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Interviews From Hell

by Ben Gordon (MBA ’00)
It was 1:30 on a Friday afternoon in rainy New Haven, and I was excited.
Not because the week was over, and not because of the weather, but because I was about to enter my very first full-time job interview. A prestigious Wall Street firm had called to invite me to interview with them. Despite my degree in liberal arts, my job experience in politics, and my complete ignorance of finance, this top-ranked firm saw fit to meet me. I gulped down the last bite of my sandwich, straightened my tie, and walked confidently into Career Services.

My excitement grew when I saw that the firm had sent not one, but two investment bankers. Just to meet me! One was a grizzled veteran, a managing director who had undoubtedly put together hundreds of major deals in his star-studded banking career. The other was a young analyst, sharp-dressed and successful. I thought to myself, “Wow. Looks like a great place! I sure hope I can impress these guys.”

The interview began, and they started firing questions at me. “What do you know about derivatives?” No problem, I thought. “Tell me what you think of the long bond.” Piece of cake. “How do you value a tech stock?” Slam dunk. I thought I was doing well.

Then came a moment in the interview process that no one had warned me about. Two words: someone farted. Not a quiet one, but a loud, rip-roaring, close-your-eyes, blow-the-sofa, shake-the-windows-and-rattle-the-desk fart. It sounded as if the managing director had just jumped on an extra-large whoopie cushion, landed, and then jumped up a second time. It was truly a memorable noise.

I looked at one banker, and then the other. I bit my lip, bowed my head, and tried to think about derivatives. And then I started to laugh.
Uncontrollably. For about ten seconds. Tears of laughter formed in my eyes.

After all, it was a funny situation, right?
Wrong. The older interviewer just glared at me, while the young guy smirked. I was the only one laughing. But not for long. 5 long minutes later, the interview was over. That night, I sat breathless by the phone – as you can imagine – but sadly, it wasn’t in the cards.
The moral of the story: if you think your interviewer stinks, keep it to yourself. Trust me.

by Shana Hunter (MBA ’01)
OK, here’s my worst story-I was in a consulting interview, doing somewhat poorly in the math area, and finally the guy asked me how long it would take me to move Mount Fuji 10 miles. I looked in disbelief, tempted to ask why on Earth anyone would want to do that. 15 minutes later and one formula for the volume of a cone later, I think I figured it took about 6o days. Needless to say, I took a job in entertainment.

Interviews from Hell
by Andrew Lazzaro (MBA ’01)

It was my first big trip to New York on the corporate dollar. I arrived from Charlottesville, Virginia, where I was nearing completion of my undergraduate degree, for a final round of interviews with Bear Stearns. My interview wasn’t till 1:00 in the afternoon so I went right to the hotel and checked in – The Waldorf Astoria. I had never stayed in such an extravagant place before and upon entering my room on the 23rd floor went straight to the window to check out my view.

Bear Stearns was right next to the hotel, so after putting on my suit I had about 45 minutes to kill before my interview started. I opened the window and stuck my head out to look down Lexington Avenue, but didn’t realize that the windows had intermediate locks to keep you from climbing out. The clip releases were located on top of the window pane. As I let go of the window it came back down to the first clip essentially locking me in with my head stuck out. I couldn’t reach the clips on top of the window pane with either my hands or my feet. Even the dangerous and tricky inverted vertical toe release maneuver failed to secure my freedom (do you know how dirty a New York windowsill is)??? Stranded and wishing I had paid closer attention to all those David Copperfield magic shows as a kid, I began screaming for help and caught the attention of a maid several floors down across the way. Shortly thereafter an envoy of hotel managers arrived at my rescue, 4 minutes before my interview started. Sporting a fantastic dirt streak across my only white shirt I hustled over to Bear Stearns.

