STOP IT! What not to do in an interview- Part 2

As I’ve said before: I work for a tutoring company. My main job is to interview and hire tutors from all over the country. I’ve conducted THOUSANDS of interviews at this point (not an exaggeration, I average about 220 a week) and there are some fairly common things I see/hear/experience on a daily basis that make me want to pull my hair out.

I put together a list like this a while back, and after a considerably LONG day at work, we’re back for round 2.  Seriously. Do NOT do these things in an interview.

Incessant talking: Interviews are made for talking. They’re just about the only place you can get away with shameless, all out bragging but even in this there is such a thing as moderation! If I ask you how you heard about us and the answer is “craigslist” you do not need to tell me you were looking for work, did a google search for the area, then went to craigslist, then found our ad, then did some research, by the way our yelp reviews are awesome, and then filled out the application and here you are. I know 90 percent of that. Be concise. I have 30 other questions for you. If I ask “are you working currently” the answer is yes or no, not a life story. If I ask for a travel radius in miles I do not need a 2 minute lecture on traffic in your area and a detailed description of your school’s parking lot layout. I need “15 miles” or whatever number applies to you.

We will get to teaching strategies and experience. I promise. But if you can’t be concise or answer the question I am asking you because you are trying to regurgitate the interview speech you practiced in the mirror this morning back at me as fast as you can intentionally leaving no pauses for me to cut in, we’re going to run out of time and I won’t have the answers to the questions I NEEDED to be ABLE to put you through to the next step. Think of interviews like a written exam: ADDRESS THE  PROMPT.

Sassing me: On a similar note. If you answer every basic question I ask you with “AS IT STATES ON MY RESUMÉ…” I will murder you or at least your chances at tutoring with us. Being condescending, snide, or downright rude, or insinuating that I have not done my due diligence is asking for a rejection. I have read your resumé I can see where it says “2008-Present” for your current position. I have seen that on thousands of CVs and on a good majority of them, the information was not accurate because the applicant had recently left their position and failed to update their dates of employment before sending us their documents. I have your info. I read your info. I now have to CONFIRM pertinent details.

And if you sass me over something YOU failed to read in a confirmation email for your interview, you will be put RIGHT back in your place before I move on. It’s appalling the number of times I call my second appointment in an hour at 15-after (or a later appointment, later) and as a courtesy ask if its still a good time for their scheduled interview and they passive aggressively allude that I’m LATE to their appointment but that they graciously can make things work for me. My voice turns the kind of sweet that bores holes in teeth when I inform them they were my 2nd/3rd/4th scheduled appointment that hour and that their confirmation email states they should expect a call between the hours of ___ and ___. A lot of people get mad when I say I have content questions for them and when we get going they can’t recall the slope intercept form, or whether pH2 is an acid or base because apparently it’s my fault they didn’t know they’d be tested and so they hadn’t reviewed ahead of time.

If you berate me because you weren’t prepared, I will direct your attention to the confirmation email we sent in regards to the scheduling of the call, pull up the stock email, and read verbatim the line about being prepared to answer content questions on the subjects you selected and the suggestion that you have a pen and scratch paper ready at the time of the call to work out math or science problems.

And I will not put you through.


Clothing, part 2: This SHOULD go without saying and yet it crops up WAY more than anyone likes. If you are not clothed, don’t touch your webcam. If you are naked, you should not be setting up your computer for an interview. If your tits or peen are out: DO NOT see what that “record” button does!

If you have an interview scheduled for 12 and it’s 12:01 you shouldn’t still be setting up your webcam anyway, but if it’s 12:01 and your webcam is not only not set up, but you don’t have your clothes on? You are not prepared for your interview AND you’ve now indecently exposed someone who may potentially be your supervisor in the future. There is no way I can POSSIBLY justify putting you through. ESPECIALLY if you were planning on teaching Elementary/Middle School subjects over our online platform.

And for the love of all that is holy, do not record your interview from a seat on the toilet, particularly if I can hear that you’re using it, while we talk. That is just NOT what I signed up for.

I have witnessed way too many bodily functions and accidental flashing in my time as a remote interviewer.

All these items seem like common sense. But apparently a large portion of grown men and women don’t see it that way. If you want to work, heed my advice. PLEASE.

And my company is shifting towards a more automated system with more recorded and less live interviews through a new program. Which probably means material for another one of these posts.

Good lord.



TO NOT do in an Interview – Part 1

I almost murdered someone today.

