The “Big Interview” — for starters the train decided to stop for 30 minutes. No big deal. I always give myself a great deal of extra time. But, then I realized that I had made a mistake regarding the location of the building. So, I rushed over to the nearest bus stop only to be told by a would be fellow passenger that there would not be a bus for about an hour. She was just reading her book and enjoying the breeze. So, I rush toward the correct location of the building. This means I was rushing up quite a set of hills. …in a full suit. …in just a bit of a panic. But, it is OK. I made it to the building 20 minutes before the interview is scheduled to start.

However, I have started to sweat. Once I start sweating, it is next to impossible for me to stop. This happens even if I am not nervous. I sweat like a pig once I start. Pretty.


A pocket pack of Kleenex and 15 minutes later I sort of have my sweating under control. I walk into the office space and discover that the plans have been changed again due to client needs. No big deal. Turns out I WILL meet with the CEO/President last. The interviews go VERY well. Am feeling really good about things. I even manage to navigate thru the whole “we are concerned you might not be challenged” issue on the winning side. 1.5 hours later it is time to meet with the Big Guy.

I am used to and comfortable working for and with egos. No big deal. I even rather enjoy it, but I do have my limits.

After keeping me waiting for close to 20 minutes, The Big Guy (let’s call him “BG”) walks into the conference room. We seem to hit it off. He fires off some challenging questions and I think I did well with all of them. We discussed the scope of the position and his business. We discussed my short and long term career goals. We discuss his concern that I will not be challenged. He tosses out some examples of challenges and asks me how I would deal with them — I do believe I passed everything with flying colors. We’ve been “talking” about 40 minutes. We discuss salary and a potential start date.

…I am thinking I have this one! Thanks to the Creator! I think I’ve got a job!!!!

He finally asks if I have any questions. I do. I ask them. He “seems” impressed and answers. I’ve stroked the ego and worked my knowledge of his industry and business. Looking and feeling good. I am thinking we are done.

Then — silence. Awkward silence.

BG begins to draw little squares and circles on my resume.

Less is more. So, I sit patiently while projecting all that psych crap about being “open” and “relaxed, but poised” — and, then, the silence is broken. I am putting the conversation in quotes, but I may be off a bit as I wasn’t taking notes.

BG: “How would you project the revenue I can anticipate from my tenants? I mean, across the board.”

What in the hell?!?!?

me: “Well, it would be a bit different for each tenant as one might only be leasing a small amount of square footage and require very little support. While another might take up a quater of your space and require a great deal of support. I –”

BG: “Excellent answer! How would you break it down?”

me; “Well, I would need to better understand all of the services and support the firm provides to be sure I am not missing something which would be key. However, my thought would be to break it down to rent, tech support/service, administrative support/service, catering, supplies and plug in a misc until I had a more detailed understanding because extra needs or demands will always come up.”

BG: Looks interested, but seems to be waiting for more…

me: “I am strong with Excel, but no wiz. That being said, I would create a simple spreadsheet. Establish a tab, or workbook, for each tenant. Use a simple layout per month for the breakdown we discussed. Each tenant would have a grand annual total and total for each type of service we provide both annual and monthly. Then I would link the pages (or tabs) together to give you a roll-up or wrap-up sheet with all the totals calculated for easy review.”

BG: “Excellent.”

me: “Essentially, I would just want to capture all of the services we provide and project the revenue you might anticipate for the year. However, if I understand, the revenue you receive increases depending upon how well your tenants do with the stock market. Correct? So, a simple sheet like this may not do the trick. I suppose your finance team has all of that covered, tho.”

BG: “Yes. That is correct. I am going to bring you to my office and I would like for you to create this projection for me. Let’s say we have 10 tenants and they are paying $60.00 per square foot. Then create what you just explained.”

me: “OK.”

Now, I am thinking to myself, “why?” — but I can’t decide how I want to play this. You see, none of this has anything to do with the job for which I am applying. I had just met with the Finance person and there is a small team in LA who handles all of this. They are accountants. But, I pick up my brief case and we walk down the hall. I’ve been working with these kind of guys all of my professional career. You don’t want to challenge them, but you also don’t want them to think that you will be their puppet or you lose their respect. The problem was — I stumpled over my words. Not cool and it sent me into a small panic. Which, of course, give him the upper hand and indicates that I am intimidated. Not a good thing with guys like this.

I pause before entering his office.

BG: “What’s wrong? Do you mind doing this? It won’t take you long.”

Hmmmm… Trick question? Can’t tell. ..but here comes the fumble!

me: “No, I don’t — well, uh — You know, I guess I am wondering why we’re doing this. Can you explain the purpose? Is this something with which you would like the position to become involved?”

BG: (good ol’ boy laugh) “No, just curious to see what you will create for me.”

