Monday, March 13, 2006

Fun with the Speakerphone

I had my telephone interview with Vole.

Three Volians gathered around a speakerphone in a distant city and dialed my number. I was sitting next to my telephone, surrounded by notes about myself, the company, and my qualifications, plus the reminders "smile" (because you can hear that over the telephone) and "don't babble." And then the interrogation began.

They weren't the head honchos of Vole, but rather a cross section, assigned the task of ensuring that I would fit in with the company. I think one of the three was more nervous than I was, which instantly provoked my "looking after" instincts, and removed all nervousness from me. The paralyzing impact of such standard questions as "Communication is very important in our industry; tell us about a time that you had difficulty communicating, and how you resloved the problem," is softened when it's clearly delivered by someone who is hunched over a speakerphone, reading it haltingly off a script. They were clearly nice folks, and I had fun talking to them.

One highlight may have been the question "Tell us about the toughest group you had to integrate with." I was racking my brains, trying to think of a time in my life that I have had to struggle in order to work, or live, or otherwise get along with a group of people. Being silent at the end of a phone is probably worse than being silent in person, because they can't see you making 'I'm thinking' faces, and you can't gauge just how impatient they are getting. So I mused out loud about the fact that integrating with people is one of my strengths, but that there must be some example. "It would have been some group that I wasn't with very long, so they didn't get a chance to know me, and I didn't have an opportunity to try different strategies ... maybe it was ..." I was just about to pull out a poor example (which, in retrospect, might have described the personnel at the base where they could be sending me), when suddenly it came to me. "Oh!" I said with certainty. "That would be HIGH SCHOOL!" Everyone laughed. All those fifteen year olds, desperate to fit in, and trying so hard. Thinking back on the question, it's obvious that the correct answer is to say that you get along with everyone, to recall some incident from the past, and point out what you've learned from that that will make you even better at it. I didn't think about answering the question that way, but it came out that way, honestly and spontaneously. And everyone remembers the agony of high school cliques. I'd like to use that answer again at the next level of interviews, but it's too bad it will never again have that spontaneous revelation.

They ended by telling me that they felt the interview had gone well, and that I would likely hear from the boss shortly.


GC said...

"High School" was the firs thing I thought of! ;)

Nicolas said...

lol...nice interview

Flygirl said...

Well sounds like it went well...kudos. And yes, I think we can all relate to the high school response. ;)

Greybeard said...

What a nice chuckle you brought!

I agree....sounds like the perfect answer, and you won't be able to "act" it as convincingly.
Keepin' my fingers crossed for ya.

Anoynmous said...

...I think we can all relate to the high school response...

I can't. High school was a great time for me. I suppose I was a nerd, but so were my friends, and we knew that our self-esteem was self-created rather than imposed by others. I really don't understand how the different "universal" experience can persist. Are most adolescents really that insecure?

If I were asked about difficulty integrating with a group, an honest answer would probably have to include the fact that I'm a solid introvert, and it often doesn't even occur to me to try to integrate. Even if I recognize that I don't fit in well, it usually doesn't strike me as a problem.

Aviatrix said...

Kudos to anoynmous for being sufficiently mature at the high school stage to realize that the cool people do not determine other people's worth, but there is a difference between hanging happily with the nerd clique and being able to eat in social comfort at any table in the whole cafeteria.

If I knew then what I knew now, I wouldn't want to sit with the cool people, but I could.

Anoynmous said...

My experience continues to differ from apparently everyone else. We were cool people. I occasionally run into people from back then who tell me so, even if they were intimidated by what they perceived as our smarts.

And we weren't a "nerd clique", if clique implies exclusivity. Fully half of the regulars at our usual lunch table struck me as highly sociable folk who were at least as likely to be partying as they were reading or studying. If anything, it seemed the other way around -- it was the "jocks" and their groupies who formed a nearly unbroachable group, which tended to make them somewhat less than cool in my view. Admiration or scorn was basically reserved for individuals or actual teams, not social groups.

I figure that either I had a highly anomalous high school, or I was a seriously deluded teenager. It's also possible that I'm still deluded at mid-life, and my comfort and satisfaction with the way things are going for me is just a personality defect.

But that's just me. I'm honestly enthusiastic watching your career progress, and if I didn't think you had someone highly supportive of you I'd probably consider applying for that role.