How not to conduct a job interview

I’ve had four job interviews in my 21 years, and three of them actually turned out very well for me.  I’m definitely no expert at landing jobs or interviews since I’ve never done a workshop to hone my interview skills.

However, this morning I met a guy at Starbucks inside Barnes and Noble who I’d met while browsing books a few weeks ago.

Before I continue, I would like to point out that I’m making up a name for this guy.  I think he’s genuinely a nice guy based on our brief conversations.  But I’m somewhat offended by this job interview, or whatever you want to call it.

Several weeks ago, I had some time to kill between a final exam period and a dinner party.  I have a Barnes and Noble gift card with some money on it and was looking to spend it after a year of sitting in my wallet.  I was looking at some WordPress books until I noticed the price tag on them seemed exorbitant, way above and beyond the money I had left over on the gift card.

As I stood there, confused as to how these books could cost so much when that same information is probably online for free somewhere, I noticed an individual look at me.  We’ll call him Mark.

“I’m sorry, do I know you?” he asked.

I looked at him and tried to remember if I’d seem him before.  I’m pretty good with faces – I still remember some of the kids that came through the martial arts program years ago – but I couldn’t place him.

“No, I don’t think so,” I replied.

Mark told me I looked like somebody he knows.  Then he asked where I went to school.

“Bradley,” I said.

He kept asking me questions and I kept telling him answers.  I’m majoring in Journalism and Interactive Media.  I’m a senior.  I like doing stuff on the web, but I need to work on it.

Mark said he had a business involving energy drinks and said he expected to expand.  I’m always looking for an opportunity, so I told him to hang on a second.  I’d just had business cards printed for my portfolio class and jumped at the opportunity to hand one out.  The first time I’ve given out a real business card!  I was extremely excited, we shook hands, and I left the store to head to my dinner party.

A few days later, Mark gave me a call.  He said is business was expanding!  “Cool,” I thought.  “I don’t know how I’m going to add another job on top of the two I already have and still do school.  But maybe I can finally quit the grocery store.”

Another couple of days went by and I got another call.  This time he wanted to meet up.  I panicked for a minute.  I’d made some stuff for my portfolio class, but I didn’t have everything ready I was supposed to have since I didn’t expect a job opportunity that quickly.  No leave-behind or fancy binder for me.

I talked with my friend Jon through text last night and I told him I’d be meeting this guy.  Without having too many details, Jon said it sounded like a pyramid scheme.  I took this as Jon being an asshole like he usually is, but some things started to add up.

Maybe Mark’s way of recruiting new hires is by bumping into them and telling them they look familiar.  He hadn’t told me the name of his business, either, or even what he specifically did at the company.  Mark wanted to meet me for only 10 or 15 minutes, which is about the same amount some people met my brother for when they tried to recruit him.  The phone conversations we had were very brief, and that came off as odd to me.

Armed with this knowledge, I met Mark this morning.  He asked me a little more about school and final exams before asking me what I was doing for Christmas.  He asked me about my skills on the Web and I told him they’re good but they need work.

Mark then gave me a little information about his business.  They’re a community, like Amazon on the back end and Facebook on the front end.  He said he hadn’t told me much before because they’re kind of private, like Facebook used to be.  Again, still no name, and still no Web address.  How can you have a social site without even pushing the site? I wondered.

He asked me what I was doing Tuesday night.  There was an informational session, but he didn’t tell me where.  I told him I had a commitment on Tuesday night – my tai chi class, which I enjoy going to.  He asked me if I could reschedule it and I told him I’d prefer not to.

“Do you have any papers with information on them?”

He’d told me earlier he was seeking people with three qualities – accountability, ambition and another quality he never got around to.  I assumed it started with an A, too.

Mark – as politely as he could – told me that I didn’t seem to have the ambition they were looking for if I wasn’t willing to reschedule.  He clearly wasn’t interested in pursuing my talent as he pushed his seat away from the table and got up.

Within 5 minutes he had come and gone.  Just because I wasn’t willing to miss a tai chi class I’ve already paid for to head to an informational meeting at an unknown location about a company he provided no details about, he told me I didn’t have the ambition.

Looking back, I wanted to ask him where his ambition was.  If he’s trying to grow his company, why doesn’t he seem ambitious about telling me about it?  The only thing I know about it is it involves energy drinks.  He had no papers and nothing to show me.  Mark raised more questions about his company than answers, though he did tell me within six months I could earn up to $1,000 per month.  This was exactly what another person told my brother when they were trying to nab him.

Whatever business Mark is in is probably legitimate.  I have no doubt in that.  I just don’t think the way in which they go about finding new talent is the best way.  I don’t want mystery surrounding any job opportunity.  If I don’t know what they want me to do or what their company is about right off the bat, I’m not going to pursue it.

Oh, and for the record, I still have money to spend on that Barnes and Noble gift card.

By Adam Bockler

Adam Bockler is a B2B marketing professional, a DDP Yoga instructor, a personal trainer, a multi-time USA Martial Arts Hall of Fame inductee, a blood donor, and many other things.

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