INTERVIEWS ARE JUST AS MUCH AN OPPORTUNITY TO INTERVIEW THE PROSPECTIVE EMPLOYER AS THEY ARE FOR THE EMPLOYER TO INTERVIEW YOU.
Since leaving my full-time job in August, my job searching strategy has consisted of setting up informational interviews, meeting people through odd jobs and occasionally applying to jobs online. I quit my job to pursue something that would expand my skill set and be a better fit for my lifestyle, so I’ve made a point to be particularly choosy about where I apply.
Because of my interest in health and fitness, there were a few L.A.-area companies that caught my eye. Before officially quitting, I became focused on a well-known health and fitness brand that I was determined to work for. I love their products and heard they were growing quickly and expanding their line. With the company headquartered near my house, it sounded like the perfect place to work and the ideal time to get in.
Luckily, a friend-of-a-friend passed my resume along and I got called for an interview almost immediately. I was thrilled. This was just one week after I’d quit my job, so it felt like the stars were aligning.
This was a company I badly wanted to work for, so I needed to get a handle on my nerves.
Fast-forward to the day of the interview: I went through my usual morning routine, getting in a workout and spending extra time getting ready so that I would feel really confident. This was a company I badly wanted to work for, so I needed to get a handle on my nerves.
Upon pulling into the driveway, I was immediately thrown off. I’d pictured a nice-looking corporate space, but their building looked like a motel! It was really strange, but I figured the rest couldn’t be so bad.
I entered the building and was told to take a seat to wait for my interviewer. My heart sank as I looked around the room. There were stains across the ceiling, the company logo was half falling off the wall and there was this weird chemical smell permeating the place. Considering they had just been named one of the fastest growing private companies in the U.S. (by INC. Magazine), I was disappointed by the quality of the workplace. Still, I was looking forward to interviewing and finding out more about the position.
I was brought upstairs to interview and was seated at a small table in the middle of a busy hallway—with all the lights off. Although the woman that interviewed me was very friendly and excited about my experience, I couldn’t shake my growing discomfort. (Why were we sitting in the dark!?).
As we began the interview, people were still arriving for work and kept passing by our table. Almost every person that came by interrupted our conversation to talk to my interviewer about unrelated work deadlines. Additionally, at least three of these people took it upon themselves to ask me challenging interview questions—without even knowing what I was interviewing for! With all of these distractions, the interview ended up taking over an hour and a half, and I felt like I’d barely had the chance to speak.
By the end of the interview, I was pretty certain that this was not somewhere I wanted to work. The woman interviewing me asked how much I was looking to make and essentially offered me the job on the spot. She was willing to pay what I wanted and although the position sounded great, I just could not picture myself working there. I told her that I would need time to process things and that we should touch base the following week. Honestly, I just wanted to get the H out of there!
But before I could go, I was stopped by the CMO of the company. (Nooo!). By this time, I’d noticed a common theme among the employees: they were all bodybuilder types who were very intense about the brand and their fitness products. Of course he was no different. He immediately put down my experience working in health and quizzed me on my knowledge of the company. After seeming satisfied enough with my answers, he asked if I’d gotten a chance to take a photo yet inside the “Best health and fitness company in the USA?”
Although I really just wanted to leave, I knew that saying no wouldn’t have been kosher. So there I stood, posing with the CMO and my interviewer in the middle of the busy workplace. After taking several photos, he told me to share them on my social media channels, and then asked how many Instagram followers I had. He quickly grew tired of our conversation after hearing I had less than 500 (clearly unimpressed).
By that point, I felt like sprinting back to my car. That had been the weirdest series of exchanges I’d ever had in a professional setting—let alone a job interview!
Sure, the position would have offered me job security, but it was the last place I could picture going into work each day.
Sure, the position would have offered me job security, but it was the last place I could picture going into work each day. If I’m going to spend more than 40 hours a week in one place, it needs to be a comfortable environment. A lot of the people that worked there shared similar interests and seemed amped about what they were doing, but it was completely the wrong match for me.
This experience was a good reminder that although it’s important to be on your game for an interview, the interviewer should be trying to impress you as well! Just as they are sizing you up, you have the right to analyze their behaviors and assess the company culture. I try to keep this in mind when going into interviews so that I feel more confident and less desperate to please.
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Although it may sound crazy to turn down a good salary when you need a job, it’s never good to settle for less than you’re worth! Always remember that there are ways to survive in any “in-between period,” even without a full-time job. I haven’t found my ideal gig yet, but I will continue knocking on doors, taking odd jobs and interviewing my interviewers until I find the total package!