My Misadventures In Unemployment – Seriously, THAT’s your interview question?

Marcia Wallace as Bob Newhart's Secretary
Marcia Wallace as Bob Newhart's Secretary

I am pleased to announce that I have now been re-employed for quite some time and yet the eight months I spent unemployed, applying for jobs 8 to 12 hours a day stays with me. What also stays with me is the fact that I was raised to have a sense of humor and never did I need it more then when I was unemployed. From the almost immediate rejections by computer algorithms to never hearing from most, unemployment is not for the weak or the weak of humor. As I look back I’m proud to say I survived but even more proud that I was able to laugh at the ridiculousness of it all as it was happening. This is one in what I imagine will become a series of what I’m calling My Misadventures in Unemployment and I hope you enjoy it!

Everyone knows that it’s who you know and not what you know for most things in life. The same can be said of getting to even the first face to face interview when unemployed. A friend of my mother’s got a Human Resources (HR) friend to pull my resume for an interview. I was delighted as it was for a training position (I had previously held a Director of Training position so this was right up my alley). It was for a large corporation and at the first interview I dazzled both the woman (who looked like Marcia Wallace, the secretary from the Bob Newhart Show) and the twenty-something man in the cheap suit with the crumpled tie.

After being contacted that I had made it to the second interviews, where I would actually have 20 minutes to train ten people on something, I waited for an actual date and time. I began contacting Marcia Wallace weekly. She always seemed eager to take my call, apologize for not taking my call as she was on vacation with her husband in Colorado (going into great detail about where they ate when I could barely afford to) until after two months the date was set for me to come and perform.

I walked into the training room which held several tables and one long “head table” at the back. The trainees all entered and at the head table were seated what I saw as the Nuremberg judges. Again, I dazzled, created interaction, had them laughing and learning and as the trainees left they each shook my hand and told me how much they had enjoyed their time with me. I was then invited to sit directly in front of the Nuremberg judges. As I looked down the line of the eight or so of them in my head I could peg all of these typical HR and training stereotypes at once, Marcia was on the far end, then gay, gay, lesbian, young woman, gay, straight man still with crumpled tie, young girl and lesbian. (It was like playing corporate “duck, duck, goose!”)

The first lesbian made it clear she was going to do all the questioning. (I was not surprised to learn she was the Vice President of Diversity for the corporation when she loudly announced it.) She said, “We have a program here called, ‘Pinnacle’ what do you think that means?” (Name of program changed to protect me in case I ever need to interview with them again) I answered that I thought it meant working to your top performance. She asked me what I did to get to the Pinnacle performance I delivered and I told her about my research of the company’s website, blah, blah, blah. Then she said, “Okay, this is going to be a really tough question and the last one I’ll ask. Are you ready?” I indicated that I was. “If you were an animal, what would you be and why?” and without a moment’s hesitation (as often is the case with me, my mouth says things I have no idea it’s going to say until it’s out there in the universe) I confidently said, “Tigger.” The Nuremberg eight looked perplexed and as they shot looks at one another I continued, “And do you want to know why?” The lead lesbian, perplexed look on her face, urged me to go on “Because like Tigger, I’m the only one. You’re going to see a lot of qualified people for this position but I feel I bring individual qualities and expertise to training that would not only be an asset to your team but that only I can deliver. In short, I’m the only one.” They all seemed to take a collective exhale and Marcia walked me to the door, winking at me and assuring me I would hear from her soon.

I walked to my car head held high and as I started my car it dawned on me, Tigger isn’t even a real animal! WTF? I thought to myself I had either scored big time or was a complete idiot.

When Marcia finally called three weeks later to let me know that they had chosen someone else (she said she had voted for me but had been voted down) she also let me know that if the candidate they had chosen didn’t pass the background and/or drug test, she would call me. That’s when once more my mouth spewed without my head involved, “So basically, I’m the first runner up in the Unemployment Pageant, right? I mean, unless this person doesn’t pass their drug test or some photos show up like Vanessa Williams with the Miss America pageant, I won’t be assuming her responsibilities, right?” She politely thanked me and quickly got off the phone.

Maybe it’s just me but I still think I nailed the animal question. This was only the first in a series of being told I was the first runner up in the Unemployment Pageant that would be my life for eight months. Only one tale of My Misadventures in Unemployment!

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