Tue 22 Aug 2006
I had my first official job interview today, and as I sat down to type this, I got an email inviting me back for the 2nd and final round. They want to get the position filled by the end of the month. It wasn’t my best interview ever. I left the house late, sped on the freeway, and arrived almost five minutes late. At one point I was asked about my career goals and came up blank, since as a matter of fact I’m pretty fuzzy on that whole area at the moment. My main career goal is to write a book of poems but that doesn’t really fit in with what I want to do to make money. On the other hand, I told a lot of stories and made a lot of funnies (though the only one both interviewers laughed at was really lame: “otherwise I’d just go and write ad copy for The Gap”) and maintained eye contact and smelled faintly of lavendar and had a firm, non-clammy handshake (an achievement in itself, given my perpetually cold fingers).
We haven’t talked about salary at all, yet. I’m trying to steer clear of not-for-profit in order to get back to the salary level I had before I went to grad school to write poems and talk about the meaning of life. When I got to the parking lot, most of the cars seemed to be late-nineties sedans, which doesn’t bode well for the whole salary question. In addition, the grounds were a lake of mud– it’s been raining as if a herd of monkeys were up there shaking water out of the clouds like nuts out of trees. (Wait, monkeys don’t travel in herds, what is it?) I wanted to take the umbrella that my last workplace so kindly gave me before I moved to the arid desert, but I couldn’t find it, having put it in storage. Fortunately there were only a few drops enlivening the mud puddle as i skirted the edge, looking for the front door.
The building itself was concrete block painted white, and the interview took place in an unused office where the white paint was starting to look a little dingy. The furniture was a little banged up and the carpet was industrial dark gray and in need of a shampoo. Dirty windows, too. The interviewers were quite nice, about my age and articulate and interesting. They made me pick my own chair– was it a test? I took the in-between one, neither the highest nor the lowest. At the end I got to ask my own questions, and that’s when things got a little strange. It seemed to me that these two were trying to put a little spin on their answers, to make the place sound appealing to me. I think that people managing a department or business should be proud of how it works, since they are the ones who make it that way. No place is perfect, but straightforwardness in an interview situation can really help both parties find the best match. If a place is, say, firmly heirarchical, it should be unapologetically so; that way if the potential employee is, say, someone who works best in a more collaborative setting, it’s best for everyone to know that up front.
One thing I really wanted a straight answer on was the culture of the place. When I filled out the application I had to declare myself a practicing Christian and put the name, address, and pastor of my church. This had me worried. I am, in fact, a practicing Christian and am quite open about it. But I’m probably not willing to sign my allegiance to a list of forty iron-clad doctrinal statements, or agree to never wear open-toed shoes or promise to never sit with a person of the opposite sex at lunch. I’d be excited to work in a place where Christian integrity and graciousness inform the way business is conducted; I’d feel suffocated in a place where rules circumscribe the growth of my faith or the minutae of my daily activities. So, I asked: “The Christian roots and mission of this organization seem quite important. How would you say that mission influences the workplace?”
This question had them totally flummoxed. There was silence as they tried to use eyebrows to hand the question off to each other. One person talked around it for quite some time and ultimately seemed to say that the Christian support network is there for those who choose to participate, but not necessarily a day-to-day part of existence. “Wouldn’t you agree?” he asked his fellow interviewer. She gave him this huge grin, meaning either “I think you pulled all of that out of your butt” or “I can’t believe you put me on the spot with this hard question”– I’m not sure which. Then she added that the Christianity mostly came into play on a daily basis in terms of ethics. So, I guess it’s not very rulesy there. But that grin! Whatever did it mean?
I guess I can’t ask that in round two, can I? One other possible flag– three out of six people quit this summer. HM! That’s 50%. HM!