I mean, I didn’t really, since he lives in Louisiana and I’m on the West Coast, but in my head, his skin was lampshade material and his teeth were halfway to a charmingly macabre necklace.

I work for a tutoring company.

I hire tutors.

I talk to a lot of people each day. Phone interviews are scheduled 4 to an hour and the idea is that 1 in 4 will miss their appointment, giving me time to complete three 15 minute screens with time left over to complete my notes and either schedule their second interview or justify and classify their rejection. I do about 3 face-to-face interviews a day (online of course, I work from home) and these should be about 40 minutes of screening, 15 minutes of walking them through next steps, and 5 minutes wrapping up notes, or preparing for my next appointment.

Now, I’m a pretty nice person. If I have time I will answer as many questions as possible. I will level with you on realistic expectations. I will allow moments for you to be human. I’ll encourage you and remind you that you can always add subjects you need to review back into your list at a later date. I genuinely enjoy most of the people that I interview on some level.

I used to be a tutor. They want to help kids learn which takes WAY more effort than flipping chemically separated patties. It awesome.

BUT some people just bend my last nerve, and once they hit that point, they are not going to be put through.

I may not turn them into lampshades, but I will denote every tiny grammar error in their application. I will give them no leeway on silly mistakes in their math problems. If they forget that a ball falling back to earth with have an acceleration of NEGATIVE 9.81m/s squared, I will list it as incorrect without hesitation or benefit of the doubt.

Now having conducted THOUSANDS (literally) of interviews and compared notes with my fellow recruiters, I consider myself something of an expert on the subject of interviews. To help anyone out there looking for work, I present the following list of things to never EVER, goddamn EVER (see where it says ever? EVER!) do in an interview:

Not showing up/showing up late with no excuse: This should go without saying and yet my company’s schedules are set up based on the fact that a solid 30% of people miss their interviews. We have 4 calls to make in an hour based on the idea that usually one of them doesn’t show. For phone interviews we call twice and leave a voicemail both times. For in person interviews we call twice, leave a voicemail, and resend your confirmation email.

My first reaction when someone misses an interview is always “In THIS economy??” My second is that it’s rude. We give people every opportunity to cancel or reschedule their appointments before the fact. They don’t even have to talk to us to do it. There are links built into your scheduling confirmations to do it over the internet. Its rude to us, and it takes up scheduling slots that could have gone to people who were serious about working with us. No shows get rejected, but we do consider rescheduling them if they call in. The bigger pet peeve here is people who show up late, or miss their first or even second call and call back in late and then DON’T EXPLAIN OR APOLOGIZE.

If you call in late and tell me you overslept, or your phone was on silent, or you forgot, okay, fine I will make a note and move on. It happens, you’re human, you may not be as reliable as I’d like, but we can move on. No explanation, to me, says you are unpunctual AND unrepentant about it. It says my time is not important. It says you’re unreliable and you’re not trying to do anything different. If you are not ON POINT in every other area of your interview, you’re not getting put through.

Clothing: I know, I know. I’m the last person who should be bashing people on what they wear given the towel with a cardigan episode. BUT. If I can manage to be professional from the waist up for ten hours a day, you can manage for 45 minutes for our interview. Speaking from experience, it does not take very much time or effort.

Being casual is one thing. If you’re overly casual it’s fine. Most people will be working with kids. You don’t need business casual to teach fractions at the local library. But if I see 50% or more of your boobs and you’re in spaghetti straps you had better be Florence freaking Nightingalesque with your science know-how. That goes for men, too. If you’re missing your sleeves or the ‘V’ in your tee shirt is so low I’m seeing nipple you are not getting put through. Gender equality, bitch!

If you are wear a hoodie and that hoodie is up, you are not getting through. This is not Freedom Writers, you are not Hilary Swank. I am not some hoodrat youth you are trying to convince of your street cred so they’ll learn from you. Get your act together.

And if you have something printed on your tee shirt that is not absolutely 100% G-rated I will not put you through. You would think this goes without saying but I have seen so many curse words and scantily clad (/not clad) women in interviews it is not even a joke anymore.

Involving your pets or children: It’s shocking how many times I have been made to greet small animals and children during my interview. Cats, chihuahuas, bunnies. One guy ran across his room to scoop up his cat before holding her up to the screen and demanding that I say hello and tell her she’s a pretty girl.

Similarly, I have had multiple applicants bring their children onscreen and have little Timmy or Susan beg me to give mommy or daddy the job. At which point I usually get to lie to small children and feel like an a$$hole for the rest of the day.

