I’ve been gone for a while, maybe for too long. My to-post-list keeps growing as I’ve been travelling quite a lot but I couldn’t find the way or the right “excuse” to start writing again. Beside, in the past couple of weeks I’ve been having quite a lot interviews but I never manage to secure any position so I wasn’t feeling over the moon to sit down and write. However, last week I had the kind of interview I thought I would never have again. I thought I had enough knowledge of the industry and enough training in job-hunt that I would be able to spot immediately this kind of scam-interviews but I DIDN’T, so now I feel oblige to share it with you so at least you can have a laugh at poor me and maybe share with others in the blogosphere :)
As I said, I should have seen it coming; that interview was not a serious one or at least not for a serious job. I really don’t know how I missed the clear signals and I’m even more impressed about sitting through the entire “interview”. At some point I seriously considered walking out and leaving the guy talking to his self. Sorry, let’s start from the beginning.
On one of my daily job-search I found an ad that didn’t give much info and however sound promising. “PR staff wanted” was the tittle and then in the description you could read that there was a Stage School opening next week (September 2nd). By stage we mean acting, dancing and music. There wasn’t much info more info about the position and after taking a look to the website I couldn’t get anything new so I decided to call the contact number. A guy with strong American accent answered and when I mention that I was calling in regards the PR position he sound very surprised. He asked if I could have an interview the following day and if I could send my CV. “Wow, this is great” I thought. I asked if the interview was going to be in the school (based in a small town an hour away from Edinburgh). He said that no, that there were some works still going on and if it was ok to meet in a Café. “Sure” I replied. Then he added, “well if you are taking the train, right in front of the station there is an Asda. Mr. R (to keep him anonymous) will meet you there”.
[An interview in the Asda Café? Ok, the school is full of scaffolds and might not be the most suitable place to meet. Sure, why not?]
Before hanging up, I asked how I was supposed to recognize Mr. R. “Oh, he is 30-something, tan skin and will be wearing a business suit. He’ll be impossible to miss”. Again, I let my hopes go up and high and thought that if Mr. R was going to be wearing a business suit, even if the interview was going to be held in an Asda Café, maybe I should dress up a bit.
Next morning, after an hour ride and one train change in Striling I arrive to the Café a couple of minutes before the agreed time. The place was empty. Great, it will be super easy to recognize Mr. R. Before any interview, I usually do some research about the company and for this school I was super excited. In my mind, I pictured a super local extra-curricular school for teens in the evenings and maybe toddlers and seniors in the mornings. I had already started thinking about an engagement campaign with the local community and some cool events to support the up-coming launching. As I reviewed the notes, I knew it wasn’t going to be an extremely well paid job, but I was excited with the challenges that it could present and was really looking forward to the interview. Then, disaster began; I saw a guy entering the café. He was 40-something, with a horrible fake tan and yes, a business suit but no tie and as the first buttons were open I could clearly see a thick and very tacky golden chain. There was a brief eye-contact and he walked towards my table. “Please don’t R. please don’t be him I wished but he was and it was too late to run away.
For the interview “things to come” I think it will be best if I use a dialogue format:
Cat – Oh, sorry. I see you don’t have my CV. As I send it yesterday via mail I thought you would have brought it with you.
R. – CV? No, no. I don’t need it. So… tell me about you. Who are you?
Ok, that was a legitimate question, especially if Mr.R hadn’t read my CV. So I went over it and talked a bit about my professional experience.
R. – Yes, yes. That is very nice. But I want to know what can you do? Anyone can pick up a phone and talk with a journalist. That is very easy.
At first I was a bit confused, I had just told him what I knew and what I could do. However, I thought he was testing me so I went on.
Cat – Well, I’m not only good at media relations. I can design an integrated marketing plan, review your objectives for the school, develop a communications campaign and I also now a little bit about online. As a matter of fact, if you are opening in two weeks, your site needs lots of work. You have no classes, no times and no prices on it. ALSO, you need to wake up and get your act together with the social media. I checked your Facebook profile and you have one follower which I’m assuming is you and in Twitter no post of followers what so ever. You need to start generating a conversation and a buzz about the school among the locals.
R. – Well, that is very interesting Catalina but I don’t want to hire you for the website. I know an amazing guy that does web design and when the time comes, I’ll just pick up my phone and have an incredible website for the school. As a matter of fact, I’m very aware of the situation of the school’s site but that is because I don’t need it to sell the classes. The teachers are so amazing the schools will sell by its own. About social media… I don’t want to hire you for social media either. You know, Facebook, twitter and Google? It is all a big hype. It will be gone in two years.