Just barely making it across the street in time, I checked into their bathroom to regain my composure before my first meeting. While relieving myself in the stall I dropped my pen – no not in the toilet, just on the floor. But when I bent over to get it, my red tie went straight into the toilet – yes, pre flush, and it was the kind of tie that changes color when it gets wet. Frantic and angry I ran to the sink to wash my tie, only making matters worse. I decided to make the entire tie wet so it would in theory be the same color. This created a larger mud like mess on my shirt when the wet tie met with the windowsill dirt streak. The combination of water, grease and toilet paper flakes from my drying frenzy helped provide a stunning visual quandary for my 4 interviewers that afternoon – what could they possibly have noted in their evaluations – potentially strong candidate, but serious personal hygiene challenges?
The moral of this story – always pre-clean your hotel windowsills and use caution when taking a writing utensil into a bathroom stall.

by Todd Kristol (MBA ’01)
This story must begin with an explanation of my background. My parents own and operate a small pet store in Wilming-ton, Delaware, at which I (and my three brothers) have worked since we were old enough to hold a broom. As with any family business, we all had to pitch in at every and all tasks when the occasion arose. On most occasions that meant cleaning cages, mopping floors, feeding animals (everything from parakeets to monkeys), and helping customers.

During the summer after my senior year in college I returned home to help out at the store while I pursued my job search/interview process. Throughout that summer I interviewed at about a dozen different marketing and PR firms in the mid-Atlantic area. In late August of 1995 I was scheduled to meet with a company (we’ll call it “Acme” for convenience sake) that I was particularly keen on impressing. Not only did they have an office in Wilmington, but they had an attractive pay package. Things didn’t quite work out the way I had hoped….

On the afternoon of my interview at Acme, I was forced (much to my dismay) to work at the pet store. Due to the close proximity of the store and the Acme office, I decided that the only plausible thing to do would be to wear my shiny new interview suit to work, cover up with an apron, and then proceed straight from work to my 4:00 p.m. interview. Throughout the afternoon I was extremely careful to avoid getting any unnecessary “by-product” of animal digestion on my suit. I cleaned the rabbit cages at arms length, used beakers to tend to the macaws and managed to refill the monkeys’ water bottles without even opening their cage. The ferrets, however, were another bag of Doritos all together….

Due to the design of the ferret cage, I was forced to open their screen door to get to their food bowl. If you have ever handled a ferret before, you know that they don’t like cages and must be firmly grasped immediately upon the opening of their cage door. Failure to hold a ferret after opening the cage guarantees a high-speed fugitive hunt throughout the store. At $250 a pop, I don’t take any chances.

Upon opening the cage on this particular afternoon, I quickly realized that Agamemnon and Menelaus (a baby male and female Pacific Brown) were going to be very difficult to keep hold of while I changed their water and food bowls. I decided that if I worked quickly, I could easily place one of the ferrets (in this case, Agamemnon) in my suit pants pocket while I did the necessary work in the cage. All Richard Gere jokes aside, baby ferrets are quite thin and flexible beneath
all that fur. They like warm, cozy spaces. I knew that if I worked quickly, I could simply put Aggie in my pocket, allow him to curl up comfortably inside, and tend to the task at hand.

With Aggie stuffed deep into my right pant pocket, I held Menelaus in my left hand, and replaced their food. I noted, for the record, that the clock above the register read 3:40 p.m. and time was getting short for my Acme interview. By some act of divine intervention – just as I was placing Menelaus back inside the cage, but prior to retrieving Aggie from my trousers – Francois (a two-year old Brazilian Barth monkey) knocked his water bowl sideways in his cage. Francois’ little accident sent a quart of smelly monkey-water flying directly down onto my back. Drenched, furious and under the clock, I slammed the ferret cage shut, screamed several loud obscenities, told my mother that I was going to be late, and stormed toward the door.

In an attempt to dry my saturated shirt in the setting western sun, I walked the eight blocks to Acme’s office backwards. Tripping twice and almost being run down in traffic thrice, I managed to use the sun’s rays to dry my back enough to finally put on my suit jacket as I arrived at Acme’s office building. However, I could faintly smell Francois’ cologne wafting from my shoulder blades.

