I appreciate the short interview. I understand the long interview.
There are moments when you realize that the interview is like being arrested, getting locked in a room with windows and sitting at a table waiting to be grilled. The room is really a glass cube centrally located for optimal viewing. Imagine that glass cube in Times Square with people walking by on their way to do their jobs or not. There are moments of stopping and staring through the glass, trying to figure out exactly what you’re doing in that glass cube. They smile if you notice them and continue on their way. Another passes and repeats. You smile and think of things to do that will entertain. Maybe you could do that hand trick you learned as a child, or maybe the mime skills you developed in college. You could entertain. It’s possible.
Someone offers you water. You refuse the water. Guides say to refuse the water. They continue to offer you water throughout your stay in the glass cube. What do they think? Do you look like you’re dying of thirst? Did you really speak so much that you need to drink a glass of water each time someone comes or goes? It’s freaking crazy. You refuse the water and at some point after being asked for the fifth or sixth time, you accept. Yes, I’m going to drink the damn water. I’m going to get the glass of water and I’m going to love it! You don’t do this very often. Instead you do it once and realized that they didn’t really expect you to say yes. There’s no place to put the water. There’s no place to throw out the paper cup when you’re done. There’s the awkward moment when you’re drinking the water and the next person shows up. It’s a ploy. You’re unprepared and accidentally splutter while trying to regain your composure.
They come one at a time or altogether. You just don’t know. If they come alone, they come constantly. You’ll meet with this one first, then that one, and then the big guy or gal. If it’s just one, you can focus on the one. Sometimes they come in groups and surround you. They sit across from you. You’re in the hot seat. You’re sitting at the firing squad. You better prepare to entertain! You’re waiting for the entire group to question you all at once. They pull out papers with information they can reference when talking to you. There are notes or a list of questions. They need you to say very specific things in very specific ways but you have no clue how to do what they’re expecting. They know when you do it. You know nothing!
You stand to say hello and say their names so that you’ll remember it later. You don’t always remember their names. You think you spoke to one person but you actually spoke to someone else. You have too many names to keep straight. You smile. You sit and watch and listen. You nod when they speak. Nodding is a form of acknowledgement. You acknowledge that they’re talking and you’re listening. You acknowledge that they have a point. You focus on making sure you have eye contact because eye contact is not something you particularly do in your normal life. You nod and wait for them to ask you something that you can respond to. Sometimes, it takes a while because they like to speak.
You try to answer their questions. You’ve reached a point in life where most answers begin with the phrase “It depends,” which is the wrong phrase when you’re in the glass cube. Nothing depends, everything is or was. Nothing depends! “It depends” is for outside the glass cube. You try to make your responses fluid and coherent. You try not to interrupt because that might rub the person the wrong way and that would be it. An immediate end. What the hell are they talking about anyway? They ramble, look at their list, make their judgments and leave. Of course, they ask if you want water or the bathroom before the next interrogation. You say no. You say you’re fine. You stand as they leave, smile and shake hands. They leave.
You sit back down and reflect on what just happened. Did you play the part correct? Did you answer the questions appropriately? Did you just incriminate yourself? Chances are you just incriminated yourself. You just said something you shouldn’t have. You just smirked when you shouldn’t have or wasn’t planning to. You took too long to answer the question about what people would say about you. Of course, they want to check your ego and your ego is not at its highest point at the moment. You should have remained silent. You should have called your lawyer.
Anyhow, you start to look around the cube to see as much as you can. You begin to question yourself about why you’re sitting there in the first place. You’ve been sitting for a while. Occasionally, you get up, stretch your legs, sit and swivel in your chair. Would you even like working in such an environment? You’re pretty sensitive to environments. Do you like the neighborhood? Would you want to be there if you weren’t working? Sometimes it’s yes and sometimes it’s no. When it’s no, you look closer at the things on the walls, the people walking by the glass cube where you’re on display. These people would be your colleagues. There’s only one thing on the wall, a whiteboard. Someone is working on something you can do, have done, and would have a good time doing. That’s awesome! You want this! The glass cube is not so bad. The next person enters, shakes your hands and interrogates you. You smile a lot. You’re ready to leave.
You leave feeling like it was okay. The job would be great but the interview was just okay. Even from the first phone call and email, you just didn’t get the sense that it was going that well. Anyhow, it would be great to work for the company. They do good work. You respect their work. You want to do the job. You can do the job in your sleep!
You blew your moment in the glass cube. You get a boilerplate email that tells you that they thought you were not the one. They had a lot of better people and they went with one of them. You feel bad. You feel pissed. You reflect on the whole day and what you did or didn’t do. You dissect your experience and come to the conclusion that you could be better in glass cubes. You could accept that it is all an act and you’re just not performing. You should have mime something. You should done the hand trick. You walked into that glass cube for that interrogation. You could have prepared better. You could have been less nice and more aggressive. You could have flaunted your degrees and all your successes. You could have done more!
You think more about it and you think you just don’t like glass cubes. You read and reread the boilerplate email. You don’t like it. When they first contacted you, there was a human on the other side, but now there are robots. Robots don’t know who you are, just that you were in the glass cube. Of all the people that came in to the glass cube, who you listened to, remembered, and thanked, not one of those people had enough respect to contact you directly. Sometimes, it happens that one of those people contact you, which says, yes, you were in the glass cube and we appreciate that you allowed us to interrogate you while others walked by to stare at you. It is very rare!
In those rare moments, you connect with the human, the glass cube, and the network of life.