Interviewing: Smarmy Seth Makes Me Squirm

Sept. 21, 2011:   Most people have had at least one memorable job interview – maybe one that was strange, funny or not so pleasant. During a recent interview, the first question I was asked was “what is your favorite color.” That’s easy: purple. Also, “what would you do if you won $50 million dollars.” Ummm, exit this interview immediately. And “what would you take with you on a deserted island.” After I rattled off three things – another person, food and a good book – the interviewer said “why wouldn’t you take a boat?” Hmmm. Guess I wanted to stay on that island!

I can think of at least one interview some years ago that was memorable not for what was asked or said, but simply for body language and facial expressions. When I was 30, I was ready for a change in locale and moved from Denver to Washington, D.C., to attend graduate school and look for a new job. (To this day, one of my friends claims I made the move to escape a difficult relationship breakup, and that is just simply not true!)

A college roommate had also recently moved to DC, and she told me about an opening at her workplace. I mailed (yes snail mailed) my resume to the contact provided, received a phone call and set up an interview. The company was located in a building near Union Station, not too far from the U.S. Capitol.

I still remember what I wore that day – a hot pink skirt from The Limited, a black blouse, Via Spiga black pumps and plaid Liz Claiborne jacket. I had recently chopped off my long hair and was sporting a very short new do (ok yes it was a post break up hair cut, but the move wasn’t!).

I announced myself to the receptionist who told me to take a seat in the lobby. Suddenly I became aware that once I sat down, this pink skirt might be a tad too short to look respectable in an interview. Uh oh – too late now to do anything about it!

A very tan man in a grey suit with short, slicked back jet black hair strode into the lobby and headed toward me. I stood up, and he extended his hand and smiled, revealing a set of extremely white teeth. The combo of the hair, tan and teeth made him look like a dark-haired Ken doll! For the sake of this blog, let’s call my interviewer Smarmy Seth (SS). SS led me to his office, chattering, no more like bellowing the whole way. He walked very confidently, bordering on swaggering.  We walked into his office and he pointed to a chair in front of his desk. As he pointed, I it seemed like his eyes lingered a little too long at my legs.

I don’t really remember any specific questions he asked. I do remember he lit a cigarette, which of course is pretty much unheard of these days during an interview, much less in an office. If I remember right, he did most of the talking and made a lot of no so subtle glances at my legs. It made me so uncomfortable that it was hard not to squirm! I remember thinking I probably was not making the best presentation of myself – at least not in what I said!

I don’t think I had ever been so glad for an interview to be finished! And as I rode the elevator down to the first floor, I thought well I can kiss that job good-bye. But guess what ( and maybe not surprisingly), I did get the job! Smarmy Seth turned out (also not surprisingly) to not be the best boss. He turned out to have quite a temper and was, well, pretty smarmy.

Lisa, Talented and Professional Job Seeker

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