Shaken, furious and slightly disoriented (try walking through Wilmington backwards sometime), I decided that the real world would present tougher situations than this, and that I could, and would, pull off this interview. As I rode the elevator to Acme’s fourth floor offices, I gathered my faculties, regained my composure, brushed the sweat from my brow, and reaffirmed my determination to win Acme’s respect.
I nearly fainted when the elevator doors opened to reveal my ex-girlfriend standing before me, smiling. She had not phoned after our violent break-up three weeks earlier (which included several appliances being thrown at my head, and threats of my disembowelment) to tell me that she had taken a job at Acme. She also had not phoned to say that she would be interviewing me. Rather than wrath, however, her eyes revealed a not-so-subtle expression of joy upon my arrival. The look was something akin to Wile E. Coyote’s expression as he ties on his bib, licks his lips, and scrapes his fork and knife together behind the big boulder.
When we arrived in a corner conference room, I was relieved to discover that Henrietta and I would not be alone. A 35-year-old SVP named James would join us during the interview. After the introductions, I was informed that this hour-long trial would test my analytic, presentation and speaking skills. As a new hire, they wanted to know whether I could effectively present a new idea or product line to a potential client. I would be asked to stand at one end of the conference room and, given a small amount of background information, convey some basic concepts to my audience. Fair enough, I thought. I noticed that James was sniffing in my direction, while Henrietta wrinkled her nose. They had insisted that I “take off my jacket and stay awhile,” and I assumed that Francois’ cologne was making its way in their direction. Thus, I was more than happy to move to the other side of the room.

After some preliminary analysis on my part (during which Henrietta chuckled amusedly to herself), I took my place next to the white marker board at the head of the table. I began to draw an information flow diagram for my potential “clients,” when I felt a sudden stirring in my pants….(get your minds out of the gutter). Agamemnon had arisen from his slumber.

With sweat forming on my brow, beneath the dagger-eyes of Henrietta’s glare and James’ sniffing nostrils, stinking of monkey-water, I maneuvered along the board as Aggie began to sink his spiky paws into my upper thigh. With my hands busy scribbling, I wriggled clumsily as Aggie repositioned himself. It was only moments before Aggie bit into my thigh and, whimpering in pain, I thrust my pelvis spastically forward into the marker board. I was able to avoid dropping my hands to my pants, but I began to wiggle like a millipede from the waist down. Aggie would not be tamed. Moments later, he took another bite of flesh. Suddenly, my hips had become spastic lunging animals of their own. My posterior knocked a glass of water sideways across the table as my pocket pal began to leap furiously from side to side (a vain attempt to escape the confines of my trousers). Unable to control the pain and commotion in my pelvis region, I slammed my hands down furiously into my pockets to seize Aggie – just as the door burst open!

A secretary had arrived to summon James, the SVP, to a brief, but important, phone call. As a result, I was able to control Aggie without alerting anyone to his presence. However, I was now forced to keep my hands stuffed clumsily in my pockets. Fortunately for me, James was half-asleep during my presentation and apparently had not noticed my gyrations. Henrietta, however, was dumbfounded. After James exited the area, she stormed toward me, eyes blazing. Before she made it halfway across the room – but after she had slammed the conference room door shut

she screamed at the top of her lungs:
“You pervert! Did you come down here just to humiliate me? Standing up there, shaking your groin around! Are you deranged? He knows we have had a relationship! He knows that we dated! If you don’t want the job, then get the hell out of here!”

She stood in front of me, smoke plumes wafting from her ears. I was dumbstruck by the revelation that I could have humiliated Henrietta. I tried to speak, but no words came out. We stood there for what seemed like an hour. With Henrietta glaring at me, waiting for my reply, I searched for the words. Agamemnon began to stir again. I began to wriggle my hips. Bewildered and embarrassed, mouth agape, with a small rodent leaping around in my pants, I lifted my free left hand and slowly pointed
to my pants….

Before I could force out a single word, I felt the cold, hard slap of Henrietta’s hand across my face. My glasses shot across the conference room table like a rocket. I crumpled against the marker board as Henrietta stormed out of the room and Aggie took one final bite out of my thigh.

Now, if that ain’t a horror story, I don’t know what is.

December 3, 2001
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