DONT DO IT. If you wouldn’t bring your pet into an office for an interview, don’t bring them onscreen. Same with children.

Cursing: I have a potty mouth. If you’ve read anything here, you know I curse like a landbound sailor and don’t feel too bad about it. But I worked with children for years as a nanny and as a tutor and I always managed to keep my swearing under wraps. I CERTAINLY never cursed in an interview. Yet, for some reason, people seem to think it’s acceptable to say everything from “oh sh-t” over not knowing an answer to “I’m pretty damn good at-” whatever subject we’re talking about.

In my line of work, the more casually the swear words slide off your tongue in front of me, the more horrified I become at the prospect of setting you up with a client. I used to do tutor matching. I have talked to irate customers whose tutor did or said something inappropriate. If you curse in front of me, I am going to assume you’ll slip up in front of them and that won’t be the MAIN reason I don’t put you through but the professionalism concern is going to lose you enough points that nothing else is going to save you.

Eating: Have you ever listened to someone eating something moist and chewy through iPhone earbuds while taking smacking pauses and then attempting to talk through and around whatever’s in their mouth? No? Lucky you. It’s part of my job on a daily basis.

And no matter how many times I find myself in a phone interview with an eater, I’ve never found myself not contemplating a murder.

It’s not even just the phone interviews, either. I’ve had people wrestle open a bag of Cheetos on screen and dig in. I see people drinking everything from water, to soda, to coffee, to beer and wine in the face to face interview. On what planet is that okay??

As a child I was taught not to eat in front of people. I was also taught to chew with my mouth closed and not talk with my mouth full. Most of the people who eat on their interviews with me do ALL THREE AT ONCE. Part of it peeves me because it’s annoying, another because it’s rude, and third because I cannot eat during interviews.

I will get in trouble if I’m caught eating or if my coffee cup is in frame on an interview. If a phone interview is recorded and I’m eating I would get written up so fast my head would spin. I’m literally trapped at my desk for most of the day unable to eat or drink outside of assigned break periods and these people can’t even suck it up for 15 minutes per phone screen or 50 minutes for an online interview. It bothers me to my core.

If you’re eating when you speak to me, unless you are God’s gift to tutoring from an Ivy League university with test prep experience and a teaching certificate your application is getting flagged as unprofessional and I will not put you through.


And we’re going to nip this one here and call it Part 1 because there are more things to not do in and interview, but we’re not even halfway through and I’m all agitated! So enjoy, don’t do this to your interviewers, and I’ll see you next time.

Consummate Professional from the Tits Up

I’m beginning to think that most of this blog is going to be dedicated to recounting the oddities of my work life.  Complain if you will, no one’s forcing you to be here.

But since you are:

I’m professional. REALLY professional.

I feel like I have to be.

I’m the youngest employee at my company. By just under 10 years at last survey. I got this job almost straight out of college and was essentially seduced away from a similar position from a similar company whose owner thought he’d get to bully me into doing my work AND his for less than our tutors made an hour (but thats another story).

I worked hard for this position, but I know I’m lucky to have a grown-up job with benefits and a 401k when I have friends from my graduating class working at restaurants or movie theaters who are deferring their student loan payments right now.

So I am very careful to always be the picture of a professional HR Director around others.

That being said, since I work from home, I can get away with waking up five minutes before my shift starts, grabbing my company computer, opening our phone system, and making my first call from bed. No one will know.

I do this a lot.

Particularly if I’m working weekends and I’m hungover.

The nice part is that most of what I do is invisible. As long as I can send a business email, or have a neat, coherent, phone interview I can look however I like.

Meetings and web interviews are quite another matter. Turn on the webcam and I have to be on point: hair sleek, flawless makeup, nice blouse. I don’t think any of my coworkers have seen me without lipstick and a healthy coat of mascara. I don’t gesture with my hands. I don’t touch my hair or face. I am pretty as a picture on screen.

From the chest up.

I have done interviews in crop tops that end at my ribs. I’ve thrown blazers on over bras. Delivery men have given me funny looks when I sign for packages in a flawless silk blouse paired with ratty gray sweat pants. My roommate likes to tell people about how she’s seen me put a cardigan on over one of those velcro-closing patterned bathroom towels after a shower.

For all this, the amount of compliments I get on my appearance, and the full points for “professionalism” I’m awarded each time a web interview is scored by Quality Control, I’m an utter fraud.

On the plus side, if you’re stressing about an upcoming web interview, that old trick of picturing your interviewer in their underwear will probably come in handy. If they’re not rocking the no-pants look they are almost certainly in some truly heinous active-wear.

