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The Job Interview

This is post #1 in my Writer’s Block series.  For a bit more info, click HERE.

Writer’s Block – Prompt #1: “Tell the story of a job interview that goes badly.”

After graduating from college (University of Redlands) in 1994, I worked a seasonal job on the east coast from September to December in an environmental education program called Nature’s Classroom.  It was temporary, and when I got my first student loan bill, I realized I needed to return to southern Cali and find a more permanent job (something that came with an annual salary rather than the “room & board plus minimum wage” job at Nature’s Classroom.)

I returned to California in December and began searching the employment ads in the newspaper  (no internet back then).  I figured that my love of math would get me in the door for some bookkeeping jobs.  In fact, that was all I looked for…desk jobs that allowed me to play with numbers all day.

After mailing my resume to a few companies with promising job openings, one place finally called me back.  It was a small company, and to this day, I still don’t remember what the company actually did.  All I remember was the interview itself.

I met with a man in a small drab, boring looking room.  There were no windows, and the man had to prop open a door to get some air in the room.  He looked over my resume, and then asked me to describe myself and to describe some of my work experience.

I understand that people who are in need of a job are supposed to say whatever they need to say to land the position.  But this was my first real job interview, and I was too naïve to know what to do.  So I told him the truth about me.  I love math, and I love writing, and I needed to start working full-time, and if he would give me a shot, I’ll be the best bookkeeper he’s ever had.

This is when he told me something I’ll never forget.  He said “Robert, I really need someone to start right away, and I really want to hire you, but I can’t.”

I was confused, and I asked him bluntly “Why can’t you hire me?”

He told me that I worked as a camp counselor for several summers, I worked for three months with middle school students as a naturalist in a outdoor education program, and, as a teenager, I worked for two years in a library, mostly in the children’s library section.  He said that as much as he wanted to hire me, he felt that I would eventually get bored crunching numbers, and begin to deeply miss being around people.  He said he needed someone permanently as a bookkeeper, and everything about me screamed “people person” and not “bookkeeper”.

That was the end of the interview, and I left confused and upset and…well, just confused because I had no idea what he was talking about.  I felt that it was my worst interview, but looking back on it, I now realize that man was 100% correct.  He saw something in me that I couldn’t recognize, and he did me a huge favor by not hiring me.

Two months later, with the help of a good friend named Elvira, I got my first full-time job working in Compton as a teacher for an alternative education program for kids on probation who wanted to get their G.E.D.  That was the beginning of my career as a teacher.

So my worst interview turned out to be the best thing for my teaching career.


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This entry was posted on June 18, 2010 by in Writer's Block and tagged , .

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