On Not Being a Good Corporate Rat… the Interview…

Even at a young age, it was becoming apparent that I was not destined to be a good corporate rat. I just didn’t realize it at the time…

As a junior in Electrical Engineering, it was time to interview for a summer job. Rather important, for if successful, you would likely receive a full time job offer upon graduation.

It also increased your attractiveness to other companies. Plus you made a few bucks, always of interest to a college student.

Interviews were a new experience, and I was still trying to figure out the game. Fortunately, most of the interviews were simple — you talked about the company, the potential job, and what the company was seeking.

But then came the BIG interview, with the BIG prestigious firm. An industry leader with world famous labs and technology. Landing a job with them was a real plum.

Or so I thought. The interview started badly, and went down hill from there.

Rather than an engineering manager, the interviewer was a young HR lackey in a three piece suit. It was apparent he was pretty full of himself. Trust me, that sort of snotty attitude never sits well with engineers – including student engineers. (We don’t suffer fools.)

The interview began with the first of three questions. They were designed, the lackey assured me, to see if there was a “fit.” Here is how it went:

HR – “So what did you ever do that made you feel good?”

Me – “Say what?”

HR – “You know, something that gave you a sense of accomplishment.”

Me – (In my head – OK, I’ll play your silly game.) “Well, there was a class I was not interested in and and was on the verge of failing. So I dug in, worked hard, and ended up with a B. It was very satisfying.”

HR – “Wonderful.” Then after jotting some notes, he said, “What else?”

Me – To this day, I can’t believe what I said next. Something just snapped in my head. “Well, there was this girl once…” I had nothing specific in mind, but I was just pissed.

HR – “Oh, I didn’t mean to be personal…”

Me – Twisting the knife, I added, “That’s OK – I felt pretty good about it.”

HR – “Uh, let’s just move into the technical details.”

Me – “Good idea.”

Later, my engineering buddies were all grousing about the three dumb questions.

Me – “What three dumb questions? I was asked only one.” Then I told them what I said.

Buddies – “You didn’t really say that, did you?”

Me – “Sure did. And I have no regrets.”

The result – several buddies got summer engineering jobs. I got to spend the summer parking cars in the hot sun. So much for getting a head start on my engineering career.

Now for the second chapter. When the same company appeared on campus next fall,  I didn’t even bother to sign up for an interview. Based on the first interview, I figured there was no way they were interested in me.

But I was wrong. Not only was my GPA pretty good, but I suspect somebody actually liked my answer. Showed some spunk and originality.

So I got a call inviting me to interview, preceded by a steak dinner for all the interviewees. As a college student, I could be had for a free steak dinner. So I went, dinner and all.

The second interview started similar to the first. Another young self-important HR lackey in another three piece suit.

But upon opening my folder, he paused and said,

“Perhaps we should dispense with the preliminaries, and move right into the technical details.”

“Good idea,” I said, trying to read some scribbled notes upside down.

In spite of my non-conformist attitude, I did get a job offer. But I turned it down, as it was obvious to me I simply wasn’t going to “fit” their culture. Probably a good decision for all.

So looking back, it makes sense that I ended up as a self-employed consultant. Not the best choice for everyone, but it sure was for me. And if you share my independent approach to life, maybe the best for you too!

P.S. Celebrating seven decades on the planet today. Been a great ride with no big regrets. And very glad I made MY JumpToConsulting several decades back.

So I hope you enjoyed this personal anecdote — it is who I am 🙂

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