My Third Worst Interview Experience
"Do you know the Klingon proverb that tells us that revenge is a dish that is best served cold?"
I wrote the following quite a while ago and never posted it. Last night a recruiter from this company reached out to me about interviewing for this very same position. In all this time, they either didn't fill the role or hired someone and they left. I'm surprised they reach out without checking the prior history of a person with the company. As a result, I'm posting this now.
I interviewed for a position as a CAD and PLM administrator at a start-up. At the time of this interview I had already:
· Been a CAD and PLM administrator multiple times including Amazon.
· Written books on Creo Parametric. (I provided hardcopies to them.)
· Launched my YouTube channel on Creo Parametric.
My bona fides were in the bag. My technical qualifications were already established. Based on my phone calls with the CEO, I was looking forward to an interview experience where we could establish the value and leadership I could bring to the start-up.
The day started out with the panel interview where you brief the interviewers on your background and address group questions. It’s a great way of avoiding repeat questions.
Then came my first one-on-one interview. A young engineer entered the room. He was probably under 30. He tosses a stapled document onto the table in front of me. “Let’s go through this.”
I pick up the document and I’m immediately confused. It was a test on Geometric Dimensioning and Tolerancing (GD&T). The job description did not contain GD&T. I don’t have GD&T on my resume. I’ve had training on the subject, and I can do it a little bit. I even have some videos on it.
“Am I going to be performing GD&T in this role?” Again, I had been a CAD administrator for years. While it is helpful to know, it’s by no means necessary. Many CAD administrators are not even engineers.
“You may have to.”
Really? That did not make any sense. “What role am I interviewing for? And what are the duties?”
We were clearly not on the same page. We discussed the role; from his perspective, it was more like an entry-level design engineering role with some CAD administration on the side. I am far from entry level (I performed structural analysis in my entry level days, not detailed design) and wasn’t looking for a step backwards.
We start going through the test. I can answer some questions. Others I can’t. It had been a while and I was not prepared for a GD&T test.
We’ve wasted two-thirds of our interview time on this useless test. “Why don’t we concede that I’m not an expert on GD&T, which I never claimed to be. Do you want to ask me any questions about CAD administration?”
“I don’t know anything about CAD administration,” he responded.
“Then why the hell are you on my interview panel?” I thought that in my head and regret not saying it out loud.
The second one-on-one was a CAD test delivered by an engineer about the same age as the first guy. I’ve got years – decades – more CAD experience than the person administering the test. I thought my experience / previous employers, writing, and videos were proof of my technical capability.
He presented a design problem regarding a structure that’s become very popular in our field. It can be hard constructing it, especially on curved surfaces. We struggled with it at my current job. We hadn’t found any elegant solutions. We had only brute force solutions that involved a lot of sketches and extrudes or surfacing.
This is the problem he wanted to tackle in our time.
He didn’t have an answer to the problem. It felt like “help us with this design problem during your interview.” Now I really started to feel uneasy. We’re two for two so far on people on my interview panel who aren’t focused on the duties of the role I was interviewing for.
Once again, I ask, “Do you want to ask me any questions about CAD and PLM administration?” He conceded that he didn’t know enough about the subject to ask any questions.
Then it dawned on me. This is the only way they know how to interview.
It’s a one size fits all experience. It doesn’t matter what role you are interviewing for. They are going to ask the same questions of everyone.
The afternoon was okay, mainly because I had already written off this as a place I wanted to work. My final conversation with the CEO and it went well. I had brought up my confusion from the morning that based on the tests I didn’t know what role I was interviewing for.
I went to the airport and checked in for my flight home. Now that I was out of the crucible, I had more time to process the events of the day. I was convinced more and more that it was an inappropriate interview experience.
I had time before my flight, so I left a message for the recruiter. She called me back and I explained how frustrated and disappointed I was with the unprofessional experience.
She explained that they have had a lot of difficulty filling this role. The information I conveyed confirmed her suspicions that the problems were not with the candidates.
The next day (Saturday) I had a phone call with the CEO after he had spoken with the recruiter. He had apologized for my experience and said that he would be working with the team to prevent that from happening again.
He liked me and asked if I wanted to continue with the hiring process. I declined.
My reasons were simple. You are taking a risk with a start-up. You don’t know if they’ll be around for six weeks or six months or if they’ll be the next Google. Recruiting talent is one of the most important functions of a start-up. This company didn’t know how to interview. I couldn’t hitch my star to this wagon under those circumstances.
This experience revealed a lot to me. As I had seen at other companies, just because someone is good at their job does not mean they are good at interviewing. Train your people in how to interview. Organize and review the questions that people are going to ask and not simply assume they have relevant ones.
This also affirmed that interviews are indeed a two-way process. The candidate is interviewing you as you are interviewing the candidate.
My biggest mistake was not interjecting strongly enough as soon as the interview went off the rails. I should have refused any part of the GD&T test and called for a reset of expectations with the recruiter, hiring manager, and CEO.