I tried to avoid laughing in his face. I might not be the biggest fan of social media in the world but I know, recognize and value its power. Whit his words still bouncing in mind, I thought I was focusing the interview the wrong way and that maybe my big expectations were completely mislead. So I pause for a moment and step back.
Cat – Oh, I’m sorry R. Maybe I’ve been handling the interview the wrong way. You see, there was not a job description in the ad and maybe I should have started by asking you what kind of person are you looking for and what does the role involve.
R. – That is an excellent question! I want someone to blow my mind.
Cat – That doesn’t give much information but sure. I can be that person. Tell me about the school. How many students do you plan to have, what is the reach, what are your goals? What about the target audience?
R. – No, Catalina you see? You are doing it again? That is not relevant for the position. I want someone full of energy, optimistic, that can do that extra mile and think out of the box.
Cat – Well, I’m sorry R. but that description is only a description of me but it is the standard description you would find in an ad looking for a hard worker.
R. – That is what you think but the people I work with are different. First of all, they don’t cost me money.
Cat – So you don’t pay them?
R. – No, of course I do but their actions bring money back to the business.
Cat – (Rolling my eyes and starting to give up any hope of a adult and mature conversation) I understand, I think any business works like that but the thing with PR is that it is not that easy to calculate the return of investment. I might get some articles in the newspaper but that doesn’t mean a lot of new kids will enroll in the classes or at least not immediately.
R. – Forget about the media. You see. We are opening in two weeks and I already have 35.000 ordered. The Sun and the Scotsman are going to do a three-page-spread on the school and Capital FM will blast and ad after every song.
Ok, if you are still reading. Let me give you a bit of background on what just happened; Alloa, has a population of no more than 20.000 so I really don’t know what he plans to do with the 35K flyers. Also, the Sun and the Scotsman are pretty big newspapers so I’m not entirely convince they don’t have anything better to write about than a small stage-school opening in a small town but hey, if they do… well done. Also, Capital FM is one of the biggest (if not the biggest) pop/mainstream/Chart-hits radio station, ads with them are pretty expensive but just in case you don’t know how radios work, they don’t play an ad after every song. They prefer to do it in blocks every 15 to 20 minutes. So Mr. R. was not only talking a lot of BS but also has no idea of how the media works.
However, I decide to keep fighting and although I seriously have no idea of what he wants from me or what the “PR role” means for him I smile and carry on.
Cat – R. again, I’m sorry. I have to be honest. I still don’t know what you want from me.
R. – You see Catalina that is alright. I think you are over qualified for this position but you also don’t know anything about the scene so I don’t think it will be a job for you. I have lots of successful business and knowing the scene is key.
Cat – I might not know the scene but if I’m as overqualified as you say, it shouldn’t be an issue and I adapt easily to new environments.
R. – I own a night club! And I have 23 people on the PR team.
Cat – 23 people? That is a huge PR team for just a night club, what do they do?
R. – They give flyers out.
That was my cue. I should have left at that exact minute but I didn’t. I stayed and listen to lots of nonsense. From how he came up with the great (and unique) idea of writing the “PR guy” name on the flyer so he could pay based on the number of flyers that had made it to the club at the end of the week. He also said that just ONE of the members of the team was making 8.000 pounds a week. I don’t know how big a club can be in Dundee (he said the club was there) but if you are paying 1 pound per flyer and that guy is making 8.000 on his own, I’m certainly missing the biggest club in Scotland!! Hehehe.
He jumped from one business to another, never offering a real position. He said that I was too much of a leader and that I wouldn’t be able to work with him. He said I was looking for a 9 to 5 job where I would be making 20 or 24k a year and that he was offering me the opportunity of making 100K (yeah right) Ah! He also mentioned that he was a workaholic and that he would work up to 18 hours a day and on top of that he added he was happily married with two kids. By then I had heard so much BS I didn’t constrained myself and told him that his kids didn’t get to see him much. He fight back replaying that they had amazing holidays every year and that the wife had THREE race-horses back home.
I bit my tongue and didn’t add what other kind of activities his wife was probably into. I started picking up my things and politely told him that what he was offering (if he was offering anything at all) was not what I had in mind when I came to the interview so I would need to think about it. I asked for his business card and surprise! He didn’t have one. He gave me his cell-phone. Out of courtesy I wrote it down and left as fast as I could.