Obviously I couldn’t blog about this right when it happened, but I thought it would be fun to share an anecdote from my job hunting experience.

All in all, I probably went in about 9-10 interviews this time around. Many of those were at the same places — I actually made it to the third round of interviews at two different companies. (Though I didn’t get either of those jobs.)

One of those third-rounders was probably the worst interview I’ve ever been on.

The company was one that organizes sporting events (like dodgeball and softball games) for adults in the city to network and meet new people. I had already survived an initial meeting with their HR recruiter; it went well and we both seemed to get along. A good sign, in my book.

The second round, I was required to write an entire 3-month social media strategy, including a step-by-step list of the first three things I would do if I got the job.

Pause for a second (Zack Morris-style).

Can we just discuss how messed up that is? I mean, my ability to create a social strategy and help a brand define their digital voice is what I do for a living. That is my intellectual property. It’s what, you know, I get paid for.

And now I was forced to basically hand it over with zero promise of a return. (And since you already know I didn’t get this job, I’m not spoiling anything when I tell you this company ended up with my entire strategy, step-by-step tactics, and sample social posts. And I ended up with…well, you’ll see.)

The second interview went okay. The two guys I met with we’re a tiny bit bro-y, but nice enough. They kept up their poker faces the entire time, and, to be perfectly honest, I felt a little but judged for wearing heels and curling my hair. It could have been in my head, but it wasn’t in my head that this was not a girlie-girl setting.

Regardless, I thought I handled myself well. I was prepared for all of their questions, and my strategy even preemptively answered most of them. I felt I came across as capable, organized, and enthusiastic.

About a day later, I had an email setting up my final interview with the CEO and founder of the company. I assumed the second interview must have gone well.

When I arrived for my final interview, I was quickly ushered into a conference room with the CEO. He was an unassuming man from Long Island in his fifties, barely taller than me. He had a teasing sense of humor that I couldn’t quite get a handle on because it was a little, well, condescending.

I turned to face him, and he lifted a piece of paper that I assume had the questions he wanted to ask me on the side facing him. What he didn’t realize was that the side facing me had some writing on it too.

Notes. About me.

I know it was about me because it said Justine LoMonaco at the top.

And under that it said:

Not that into sports
Not funny or creative

There have only been a few moments in my life that I would describe as punches to the gut. This was one of them.

(Obviously, I’m talking about the second sentence. Anyone who knows me knows I make no pretenses about having a passion for sports.)(And this.)(And this.)(AND THIS.)

Let me be clear: I have no delusions that I’m the funniest or smartest person out there. But these are two specific adjectives that people use to describe me all the time. I mean, I’m a classic late-bloomer — sense of humor and personality carried me for years, folks. I work with people who literally will not schedule a brainstorming session unless I can attend. Funniness and creativity are just not things I am insecure about.

And then…suddenly everything changed.

I’m one of those people that if you really want to push my buttons, accuse of something that is just patently untrue. It’s like my brain can’t even process what you’re saying and I become simultaneously dumber and less eloquent. My cerebrum is all, “Wait…you mean…but the-what? SKY IS GREEN AND GRASS IS BLUE AND NOTHING MAKES SENSE ANYMORE.”

Obviously, this is not a good mental state to be in for, oh, let’s say a job interview.

Suddenly I found myself incapable of coming up with a single intelligent thing to say. I was trying to be funnier, which everyone knows rarely works out. And, honestly, I was on the brink of tears for most of the half hour.

The interview wrapped up quickly (clearly I hadn’t impressed), and I hesitated for just a second, wondering if I should address these two accusations against me. In the end, I said nothing (though I did stand up for myself a bit in my “thank you” email). If I had known I wouldn’t get the job anyway, I would have been bolder. Hindsight, amiright?

Instead I shuffled dejectedly to the subway, still fighting back tears, and called my friend to unload what had happened. When I got home and started telling Joey about it, I broke down.

Remember when I wrote this? That was right around the time I found out I didn’t get that job. (Or the other job that I had made it to the third round of interviews for.) I was so frustrated, and my confidence was at a low. Now I was confronted with the possibility that maybe I was just stuck where I was — and not funny or creative on top of it.

That’s a lot for anyone to take.

