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Friday, April 13, 2012

Updated: How Being a Bit Pushy On Friday the 13th Got Me a Job

Update/Followup: This job did not last long, but I think the message in the original post is still valid. Although the employer misrepresented himself to me (in my opinion), you should not be afraid to be politely assertive. 

The job did not work out. I was promised $247 per week for training. When I interviewed, everyone in the office was wearing jeans and t-shirts on a busy weekday. When I showed up for my first day of work, I was dressed in jeans and t-shirt to fit in with my new coworkers. Again, they were all in jeans and t-shirts. After a couple of hours, the boss told me I need to wear a jacket and tie. "But everyone is wearing jeans and t-shirts," I said. "Well," he said to me, "we're business casual here." Later that day, he told me I could work from home and he would send me a check for the "day and a half that you were trained." Crazy, right? Needless to say, I went home and no longer consider myself to be associated with that company. Crazy. Here's the original post, which I wrote and published before I found out that my new employer is (in my opinion) a lunatic.

Never give up!
April 13, 2012 - After a very long stint of unemployment, I was just told that I could start work tomorrow. I interviewed for the job on Wednesday. The company is a small real estate company on Chicago's North Side, easy to get to for me by bus.

I was initially told that the interview would last 30 minutes at most. However, moments after sitting down with the manager, a small crisis interrupted our conversation. One of the staff did something incorrectly and needed the boss's help. This unexpected situation might have caused many people in my position to become uncomfortable, but to be honest I enjoyed it.

The tense moments for the boss and the employee provide me with a first-hand glimpse of the company's culture. Most interviews, of course, are controlled and quiet. Not this one. For me, it was great to see how the boss, who I will call "Bob," reacted to an employee's screw up. He was gracious and kind, and helped her with patience. "That's the kind of guy I want to work with," I thought, sitting there patiently.

My patience during all of this made a good impression on Bob, and he said so. I went into the interview resolved to be myself, which I was, not pretending to be something or someone that I am not (being a fake always comes back to bite you). Many of the jobs I've had in the past help me bring related skills and knowledge to this one, so I felt confident as I sat in the hot seat.

A fascinating photo of my
right hand on a keyboard
I left their offices feeling good about the interview, but one never really knows. Perhaps, I thought, the next person he interviews might be so impressive that Bob could forget about me. There would still be a second interview to pass, I was told, and so I was on pins and needles until 5:15 this afternoon... when Bob phoned me.

By the end of the interview, he was all but saying that I was hired - but stopped short of actually offering me the job. Late this afternoon, the suspense was killing me. I would have gone crazy over the weekend not knowing. So, I decided to break one of the rules of interviewing: I phoned to ask whether I would be called in for a second interview. I left a message with the receptionist, and Bob returned my call half an hour later.

What I said to Bob was, to sum it up, was that I had several freelance writing opportunities and that I was just hoping to find out if I would get that second interview, so that I could know whether or not to take the writing gigs.

"Would you rather do the freelance stuff or this?" Bob asked.

"I'd rather work with you guys," I said, "I would do the freelance jobs only if there was nothing else for me."

"Well," he said, "as I told you, I'm sure you could do this job and your personality would fit in here." Then he dropped the bomb on me. "Can you start tomorrow at 10 a.m.?"

I thanked him profusely and said yes, then thanked him some more. I realized I was gushing like a school girl who was just asked to the prom, so I bit my lip.

"See you tomorrow," he said. Wow. That simple.

The lessons from this, I think, are this: Be yourself in an interview. Stay calm under pressure, and if the interview is interrupted you should calmly and silently observe it. Finally, don't be afraid to follow up with an email or phone call to say that you are still very interested in working for the company you interviewed with. I would say that this should be used carefully, since appearing to be pushy could blow whatever chance you might have had. However, I gauged Bob's personality to be the type that would understand my eagerness, which he did.

If you are job hunting, I wish you the best in your quest.