What was happening to me? This was the first time I had ever felt anxious whilst sitting and waiting for my name to be called. I excel during interviews, after all, that’s my area of expertise. But for some reason, today's interview made me feel nervous; an uneasy knot forming in the pit of my stomach. This was different and I couldn’t understand why I was suddenly feeling like this.
‘Pull yourself together’ was the mantra I had on repeat in my head; yet here I was worrying.
As an experienced Human Resources Manager, I had conducted hundreds of interviews. I knew all the questions, and more importantly, I knew what answers were expected. Recruitment and Selection, Staff Retention and Performance Management were my areas of expertise, in fact I completed my studies with Honors. I knew what to say and do – yet here I was unable to help settle that unnerving feeling.
This was an important career move for me. BL Corp, the largest Corporation in the State and the 3rd largest firm Nationally were recruiting a Director of Staff Performance and Retention. Needless to say, this role was the epitome of everything I had worked and studied for. I knew I was up against the best. Whilst my experience was strong, I had no doubt the other candidates had far greater experience. At only 29 years of age, my experience paled in comparison. I knew I was the underdog in this race for the role of my dreams; but I had made it this far, now I just had to impress the Directors during the interview.
“Tori Taylor” the Receptionist called. I stood up, straightening my dress suit, picked up my briefcase and confidently made my way to the office where interviews were being held.
I was introduced to Mr Salvatore the owner of BL Corp. To Mr Salvatore’s right was his oldest son Bradley and to his left was his youngest son Leonard. I was surprised that the Directors of the Company were holding this interview – I knew this role was important, but did it really require all three Directors present? Fortunately, I had researched the family and promptly extended my hand, greeting each Director with confidence and professionalism. Before me stood three of the most powerful businessmen in the State. Whilst such a situation would be intimidating to some, I wasn’t one to feel threatened by their level of wealth and power; to me this was a great opportunity.
Mr Salvatore invited me to sit and almost immediately began the interview. As the founder of BL Corp, Mr Salvatore seemed personable, he was indeed a gentleman in every sense. He discussed his business with me explaining how and why this vacancy came about. Had it been an interview with only Mr Salvatore present, my nerves wouldn’t have been on such high alert; but his sons did not put me at ease.
Bradley Salvatore looked a few years older than me. He radiated confidence and arrogance. His mannerisms screamed rich heir; the type of guy that was given everything and with that, he had a thirst for authority and dominance. As the first born, it was likely Bradley was groomed into the corporate world and as such, it was evident he enjoyed the influence his family name brought him.
Leonard Salvatore on the other hand was around my age. Whilst he too radiated confidence, in contrast, I couldn’t sense the level arrogance his brother portrayed. It may have been the second child syndrome, where he felt the need to rebel and enjoy the pleasures of his privileged existence. On the surface, Leonard appeared carefree and happy-go-lucky; yet watching him sitting in the interview room smirking at me, gave me an uneasy feeling.
Normally I am not bothered by others, but for some reason having two Directors close in age to me, staring me down made me nervous. I did my best to zone them out and focus on Mr Salvatore and the interview at hand. Fortunately, Mr Salvatore was predictable in his interview technique, asking the usual questions to which I was able to happily and confidently respond. Overall he seemed happy with my responses, recommendations and ideas relating to staff retention and management.
The interview was going really well and just as my confidence started to grow, Bradley’s question and demeanor caught me off guard. “I see you can confidently sit here and state all the answers we’re looking for” he said with a smirk whilst holding a copy of my Application Form in his hand. His comment came seemingly out of the blue. It was the first time Bradley had spoken throughout the interview and his words instantly had me on edge.
Watching him looking intently at my Application Form caused the knot in the pit of my stomach to tighten. I recalled the night when I had submitted the online Application Form; the questions were long and detailed, so to help, I listing my answers in bullet form, with the intention of elaborating on each question. Unfortunately, I never had the chance to elaborate as my best friend called me and without thinking I hit ‘Submit’ rather than ‘Save’.
Reverting my attention back to the matter at hand I maintained Bradley’s scrutiny, looked him in the eye and politely asked if he had a problem with the Application Form I submitted. I don’t know what possessed me to do this, but I knew that my application couldn’t have been all bad, otherwise I wouldn’t have made it to the interview process.
Leonard, having hardly spoken during the interview, seemed to find my response quite amusing. For a brief moment his self-entitled façade was removed as he looked at his brother, seemingly trying to hold back laughter as he eagerly awaited Bradley’s response.
‘I’m perplexed. All other candidates spent time in carefully preparing their answers. You on the other hand submitted bullet points; who in their right mind does that? Is this a new HR strategy that you thought you could try out on us? To me it screams lazy and unmotivated’ Bradley's words were scathing.
Maintaining a calm front, I responded, not once breaking eye contact with Bradley ‘Mr Salvatore, let me assure you my Application for this role was in no way HR strategy. As you’ll see from my responses, I’m direct and believe in getting results without creating unnecessary work. Wasting hours to provide elaborate responses isn’t conducive for anyone; you might call this lazy, but to me, it’s productive. I could have happily spent several hours on this application; I could have written everything you wanted to hear. In addition, you could have spent a significant amount of time reading my application; all to get the same answers I provided in bullet points’ I paused briefly before continuing ‘I don’t believe in wasting time. This application gave you the answers you needed; I’m surprised someone of your status failed to recognize that.’ My final sentence was calm, but with it lingered a spiteful undertone.
Bradley looked at me when I finished, his eyes were blazing and his tone rather threatening ‘Miss Taylor, I want a Director of Staff Retention and Performance that’s prepared to dedicate their time to get results. I find your approach and rationale subpar’.
I was speechless, never in my wildest dreams did I expect to be insulted during the interview.
I looked at all three Directors who each had different expressions on their faces. Bradley was seething, Mr Salvatore looked like a father wanting his children to stop fighting and Leonard looked amused by the situation.
Ignoring Bradley, I addressed Mr Salvatore, asking if he had any further questions. To be perfectly honest, I knew this interview was going nowhere, I wanted it wrapped up so that I could go home. Truth being, there was nothing wrong with my current job, in actual fact I loved it. I was just looking for the next step up to advance my career; which at this exact moment I realized was not going to be with BL Corp.
‘Well, Tori’ Mr Salvatore smiled, clearly trying to calm the tension in the room ‘I never expected such a turn in today’s interview. For the record, I liked your Application, that is why I selected you for this interview.’ I could hear Bradley grunt in the background but didn’t give him the satisfaction of a response.
Mr Salvatore continued ‘I enjoyed your company and professionalism during today’s interview. You have a unique ability to state your case in a rationale manner. You’re refreshing and I like you, which is why I’d like to offer you the role’.
‘What?’ both brothers almost yelled in unison.
I could tell Bradley was rattled by what his father had just said. Leonard on the other hand continued sitting there with a smirk on his face; he was strange and appeared to have served no purpose in the interview. Outwardly I gave Mr Salvatore a smile, inside I was frozen. This was my chance at my dream job; but I knew it would be a living hell working with Bradley – he appeared to dislike my presence with a vengeance.
Surprised by the turn of events, I thanked Mr Salvatore his offer and asked that his office email me the proposal so that I could review it prior to accepting. I needed to buy myself some time to consider how best to move forward.
Standing up, I thanked all three Directors ‘Mr Salvatore, Bradley, Leonard; thank you for your time today’ I extended my hand however Bradley stormed straight past me and out of the room; could this interview get any more bizzare? I didn’t want to wait to find out, so acting as though the childlike outburst hadn’t just occurred, I bid farewell the two remaining Directors, picked up my briefcase and left the office without looking back.