3: my first real job interview was a scam

I’m trying to move out of my parents’ home.

This has proven no easy feat. In the seven months I’ve been out of school, I’ve interviewed at a grand total of 5 companies.

If that number seems low to you, trust me – I feel the same way. But when I got out of school, I vastly underestimated just how frustrating a job search can be.

I’ve spent dozens of hours on my time just clicking through job sites, sending out applications, cover letters and resumes to companies. Shouting into a cavernous digital void in the hopes that someone will notice me.

And the best part is, most places don’t let you know they got the app.

Out of those dozens of apps, I landed just 5 interviews.

And my very first one actually turned out to be kind of a weird scam.

I found this company on LinkedIn claiming to be a marketing consulting firm. The position sounded great – helping respected clients reach their goals? Opportunity for rapid advancement and pay raises? I sent them my resume.

Almost immediately, I was emailed to set up an interview. My first, mind you, since graduating college months prior. I was pumped.

Maybe a little too pumped.

I skimmed through their website, which looks legitimate enough, trying to learn as much as I could about the company.

This should have been my first tip to the weirdness of the opportunity, but I was giddy and nervous. Too giddy and nervous to notice that the site is just sort of a vague shell, with no indication that they’ve ever helped a real client. It’s riddled with grammatical errors and stock photos, and the press releases are more or less poorly-written filler.

Okay, I digress. I’m acting high-and-mighty but they fooled me.

I spent the next few nights brainstorming potential questions and rehearsing extensive answers. I made notes. I studied those notes harder than I ever had for any exam.

On the drive into Philadelphia, I was so worked up with anticipation that I could hardly stand to listen to music. Instead I opted to recite my rehearsed answers aloud, tweaking my wording and testing out different tones of voice.

It would have been cute if the rest of this story wasn’t so sad.

I was gung-ho about making an amazing impression, to the point where I was blind to my surroundings. I parked in a back alley in a weird, empty part of town. I felt odd walking around here in a suit, but I shook it off.

I was grateful for this opportunity to work at a real marketing firm.

Finally stepping into the lobby that I hoped I would soon call home, I should have been put off, but I wasn’t. The bored-looking receptionist had headphones in and was mumbling into his smartphone. He hardly noticed me, but I tapped on his desk and told him my name and that I was there for the marketing associate position.

“Wait here, and we’ll call you when it’s your turn.” He put his ear buds back in.

There was one other guy in the lobby. He was older, prolly pushing 40, looked sweaty and just as nervous as I was.

I had arrived 15 minutes early. Half an hour later, I was still waiting. The receptionist said nothing to me. One other woman occasionally came through a door behind his desk. I saw jumbles of cardboard boxes stacked up in the room past the door.

I began to notice how dingy the place was. IKEA furniture. Fake plants. Stupid magazines. Dirt and dust accumulating along the edges of the faded carpet.

I had a sudden sinking feeling.

I pulled out my phone and searched for the place on Glassdoor. My worst fears were realized when I started to read reviews titled “scam” and “avoid this company.”

Others like me who had thought they were coming out to interview for a marketing position at a consulting firm were tricked into interviewing for what boiled down to a door-to-door sales gig peddling Verizon FiOS to low-income Philly residents.

My heart plummeted as I realized that all my preparation, all the excitement I’d built up, was wasted. I felt cheated. I had been dreaming that I’d nail the interview and move to the city in a few weeks. Now I just wanted to go home.

Still, I stuck it out. I wanted those reviews to be wrong.

When I finally got called back, the lady who interviewed me barely let me talk. I plastered on a smile and did my best to seem interested.

She used a lot of big words and tossed arbitrary questions at me rapid-fire. Stuff like “what are your hobbies?” and  “rank the following 4 terms: money, fun, people, growth.”

She didn’t seem interested in me as a person. She hadn’t even looked at my resume until I sat down with her. She checked off that I had work experience and people skills, and offered me a second interview.

I declined.

So this story does have a happy ending. 3 months later, I have another second interview. This time with a company I’m really excited about. I’m driving to Philly again tomorrow afternoon to try to win them over.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

~ Nick


2 Replies to “3: my first real job interview was a scam”

  1. As I read this all I could think of was, that every interview, every time your in selling yourself… is a good practice session for the opportunity that is right for you… be optimistic. Go in thinking this is the one. The right fit. The first step. You’ll find your way

    1. Even knowing what I knew walking into that room, I managed to get the offer. And I saw that as a victory, despite feeling cheated in other ways. Thanks Sue, those are really words to live by. (:

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