Whatever they were looking for in that interview, I assure you they didn’t find in me.
So, yeah, job hunting. This is going to be fun.