Well, that’s it in a nutshell.
I applied for an assistant project manager position with a largish construction firm, and they agreed that I should have done that. I went yesterday for my second interview, in which one of the project managers was saying things like, “If I can get you…”, and when I asked about wages the president, hearing what I make now, looked relieved. “Well, you’ll be making more than that.” On my way out the door, the PM who very obviously wanted me working for him shook my hand and told me that I was impressive, very impressive, and he looked forward to seeing me again — told me loudly, and then scooted off after the president, chatting as they went. I expect I’ll have an offer of some sort from them early this next week. It was just that positive an experience.
I had a phone interview as an applicant for a Crystal Reports design specialist for a construction software company. The HR director and I quickly became the best of friends, expressed our undying love for one another, and she told me straight out, that if she’d the authority she would make me an offer right now. I was sad and told her that, in all liklihood, I’d have an offer by the following week and wouldn’t be available by the time her company’s processes brought me in for an interview. She was appalled. She consulted with me on availability, then ran out of her office to the division VP’s office, where she jumped over the other applicants and the internal procedures. The entire staff of the Report Design department and the division VP will come in an hour early on Monday if I can be there for my second interview. Unless I grossly misunderstand how cool the reports I’ve designed are, and how much it says about me that I taught myself database architecture and Crystal design, I expect that I will get an offer from them on Monday. I quizzed her about money, and, on hearing what I’m currently making, told me I’d be making more. “Much more. Don’t worry.”
Have I been selling myself short for two decades? How bizarre.
How to get an interview you shouldn’t have
I had a third interview with another construction company. They wanted a project manager as well, and I made friends with the HR person until she suggested that she walk my resume through the office. After a bit I managed to talk to the chief architect who had seen my resume and asked me if I’d like to come in and look around a bit. We chatted for a while, and I cemented the relationship, then touched the HR director again. Earlier this week I called again and asked the HR director for my buddy, the architect, but he wasn’t in. “Do you want his voice mail, or should I transfer you to the VP?”
Bingo. Friend to friend to decision maker. I felt very accomplished. The VP and I talked briefly, and he called me back that afternoon to set an interview, since everyone in the office knew me by name at this point.
I met the VP, and he looked uncomfortable. He had my resume, and trouble meeting my eye. This is a very high-powered sort of office; I expected him to be a bit more assertive. He spent maybe five minutes asking me questions, and looked more uncomfortable as we went. My best efforts couldn’t put him at ease. Finally he asked me to take a test on general knowledge, just so we all knew where we stood.
The test was on strength of materials, practical knowledge of densities and applications of various varieties of steel and concrete…it was an structural engineering test. I thought about the offices we’d passed on my tour, and realized that every PM’s office had drafting equipment, and the light began to dawn.
This is a design-build firm, which means that the customer comes in with a vague idea of “I want a building” and the firm conceptualizes, drafts up plans, engineers the structure, and then builds it. Most design-builds are construction companies with an architect on the payroll. This one was an architectural firm that subcontracted out all of its construction.
The VP was uncomfortable because he KNEW that I was utterly unqualified for the position, but his staff kept putting my name forward. My calls kept filtering through the office. My name kept showing up on internal emails. I was entirely inappropriate for the job, but he didn’t know how I had gotten this far and so didn’t know what he should do with me…and hadn’t the balls to say to me, “Scott, I’m confused; why would anyone have thought you should have an interview here?” It couldn’t be that I was expected to pick things up on the job; engineering a structure is a huge liability issue for the company. Hiring someone untrained is a complete failure in due diligence.
I confirmed my perception of the work the PM’s perform, then thanked everyone for their time, thanked the individuals for being so helpful on the phone and by email, and left. I had gotten this interview solely on … I don’t know what to call it. Personal aura. Force of personality. Social engineering.
I really think I could have gotten a second interview if I had continued. “Frankly, Dave, this test isn’t going to be a good representation of my work abilities; I haven’t been doing any structural analysis myself since 1997 (when I was still in college). I’ll tell you honestly, I’ll need to get back up to speed on this, but we should talk about my abilities in documentation and litigation prevention measures. When can the president come in for a chat, the three of us?”
Unless the pres was a harder touch than his staff, I would get an offer, the company would be sued as many times as I managed projects, and the next ten years of my life would be utterly painful. I’m glad I cut it short.
So: for those of you using my methods, if you are going to accept responsibility for the decision of whether you are a suitable candidate, you must accept the responsibility for whether your presence is in the company’s best interest, as well. Sheesh.
Both of the other jobs are very desirable, but I’m hoping that I can make the software job work. We’ll see. If neither pans out, then I’ll have to actually put some effort into job hunting.