Not According To Plan

Interviews are not just about the date and time you have to be there by. There’s a lot of preparation involved before going to one. There’s research about the company, made easier thanks to the Internet: what the company is all about, when it was started, what products does it make, what charities it sponsors, and so forth. There’s the practice interview where you try to answer any question asked, either with a friend or family member or in front of the mirror. This includes the tricky questions like “What did you least like about your last position? What are your weaknesses? Why do you think you should be considered above everyone one else for the job? If you were a tree, what type of tree would you be? (I didn’t make up that last question, I actually was asked that during an interview! My answer was “A willow tree because I’m flexible!”)”. You wrap it up by making sure you know where the place is and how long it takes to get there, again thanks to the amazing power of the Internet. I used to rely on a pocket Perly mapbook to find places, but now Google Maps is my best friend.

If you prepare the way I did as shown above, 99% of the time the interview will go according to plan, and all that is left is to wait for the result. There are times, however, it will not go according to plan. In some cases, it will feel like it went as badly as that exploding Delta 2 rocket launch picture I embedded in this blog post. I’m going to share with you today the only two examples of my two year job search where an interview went wrong and, as a fellow jobseeker, how you should handle things after all is said and done.

As I said, out of the many, and I do mean MANY, interviews I’ve been on since I started looking for work in January 2010, two interviews went horribly wrong. Both share a common reason of why they went wrong: I never made it to either place, despite researching where the place was on Google Maps and how to get there with more than enough travel time required.

The first happened in February of 2011, where I had an interview at an IT consulting company in Toronto that catered to clients using SAP. Seeing I had SAP experience at my last position (as a BASIS Administrator and an ABAP/4 programmer), I previously applied for a job opening at that company. I was later contacted by a senior project manager who, though a little brusque, seemed like someone I could work for. He offered a place on his team for a six month contract position but he needed to interview me first to make sure I was “a fit”. I went through the standard preparation for the interview that I always do: the mock interview, the research about the company and what clients the company did SAP migrations and installations for, where it was in Toronto and what bus route I needed to get there. I also heard on the radio that a snowstorm was going to hit Toronto on that same day, so I added one hour to my travel time to make sure I was not going to be late. As a precaution, I took my cell phone with me in case I needed to call. When that snowstorm did hit, while it was not the worst snowstorm in Toronto’s history, it was enough to throw a monkeywrench in my bus commute. Despite my preparations, including factoring in the storm, traffic on the road was slowed to a crawl and I was going to be late. I called the project manager on the cell phone to let him know I was going to be late. To say he was upset in his response was an understatement. He railed over the phone that I “was playing games with his time” and that I was “not serious about the position or the project”. I tried to apologize and offered to come again the following day. He told me in these exact words, “don’t bother” and hung up. Maybe he had a rough time getting to work that morning because of the storm, or maybe the planning of the project was getting to him. It didn’t really matter. It took everything I had just to keep my composure as I got off at the next stop and turn around to go back home.

The second part happened this month (May 2012). Apparently a CEO saw my Kijiji ad and read my blog and my videos and offered an interview for a position at her video company. The hours were during the evening but I did not mind. I did a lot of night shift computer operations work in the early 1990s and my attitude was “if I had the skills to do the job, I’ll do it”. Again, I made the preparations as above and was ready to go. When I arrived at the intersection shown on Google Maps, with plenty of time to spare, I couldn’t find the darned place. Was Google Maps wrong? There was a lot of construction in that area, so was a sign being blocked? I spent half an hour looking for the place. I asked people nearby if they heard of the company and the address but even with their help I still could not find the place. I took out my cellphone to call the CEO to inform her of my situation, and as Murphy’s Law would have it, the cell phone battery died. I went back to the subway station and called from a payphone to tell her I was having trouble finding the office and that I was sorry. Since she had a meeting about some production work that evening, I told her I would be happy to come back on the following day for the interview. She replied that she was not going to be free until the following Tuesday, but we agreed to meet on that day at the same time for the interview. I felt I resolved that professionally but I also got the impression she was unhappy that I did not show up. This feeling was further underscored by the lack of response to an Email that I sent her confirming the date and time of the rescheduled interview. On that following Tuesday, I received an Email (not a phone call) two hours before my interview was to start that the position was filled, and that Email was sent by another person within the same company. I won’t lie to you when I say I was disappointed with how that was handled.

In both of these cases, these were situations where I had no control over the outcome. I prepared, I planned, I rehearsed. It just didn’t go as expected. While I was not happy with how things went, I didn’t beat myself up over it. As Alexander Graham Bell once said:

“When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us”

Wise words. I can’t change what happened in what is now the past, but there are still opportunities ahead for me to take. I can’t afford to have a pity party of what was, at the expense of what I could have. It’s time to move on.

Despite these setbacks I will keep trying to get a job, and for those of you who have found yourselves in the same situation as myself — for any reason– you should keep trying too. There is no shame in failure through trying, but there is shame in failing to try.

Thanks for reading!



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