Sep 19, 2007

When my interviewer rolled his eyes heavenward

I pretty much knew it was all over.

This was a video interview. I was in a law office in Washington, DC; my interlocutor was at its LA counterpart. The job in question is a kind of mash up of librarian/editor/writer that I'd applied for through a recruiter.

I know one is supposed to roll with the punches when undergoing this sort of thing, and really, I'm not too upset about the outcome of this particular interview, but sometimes one does get ahead of oneself and begins to imagine what life would be like if one got a particular job.

In other words, I'd already begun looking for places to live in LA. Rash, I know, but I kind of got caught up in the whirlwind.

After I submitted my resume I had a conference call with three recruiters. We discussed various jobs I might be interested in and one of them asked me if I was prepared to move to California. Interviewers always ask this question, which seems kind of idiotic to me since I wouldn't have applied for the position if I wasn't prepared to move to California. But I said said yes, though I did have concerns about the cost of housing. She then went into this whole spiel about the renaissance of downtown LA, which had been undergoing urban renewal. It's a great place to live, she said. And you could walk to work.

OK, that piqued my interest, but I still wasn't looking at real estate.

We continued our discussion and they asked me to customize my resume for the job, which I did over Labor Day weekend. I heard from them the following Tuesday. They'd submitted my resume to the employer, they'd let me know as soon as they heard anything.

Wednesday, one of them sends me an email. How soon could I move if I accepted the job? I give him a theoretical estimate that seems to satisfy him. Friday, I get a call from yet another recruiter. What days would I be available the following week for a telephone interview. I tell him.

Monday, another recruiter calls. An interview is set up for Wednesday. Fine, I say. Tuesday the same guy who set up the interview calls and wants to know how soon I can move to California. A couple of weeks? Does that sound reasonable? It sounds fine, he says.

You see where this is going: I begin thinking about the furniture I won't be taking with me. Do I really need to take any of this crap, I wonder. Should I drive my car across country or find someone to do it for me? Will my car even make it to California? Maybe I could afford a new (used) car? If I walk to work will I even need the car? And on and on.

Then I start picturing my perfect home office. The walls are turquoise, the desk is white--sleek and plain--and the desk chair is white leather. One wall will be filled with bookshelves. And, near the window, there will be a comfy chair for reading, perhaps an Eames lounge chair or maybe a chaise. I'm wondering whether the small, rolling file cabinet should be orange or green when the phone rings again.

It's 10 pm and the recruiter on the phone sounds frazzled. There's been a mix up, he says. The LA people were expecting me in their office at 9 am tomorrow. He's trying to get a hold of them to straighten everything out. Would I be available for an interview the day after tomorrow? Sure. How late can I call you? Midnight my time, I guess. I go to bed without hearing any news.

The next morning I find an email in my inbox saying that I'm scheduled for a conference call with the LA office at 12:30 my time on Friday. I confirm and go about my business, which includes taking a couple more phone calls from the two other recruiters telling me that I should read up on the firm. I also get an email with the job description attached and instructions to "have something to say" about each of the duties listed.

The following day--again at around 10 pm, I get an email telling me that I have to go to Washington for a video interview at 12:30. They're really anxious to wrap this thing up, he says. Further, I must fill out the attached application--leaving absolutely no blank spaces--and present it to the receptionist at the lawfirm. Done, I email back.

Do you feel the frenzy? Is it any wonder that I begin searching for apartments in LA within the zipcode of the law firm?

Anyway, I arrive at the DC office 10 minutes before the interview. I submit my paperwork, which I'm asked to put in a "confidential" envelope to be sent to the LA office. I'm told to go to the Jefferson room across the hall where everything is set up for me. The Jefferson room is a sleek, modern conference room with a large marble table surrounded by several chairs. There's a widescreen monitor against one wall focused on an identical conference room in LA. On a sideboard there is fresh coffee, hot water for tea, about 30 different flavors of teabags to choose from and bottled water with the firm's name and logo on in. I help myself to some water and sit down. There are two items on the desk: a phone and something with buttons all over it.

Five minutes go by and a woman enters the room in LA, she picks up the button thingy on the table there and appears to be making some sort of adjustment. She speaks, but I cannot hear her. She leaves the conference room.

Another five minutes go by and a scruffy guy in jeans and a t-shirt enters the LA conference room. He waves hello with both hands. I respond in kind. He picks up the button thingy and starts wildly gesticulating. I mimic him and begin pressing buttons. Nothing happens. He makes another gesture and leaves the room. I go to the room next door where I'd seen somebody working and ask if she can get me some help. She agrees to call the IT people.

I return to the room. Scruffy guy reenters and recommences the gesticulating. Again, I start pushing buttons. I pick up the phone, push a button and end up hanging up on him. I return to the office next door and tell her my plight. She says IT is on its way. I go back to the room, monkey with every button in sight and somehow manage to reconnect. Scruffy guy is there and I can hear him. He can hear me, too. IT guy enters and begins monkeying with the picture, blowing me up so that my face takes over the screen. I tell him to stop.

The interview proper begins. But, strictly speaking, it's already over. And the feeling is confirmed when I get the eyeroll. The next day I get an email making it official.

I guess my ideal home office will have to wait.

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