Still. Not a clue.

me: “Oh, but it would just be what I explained to you excepting I would think it makes more sense to do the excercise with only 3 tenants because I was told you have a meeting soon and I have another appointment this afternoon.”

BG: “Sure. 3 is fine.”

Damn, dude. Throw me some sort of bone. Stepping up to his huge desk, BG boots up his pc.

me: “BG, I would never want you to perceive this in the wrong way — but I would like to ask you a question. Straight up. No attitdue intended.”

BG: (not looking up) “Sure.”

me: “Well, I am trying to understand if there is an angle to this test. Do you think I don’t know how to use Excel or is this an HR type of thing that I’m not getting? I am only asking because I am quite interested in this job and I am not sure I understand the purpose of this spreadsheet. I mean, it is going to be very basic and it is my understanding from you and the other members of your team that this is not something you are looking for this position to do. In addition, it isn’t really even applicable because of the way you collect revenue from your tenants. I am not following the logic.”

well, in a dynamics sense — I just scored a point. he wasn’t expecting this line of “attack” — HE stumbles. …but he has a job and IS the Big Guy. so, in the end, this doesn’t really matter at all.

BG: (obviously surprised — he stumbles) “I understand and appreciate what you’re — but. I guess I am — well. You know what, Matt? Why don’t you let me worry about the point. If you don’t want to do it you don’t have to. What’s it going to be?”

Wow! Dukes up! Now, at this point I have decided I do not want to work for this guy. I can handle ego. I can handle Type A, B, C or D. But, I need for leadership to be clear and upfront. I also don’t want to be in a situation like this before I’ve even gotten the job! Jesus! However, I decide I want to blow BG away. I don’t want to give him any satisfaction. He wants a spreadsheet that means nothing — I will give it to him. And, too, maybe there is some logic here that I am missing. so….

me: “Oh, BG — No! This is not a problem. I was just curious. Let me at it!” (big shit-eating grin)

BG: “That’s my man!” (equally big smile)

…hmmm. who’s dick is bigger anyway? LOL! Or maybe he can piss farther than me. This is such bs from BG.

me: “I’ll be done in 5 minutes.”

BG: “Great!”

I start and am focused on getting it done quickly and without error.

Then the individual who is leaving the position for which I am applying pokes her head in and says, “What is he having you do?!?!?” I tell her. She rolls her eyes and asks, “Are you OK with this?” I tell her I am fine. She then smiles and says that she’s never been allowed on that side of his desk.

She walks away and then the individual to whom I would report walks in and says, “Why is he having you do this?” I explain that I do not know. She blushes and tells me that he is in a client meeting for the rest of the day. She then apologizes for his having me to do this and states that she does not understand why he is wasting my time. I tell her it not a problem. I wink at her and joke, “I guess he is testing my basic Excel skills” We both laugh. She shakes her head and walks away.

Approx 6 minutes later I’ve completed the sheets — now I just need to link formulas for the wrap-up page. And, then, I freeze. I mean I FREEZE.

I can’t remember how to link formulas. A complete blank. I try using the “help” function which should give me the answer to this very simple task. But, I can’t think anymore. I am panicked. I just don’t know how to do it. I can feel my face flush, my heart is racing and sweat is about to bead up on my forehead.

SHIT. I am a deer in the headlights.

SHIT! I CAN’T do basic Excel! …at least not at this moment.

I try counting back from 10. I try to think of the adsurdity of this test to lighten myself up. But nothing works. I am screwed. I can’t think of how to do it. I look at his marble desk clock — I’ve been sitting there for 15 minutes. If I stay any longer it is going to just look bad. So, I save my work and leave his office in defeat. He has won.

I walk by and chat with my would be boss and tell her that I failed BG’s test. I tell her that I just drew a blank — that I guess I was just nervous after the interviews and being caught off guard. I tell her to let him know that I am sorry and I stressed that I do know how to link sheets — normally. We both laugh. She tells me not to worry about it.

…but I know that sealed the deal. Or, rather unseals it.

Excuse my language, but FUCK. LOL!

I was so upset as I walked back into the cool breeze of the day. I felt sick and ashamed. I felt defeated. A quick phone call to vent and to find out what it was I was forgetting about linking. …but one call and I remember — it is the “=” sign.

why me? LOL!

Well, tomorrow is another day and another interview. Maybe they will ask me to answer a phone and I will forget how to pick up the receiver.

You know, this style of interviewing is tough enough — to throw a curve ball like this seems rather sadistic. However, I guess one could perceive that it is a test of how well someone operates under “a sort of pressure” — or it could be a test to see how much bullshit an applicant will eat. …I am just not sure which way the BG is looking for the applicant to go. Does he want the candidate to eat shit or refuse and take a stand on principle? I suspect he actually wants the manager to eat shit.

