I recently interviewed for a part-time receptionist position with a company new to our area. To say the least, this interview was quite different from any other interview I’ve had in the past. Although I am not engaged in a serious job search at the moment, I occasionally take a gander at what’s out there to see if anything sparks my interest. This particular position sounded good – it was advertised as a part-time receptionist position for an oil trading firm and it paid well for part-time work. I was especially excited as it appeared to match what I was looking for – a lower level position with less responsibility and, hopefully, less stress; basically, an easy job that would get me out of the house for a bit while bringing in some extra cash.
When the day of the interview arrived, I had one more perusal over the company’s website to ensure I had at least a basic understanding of the business and I wrote down my questions for the interviewer. I dressed just as I would for any other interview and arrived about 15 minutes early. The woman I was interviewing with arrived a little late but that didn’t worry me, it’s happened before. When we finally got to discuss the job and the company; however, I could feel my excitement slink away and disappointment set in. There were basically three things the interviewer said that convinced me this was definitely not the position for me.
One: The job was not as advertised. As my interviewer began to outline the job responsibilities of this position, I could sense that it really wasn’t a 20-hour per week job, at least in my opinion. Having worked in offices for over 20 years, I think I have a realistic and clear idea of what you can and cannot accomplish in 20 hours per week and this job certainly did not seem to fit in the 20 hour category, not if the work was to be done accurately. In this respect, I felt that the job advertisement was slightly misleading. In fact, the interviewer herself told me the job was actually more of an office admin than receptionist.
Two: Dealing with “entitled” clients. After explaining the not-really-a-receptionist job responsibilities, the interviewer then moved on to explain that this company deals with very wealthy clients and many of them, because of their wealth, come with a sense of entitlement. Basically, to paraphrase, this means they are likely to treat you as if you are nothing more than a peon. (But that’s okay because, you know, they’re rich.) These are people for whom I would make travel arrangements including flights, hotel and dinner reservations and “black car service” arrangements. Once we had discussed the possibility of working with an unpleasant but wealthy clientele, the interviewer then asked me, “Is this going to bother you?” Essentially, she was asking, “Do you mind rich people treating you like dirt while you cater to their every need?” How do you answer a question like that? Or, more importantly, why should you have to answer such a question in a job interview? I have encountered this behavior before in previous jobs and, like most people, I do not enjoy it. However, this was the first time I’ve ever been asked about it in a job interview which, quite honestly, raised a red flag regarding the priorities of this particular company. Still, I managed to fumble some kind of response about not enjoying this kind of behavior, but I’ve experienced it in the past and I guess I’d just have to deal with it the best I could.
Three: Tense Work Environment. Towards the end of the interview, we discussed the work environment. Now, to be fair, this is a billion dollar company whose traders deal with multi-million dollar deals on a daily basis so I understand a certain amount of stress and tension is to be expected. I also expected that a part-time receptionist, who is typically the gate-keeper of the office, might be a bit more shielded from this side of the business; however, in this company all employees share an open office space so this would not be the case. The interviewer warned me that should a shipment not leave a destination on time or should the price of oil plummet, things quickly become tense and it is fairly common for traders to drop the f-bomb during these times. Again, her question was, “Is this going to bother you?” I more or less fumbled around with the same response I had provided earlier, again, not understanding why this was actually a question I needed to answer.
Now, I am not naive. I’ve worked long enough to know that people treat you badly, every job can be stressful at times, and unprofessional behavior occurs in most workplaces at one time or another. Nevertheless, I don’t think employees should be expected to accept rude or unprofessional behavior in the workplace whether it’s from a rich client or stressed out coworker. So, I made up my mind fairly quickly that this was definitely not the job for me (and I think the feeling was mutual.)
In spite of the weirdness of this interview, I am glad for the opportunity. It helped reinforce what I am looking for in a job, what I am definitely NOT looking for and, even more importantly, to be okay with my preferences. You see, I’m not interested in climbing my way up the corporate ladder or working a job that pays me not only in dollars but also in stomach aches. I’ve been there, done that and, at least for now, I am fortunate in that I don’t have to rush into the first job that comes my way. I understand that not everyone may be in that situation, still, I think it’s important that we all listen to our gut instinct as much as possible. It’s usually right. And although we live in a society where you are often regarded as a weirdo if you don’t have the desire to become a player in the cutthroat world of money-making and corporate ladder climbing, I have realized that I’m okay with that.
Have you ever had a really odd interview experience? Was my experience that odd or am I just out in left field here? What do you take into consideration most when contemplating a job – salary, atmosphere or potential stress level?