Nailing the Interview

“In the end, I had to smash him on the head with a hammer, twice,” said the tall woman sitting at the middle of a long table on a padded chair. “It split open like an egg, blood and brains all over the floor.”

“Well, it was the right thing to do,” said the young man to her left.

“Yeah, it was,” an older woman nodded.

I got to the National Fiscal Evaluation Regulatory Agency offices a little early and stuck my head into the boardroom to let the interview panel know of my arrival. I had obviously interrupted some serious conversation.  

“Come on in,” said tall, now-scary-to-me, middle-table woman upon seeing my head peer through the open door. “Sit down.”

I did. Quickly.

“So, we’ve all seen your resume and have the results of your office skills test,” she said. “Obviously, you made the cut, and we just want to hear a bit about your work habits and get a feel for what motivates you.”

The young guy seemed disengaged, looked down, and started muttering.

“I don’t think I could have done it,” he said in semi-whisper.

“You never know what you will do until you have to,” tall, scary one said turning to him. “Anyway, drop it; we’re supposed to be doing an interview.”

I tried to focus and mentally rehearsed government-job vocabulary.

“Now, tell us a bit about yourself,” said the chair.

I hate this non-question question.  It’s supposed to be a big chance to differentiate yourself from other candidates. But there are so many stupid ways to differentiate yourself; so few good ones.  I hesitated, and that created an opening for older lady to chime in on the not yet dead conversation about hammers and brains.

“If I couldn’t do it myself, I would have gotten Eddie to do it,” she said. “He’s good at that stuff, anything to do with blood or tools.”

I told them about my mandolin lessons, my interest in foreign language music, and some of the things I put on the walls of my apartment. This was to be my warm up to information more directly aligned with the position of Assistant Audit Engagement Leader.

“Well, that’s great, Mr. Swallow,” said the scary panel chair. “But I guess what we’d really like to know is where do you see yourself in five years?”

“How many years do you think he would have lived if you hadn’t killed him?” asked the older woman. 

“I don’t know,” said the panel chair.  “Why do you care?  He was miserable – that was obvious. Now, focus on what the bloody candidate has to say.”

I cleared my throat.

“Um, five years, well let’s see, I will be over fifty,” I said. “I guess the odds of being in a doctor’s office or a pharmacy would be greater.”

“We were thinking more about where you saw yourself in our organization,” said young guy. “You know maybe a supervisor or even the Engagement Leader position itself.”

“Yeah, that’s what I meant,” I backtracked. “I meant that I’ll probably be in some really high pressure, miserable, stressful job and that will mean I will need to go to the doctor and get some prescription drugs.”

“I guess it would have been ridiculous to try to give him drugs to the ease the pain,” said young guy, returning to the other subject, picking up on my last words, and ignoring the rest.

“Will you just drop it,” said the panel chair. “Now focus, and let’s get this over with, that bright one with the private sector experience is going to be here in five minutes.”

Looking back at my face, recognizing a confused, awkward kind of ignorance, and noticing a black electronic device in the closed palm of my hand, she grimaced, sighed, and elucidated.

“We’re talking about a mouse,” she said. “It was caught in a trap, but didn’t die, crawled with its front feet across the goddamn basement floor leaving a streak of blood behind it and squealing in pain.”

“Yes, that’s what I thought,” I lied. 

“Then, why did you keep turning on that tape recorder when we were talkin’ about it ?”

“Ah, ah, oh, I see my time is up.”

“Oh yeah, right, so that’s the interview, but we could schedule a follow-up to talk about why you were fired from your last job -  or maybe we should just end it now as we always do by asking  if you have any questions you would like to ask us ?”

“Yeah, do you still have that hammer ?”