I don’t eat shit.

Either way, it matters not. I failed. I forgot to enter the “=” symbol to link the cells to the wrap-up page.

Oi! I’ve never done well with tests. Some things never change.

Back to the Drawing Board!

August 17, 2005. Uncategorized.


  1. Jennifer replied:

    Omigod, just reading that gave me anxiety! Gah. I would not want to jump through hoops like that, thank you.

    I had a much milder version of that ‘let’s grill the candidate’ thing about 10 years when I was applying for a cocktail waitress gig. The manager wanted me to tell him two call brands of every liquor he called out. Interviewer guy would bark, ‘Tequila’ and I’d try not to roll my eyes and would answer ‘Jose Cuervo. And Patron’. And then he’d say, ‘Gin!’ and I’d answer ‘Tanqueray. Bombay Sapphire.’ At the end, he was like, ‘Wow, you really DO know your call brands!’

    Of course, I didn’t want to hex the interview by retorting that it was a freakin’ country club full of nouveau riche who didn’t know how to order anything but Bud Light, white Zin with an ice back, and the occasional Pink Squirrel for the random senile old lady with more money than God and no sense whatsoever.

    But….whatever. Make me jump through the damned hoops if it makes your ego feel all bouncy and fluffy, dude.

    Don’t let the excel thing get you down. I probably would’ve frozen up on that, too. Blen.

  2. digitic replied:

    Don’t give up just yet!

    Send your Thank You letter Now! Hand deliver it if you must.

    Everything in the interview went well with everyone you spoke to and the responses were apparently favorable.

    If the company is worth it’s salt the exec team you met with will understand that 60% of the job is how well you play with others — you passed all that!

    The other 40% is skill set and ability and the only thing you messed up was a spreadsheet link. You know what you’re talking about and that showed.

    Technical skills can be taught but it’s the People Skills — work relationships, ethics, and collaboration — that really matters.

    It may feel like a monstrously huge failure right now but in the scheme of things it’s how you handled the situation that’s important.

    Remember, the folks who popped their heads into the office and questioned what you were doing acknowledged that what you were being asked to do was unusual.

    Keep in mind that you did not crash and burn. You kept your enthusiasm up even when you felt like shit. When I interview — and I’ve been told that I’m a difficult interviewer — I look for a team player that can keep his/her head under duress.

    There’s no guarantee that you’ll get the job but in the grand scheme of things it sounds like the interview went well.

    Don’t give up and get those Thank You letters (on paper, not email) to all you spoke with now!


  3. Robert replied:

    That was quite an amazing story. Vivid! That’s so unfair of what BG did to you… Where was he coming from???? Idiot!! But the other 2 ladies sounded really pleasant to work with tho.

    What a tramatic experience. I hate, ok, absolutely loathe interviews! Don’t let this get to you. What are the changes that’ll happen to you again, right Matt? πŸ™‚

    Chin up… and I know you will! *hugs*

  4. joe replied:

    hey matt, you can work for me. I’ll never ask you to link excel worksheets. you just have to walk around in a jock and clean my place once a week. πŸ˜›

    seriously, it sounds like a crazy ass BG. but like what digitic says, send the thank you letters. if they offer you job, then you might want to turn them down. working with whacked out egos is not fun.

    it’ll get better soon πŸ™‚

  5. matt replied:

    Joe — when do I start? LOL!

    Thanks, guys! I took care of the letters yesterday late in the afternoon. So that is all done. I would never not do that — ya never know.

  6. Miss Marisol replied:

    here i am thinking i’ve gotten to know matt pretty well, and all of a sudden, i get to experience a glimpse of “matt: the businessman in action.”

    i have such respect for you that you found a diplomatic way to challenge the Big Guy about his seemingly pointless assignment, as well as the fact that his ego helped you understand that you just wouldn’t want to work for him.

  7. g8s replied:

    When I was in college, my girlfriend meant to say, “You just want me to boost your ego,” however she misspoke, and instead blurted out, “You just want me to baste your Yugo!” It’s stupid, but to this day, whenever the thought of boosting someone’s ego crosses my mind, I think of Kathy with a baster in her hand, and it breaks the tension. Maybe this image will work for you, too?

    Anyway, I agree with Marisol; very impressive!

  8. Karyn replied:

    Ok, first, thank you for reminding me why I am lucky to not work right now. I could SO not deal with this kind of crap.

    Second, what is up with that creepy ass doll eye? Occular aversion! Yecch!

    Third, you kick ass. You toe the line and don’t give way and don’t compromise and I respect that! Employers like shit eating puppets but I like your way better. πŸ™‚


  9. matt replied:

    Hey, thanks for the kind words!

    Had a GREAT interview yesterday so I’ve got everything crossed!!

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