By Martha Melendez
An executive volunteers her time to mentor job seekers, which I find quite incredible, given how busy she is. Anyway, the first time when
I met my coach, she told me that someone would snatch me up quickly. “Are you kidding?” – She said – “You have great experience, speak Spanish and look professional!” This is a series of anecdotes on why I remained unemployed for a long time.
My first phone interview was with a company selling heavy industrial equipment – no experience in this business area but willing to learn quickly. At the end of the interview, both the interviewer and I realized that this was not a match. I learnt that I didn’t have to apply to every single posting.
Then, I was called for an interview with my dream company. Let me say that again slowly please, “I was called for an interview with my dream company”. I met with a manager who started the interview by saying that it was not an interview – it was a conversation! How cool is that? He seemed impressed by my experience and ended the interview saying, “You are certainly lovely,” without any inappropriate undertones, I guarantee you. Now, I thought, does lovely and professional go together?
I was thereby surprised when I was called for an interview with the same company with a woman executive in a higher position. She had a list of tough questions, which I easily answered, if I may say so myself. I remembered how important it was to show that one knows about the company; thereby I made a comment about one of its recent strategies. The interviewer said, “Oh, I forgot about that. Thank you for reminding me.” I cried when I heard that an internal candidate had been selected.
On I went to interview with a non-profit organization where I was asked to show how to solve their problems. I met with the Director who went over my resume, written presentation and references all the while assessing my communication skills. He was so confident that I was going to do well that he decided to skip my presentation. I presented to a diverse group of people and received excellent feedback.
After that, I met with the decision-maker who reported to the Director. She wanted me to know that she had already put in place one of my strategies and thank you very much. Never mind that the other ideas were new to her and the department. She chose a candidate that had performed the exact same job at a different non-profit. I felt sorry about losing that opportunity.
The next company where I interviewed was a consumer product company who was desperate to find the ideal candidate. I had filled out an extensive questionnaire of short answers prior to be considered for an interview. My interviewers were a consumer researcher, who advised the team, and a salesperson, who managed the team. The consumer researcher loved my responses. The lady found my questions tiresome. I later received an email saying that I had not been selected and please do not contact us again. I thought that was drastic.
My coach suggested that I apply to the local university given my level of education. I proceeded to do so and applied over several months to positions where my skills and qualifications matched most of the requirements. After a series of rejections, a woman took pity on me and finally answered my question of why I was being passed over – “You have a strong application but other candidates know more about educational programming.” I appreciated her taking the risk to share this insight.
In the meantime, I found a posting with another company which had a reputation for being conservative. I wore my usual uniform except for a prissy new shirt. While I am interviewing, to my horror, I saw that a peak of my breasts showing! The reason is that I was seating sideways. They were gracious enough to keep me in their consideration set. I took this experience as a mistake to be avoided in the future.
All of a sudden, I received a call from another consumer product company for a position whose objective was to establish relationships with their main customer. I was so impressed by the interviewers that I wanted to work there right away! I moved on to the second round of interviews with a group of executives. One man questioned me aggressively about my experience and ended up giving me his approval. The next man posed “what if” questions and determined that I was prepared for the position..
The first woman interviewer was knowledgeable. She had no time to look at my portfolio though she suggested a book for me to read. The next woman interviewer was frazzled because she had just taken on a new position. She quickly assess whether I would fit in with the team. I, thankfully, passed that test. The last woman interviewer told me that top marks in business school did not translate into work effectiveness. I had to have the right personality to deal with their main customer. I heard through the grapevine that a candidate with more years of experience than me was chosen. I threw a temper tantrum – at home.
Ironically, their main customer called me for interviews and moved me on to the hiring manager. A tough woman, she was! She assured me that it was a matter of time to find the right position for me and came through on her word. I reflected that she was someone to be loyal to.
All job searches benefit from resilience, all experiences expand knowledge, and all walks through life are sustained by hope.