But wait! This isn’t a sad story. Because, in the end, I realized that I probably didn’t want to work with people who don’t share my sense of humor anyway. I don’t want to work for people who judge me the moment I walk in. I don’t want to work for hypocritical people who claim their business model supports one thing while their actions prove they don’t.

And the job I ended up getting? I’m a million times more excited for it than I was for the other one anyway.

So things work out how they’re supposed to. And the experience also showed me what a great support system I have when I can’t pick myself back up right away. Ironically, when I got my new job, they told me the people I had interviewed loved how “funny and creative” I was. As if that coffin needed one more nail, right?

Anyone else have a job interview story to top mine? Leave it in a comment so we can commiserate together (and laugh about how, in the end, it was their loss).

13 Responses to My worst job interview ever

  • Kayla says:

    Oh my word. Are you kidding me? You are brilliant and hilarious! :) So glad you didn’t get stuck working for them. And I can’t believe they made you write that giant proposal…yikes.
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  • Jonny says:

    This made me laugh, then feel really sad, and then super happy again at the end. Congrats on the new opportunity (even though it means walking away from one of the most amazing women ever… *sigh* Martha…) and I’m glad you found something you’re excited for! I have no terrible interview, but I did once travel to Denver for a weekend long interview, get the job, spend a month preparing to move to Denver, and then having them call me and say “we’ve decided to not hire you.” Oof.

    Don’t let the haters get you down. You rock.

    • Justine Lorelle says:

      I think discovering your love of Martha was one of my favorite things about working here, Jonny ;)

      And your experience sounds like much more of an emotional roller coaster — but isn’t it great how everything worked out anyway?

  • Joe T. says:

    This is one of my favorite blog posts of yours (whiffleball and the ones where I gave advice will always win). As a person who works in sports with people like the guys you interviewed with you can trust me that you didn’t want that job anyway. That’s not you. That’s not where you excel. If I had to guess based only on the very limited information from this blog and my own experiences you probably could have done great things for them and brought in an entirely new segment of people. But they would never see it that way and you would have butted heads the entire time you were there. Consider yourself lucky that they thought that of you, or you might be working there right now trying to fit a square peg into a round hole and pulling your hair out.

    But I have to ask why didn’t you just talk about your passion for baseball?

  • Martha Pierce says:

    This totally hit home for me, Justine. I had a series of extremely intense job interviews last summer where I was asked to come up with “a laundry list of marketing ideas and brief social media strategy”.

    I accepted another job after they rejected me from the opportunity, which was fine.

    Two months later, I was on a partner call with said company, and they pitched me 5 of my ideas in a row. TO ME.

    That’s all… glad you didn’t get the job with that company, anyway.

    M

  • Laura says:

    Wow that is really crazy! You are totally right – you do NOT want to work for a company like that. I love that your new company described you as funny and creative. It’s like you really just needed to hear that lie rebutted from someone else than your friends or husband to believe it (I know I would need that). Congrats on the new job!

  • Becca Paszkiewicz says:

    Most people think I’m dumb when they first meet me. Not just in interviews. In real life too. That’s why I’ve started just awkwardly throwing in the fact that I’m a scientist and using big sciencey words. The other day I made two jokes within ten minutes about curing cancer but causing insulin resistance and the anti-inflammatory effects of the grapefruit in my cocktail. I haven’t made any new friends but a bunch of random people don’t think I’m dumb. So there’s that.

  • Very belatedly, but this has been on my mind a lot lately. Back when I was in book publishing I went on a bunch of interviews for editorial stuff, and there it’s almost standard practice to have an interviewee read a manuscript they’re considering, provide extensive feedback, and weigh in on whether they would recommend accepting the manuscript for publication or not. So basically — use the interviewees to get through the massive pile of book submissions editors get every day. To say nothing of the fact that I busted my ass after my regular workday to finish a 400-500 page manuscript and provide incisive, valuable commentary…only to get shot down for the job (by not getting any response; not even the courtesy of a “no thanks”).

    Interviews suck, man.

    • Justine Lorelle says:

      Ughhhh that drives me crazy. I want to say, “Do you think I don’t know what you’re doing here?” At the end of the day, I think the interview is a pretty good window into what it would be like working somewhere — if they don’t respect you and your time at that point, they probably never will.

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