Sometimes you want to wear stretchy pants.

Its for fun.

Yooooou are welcome!

Einstein’s Theory of Psychosexual Stages.

I work at a tutoring company as I’ve mentioned previously.

I interview incoming tutors and sometimes they say some pretty profound things.

Today was not one of those times.

Today for some content screening I asked an applicant what school of thought was founded by Sigmund Freud and she responded with “School of thought? Freud? That was like the e=mc^2, right?”

For a moment I thought she’d misunderstood the question, or that she was kidding. She had to be. She was studying psychology and statistics AT MY ALMA MATER FOR CHISSAKES! I’d taken some of her required coursework for elective credit!

Then I realized I hadn’t said anything in far too long and didn’t know how to ask if she’d misheard without letting on she was truly, horrifically, incorrect and she was waiting for my response and probably NOT kidding so in classic form I panicked, said “Great!” a wee bit too enthusiastically and made up a new, simpler, question.

She didn’t screen well for anything else. Which is fine, there’s no shame in needing some review but why WHY would you apply to TEACH OTHER PEOPLE a subject you don’t understand yourself?

And what is GODS NAME has happened to the psychology curriculum at my old school since I left?

As a bonus I will share my coworkers’ response to the e=mc fiasco:

“Is that Freud guy the same person that theorized gravity when an apple fell on his head?”

“No, Freud’s the one with the key and the kite.”

“Wait, didn’t he chop down a cherry tree? Same fellow who couldn’t tell a lie?”

“NO! That was the guy with the wooden teeth who got shot in the theater!”

And because I am a freaking professional, at no point did I allow myself to scream “PENIS ENVY!!!” over this conversation.

This was then followed by my snarky friends on Facebook suggesting that Joan of Arc was married to Noah, Einstein created the lightbulb, Napoleon tried/failed to conquer the USSR and Ben Franklin wrote the Constitution.

I have a face to face interview with a History tutor later.

Either I’m screwed or they are.

I’m nobody who are you…

I work for a tutoring company. Nothing special. I do HR and recruitment and when it comes down to it I’m one of many many people like me that tutors will talk to during the interview and on-boarding process. I’m invisible. Interchangeable.

I have the same conversation over and over again where only the academic subjects I’m screening for change. My days pass quickly because I am always too busy to realize the monotony of my routine. And I don’t mind. I like the repetitive nature of what I do. I like that I blend in. I like the anonymity. It’s easy.

I am afraid of nearly everything outside of my front door and my job lets me hide from my fears while  still being a productive member of society.

But while my job is comfortable, for the most part, it’s not necessarily a good kind of comfortable. If nothing else it illuminates the fact that I am broken every day, like a flashing neon sign.

Today I had a moment, and I’m not sure why THIS was the moment I decided I need to start making the most of what I am, but this was it.

I had a video interview scheduled for today and everything was going fine until the man I was screening paused, took a breath, and then said “I’m having a panic attack.”

This was clearly not a ruse. I could see the wide eyes and the struggle to breathe. His upper lip was beaded with sweat and I recognized the symptoms. He asked if he could go get some water and I was able to calmly tell him not to worry, that I understood.

I told him how to click his screen off. I told him to go take care of himself and I would wait.

He came back and didn’t look much better but was trying to be functional. To still move forward and function like it seems everyone else can so effortlessly. I was able to tell him that when I panic I have trouble focusing and that I wanted to give him the best shot at getting through the interview. I asked if he’d like to reschedule so he could fully come down from his attack and be able to answer screening questions with a focused mind. He said he would.

I gave him as many details as I could about how the interview would go when he did get in for the reschedule so he could mentally prepare .

I feel horrible for him and because I am broken, I looked for just about every way to blame myself for his panic.

I completed my notes on his application, ambiguous and positive so as not to influence whoever gets his next interview, and then had a thought.

It’s a good thing he was scheduled with me.

I have empathy for him. Our other interviewers would have been polite and professional, but they wouldn’t necessarily have been able to understand him like I could. We might have lost out on a good tutor, and made him think less of himself because of something that is ultimately outside of his control.

I may be broken but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. And possibly for the first time ever, something good has come from my disorder.

My goal for this year was to push my limits. I want to get out more and enjoy more from life.

Now I’m thinking I need to focus on something else as well: finding the beauty in negative spaces. Finding positive ways to use aspects of myself that I’ve always considered purely useless or problematic should be part of this.

I like to think I’m a creative person. I should be able to look outside the box and find more good in myself.