First Professional Job Interview — Fresh Out of College

This is the short story of a young college grad’s first professional job interview right after graduation.

It was a few years ago, and the job market was about as bleak is it is in many sectors today.  Although the leads had been few, the grad had high hopes, since he was graduating in January, so the competition was much less.  He finally landed an interview with the hiring manager of a 3 year old start-up company, and it went well.  He soon progressed to the manager’s boss, and then on up to the VP-Operations.  All went very well, and the VP explained that all he had to do left in the process was a brief meeting with the CEO, since he has to meet all the professional hires before they could extend an offer.  He told the grad not to worry, and that they had never had a well-vetted candidate rejected by the CEO.

The big day arrived, and the grad put on his new (and only) suit, and arrived early for the interview.  At the appointed time, he was ushered into the CEO’s office, where the CEO met him with a warm handshake and greeting.  Even before they both sat down, the CEO picked up the grads resume from a pile on his desk, started reading it —- and suddenly froze.

He looked at the grad, held up his hand and said “don’t sit”, and then continued to read.  In less than 30 seconds, as he went from his regular pale complexion to various shades of crimson, he tore the resume to shreds, threw it in the trash, and turned to the grad.  “Who in the hell do you think you are?!  You clearly are not the person described on this resume, so you’re either a blatant lair, or an imposter, or both.  Get out of this office right now before I call the police!”

Needless to say, the grad exited rapidly, caught up in emotion ranging from tears to rage.  The VP of Operations had heard the loud one-sided short interview (as had most everyone in the main office), and he tried to catch up with the young man running for his car, but the grad would have none of that and he took off!

The History

A little background information is in order.  The CEO was a young man himself, who had only recently re-assumed his role after taking a year’s sabbatical to “finish up” his own college degree at a nearby university.    The grad, coincidentally, had attended the same school in the same university, and graduated with the same major/degree as the CEO.  It was a small school, and the graduating class for that department in that January was only 12 students.  And due to some administrative changes the school had made in the fall semester, the young grad had then surpassed the needed credits for graduation, they decided to graduate him, and since he lived off campus, they mistakenly notified the student through his campus mailbox – which he had never used!  Not surprisingly, he never attended the graduation, and only found out he was a graduate when his Dad called to tell him after reading it in the local newspaper!   So he picked up his diploma at the Bursar’s Office, left campus, and attempted to find his first job with little or no preparation.

The Rest of the Story

After the 30 second “interview”, the grad had driven around for a few hours, to cool off.  When he arrived home, he found 3 massages waiting from him — all from the VP of Operations.  When they connected by phone, the VP told him the CEO was still on a tear, declaring that “ I graduated from that very school, on the very same night, and with the exact same degree as that candidate claims – there were only eleven of us on stage and I have never seen that man before in my life!”   The grad insisted to the VP that everything on his resume was 100% accurate. And the VP promised to get to the bottom of – which only took a day and a visit to the school.

It seems that since both were off-campus students, who worked part-time, and they didn’t happen to share a similar course schedule, the CEO and the grad had coincidentally just never encountered each other!  The young CEO had made an incredibly quick and rash decision that he was being deceived, and reacted accordingly.  After the VP finished his fact finding, an apology and an offer were extended to the grad.  He managed to get by the issue, accepted, and went on to launch his career there, earning 6 promotions over the next 7 years.  (No more than 1-2 of which were driven by guilt!)

A Teaching Moment

It’s pretty clear that although young himself, the CEO had not even bothered to read the resume before the interview.  He then jumped to the wrong conclusions, and things went downhill from there.  He could have avoided the whole thing by either being better prepared, or at least remaining cool and asking the grad to explain his schooling a bit more.

It’s certainly won’t be the only time you’ll encounter a less than fully prepared interview, but I know that at least in my case, it motivated me to follow a career dedicated to recruiting and the recruiting process, to try to make it work better — since as that grad, I can attest to it being a painful experience!

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