Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Let's Talk About Banana Hammocks!

Where do I even start with this story? I will definitely have to provide a backstory in order to provide some perspective on the entire situation. I went to college to pursue a degree in Sports Business. It was my dream to work for a professional sports franchise, ideally a Major League Baseball team. Sports has always been my passion, and the opportunity to work with something I love was always my main objective. Immediately after graduating from college I partook in an internship with a professional baseball team.

Shortly after that ended I heard from the Arizona Diamondbacks, a major league baseball team, regarding a position I had applied for with their team. They wanted me to come down along with a group of other individuals from around the country to partake in a group interview. A good portion of these candidates would be chosen to work in the front office at various sales positions that were being added on the team. I had never been more excited for an opportunity than I was when I first received this invitation from them. This was a chance for me to live the dream I had always envisioned. There was no possible way that I would blow this opportunity.

Well that turned out to not be entirely true. I have a hypothesis that I intentionally sabotaged myself on this interview, but that's probably nothing more than an excuse. You see at the time of this interview I was in a relationship that was 4 years running. Well, this person was not entirely supportive of my endeavours into the real world. This job would take cause me to move 1500 miles away. This was made painfully clear to me during the few days leading up to the interview. I was out of town for 2 weeks prior to the interview, and had a quick layover back in town on my flight to Phoenix. We met up at the airport during this time, and here is the direct quote that was given to me. "I know you will get the job, because I don't want you to get it." This was not all that was said, but it basically sums up the rest of the discussion. Now, perhaps some may see this as a sign of support. After all, she did say that I would get the job! Needless to say the phone conversations before the interview weren't much more joyful, and were accompanied with tears from the other party. There's really nothing more demoralizing than knowing the person whose opinion means the most isn't supportive of you pursuing your dream. However, this blog is not intended to be sappy, so I will leave it at that and move on. The only reason I included this was to support my sabotage theory. I may have tossed away the job, because I didn't want to risk leaving somebody unhappy that I cared for so deeply. It's hard to put everything you have into something that is simultaneously tearing this person apart.

There were about 30 people that were invited to this group interview. Over half would be receiving offers in the weeks following this set of interviews. The first day of interviews would consist of the group being split into 3 smaller groups. These groups would each be interviewed by 3 heads of departments within the organization. It all began innocently enough, and I provided what I thought to be fairly witty commentary throughout the interview. When I am placed on the spot before a group I will usually resort to making a fool of myself, and utilizing corny wisecracks.

This interview was no different from the usual routine. I felt things were going fairly well at the time. I've always had decent success in interviews. I rarely stress out about situations, and my plan is to simply be myself during the process. I don't try to act the part of a model employee with what people deem to be the ideal attitude in an interview. The way I see it is that I can't go wrong with being myself at an interview. The interviewer will either find my personality a great fit for the position or worst case scenario they will not believe that is the case. In that case the job wasn't meant for me in the first place. It's best to know that ahead of time rather than after I've started the position, and find out that your personality isn't a match for what is expected in the company. I've diverted a bit from the story to mention this, because in this instance being myself most likely cost me my dream job. Though don't forget that whole sabotage thing had a large role in it as well. I don't want to hold myself completely accountable, thank you.

Back to the story at hand. The third department figure to come in to interview our group was the President of Human Resources. She spoke to us for a while about her background and various other subjects. The one thing she said that stuck out to me was that one should go into an interview feeling like they didn't need the job. If you are to do that, then you won't worry about trying to portray this perfect employee that doesn't allow the interviewer see the real you. The irony is that I would shortly attempt this tactic and it would completely backfire on me. However, it may be due to the fact that I took this advice a bit too literally and a little further than she likely intended.

The group interview began with the routine questions. Why do you want to be a part of the Diamondbacks? What would you think of moving to Phoenix? The works, essentially. Eventually, we reached a portion of the interview in which role playing would be involved. Any time I am involved in role playing, it's a dangerous scenario for all parties involved. As I mentioned earlier, I am out to make a fool of myself and try to elicit laughs. The role playing would take place with the person sitting next to us at this interview. The group had been formed into a wide circle in order to perform these scenarios. The first role playing scenario began innocently enough with one partner selling a strange product to their partner whom would play the role of a potential customer. One example of this would be selling a bathing suit to a customer in Alaska. This portion of the role play went off without a hitch. I was doing my thing, impressing the ladies with my incredible charm and wit. Then things quickly took a turn for the worse.

The next scenario involved a customer bringing back in the product they had purchased due to their being unhappy with the item. The "employee" would need to find a solution for them, and help them however they could. I happened to be the customer in this role play, so I would dictate the flow of the conversation. This did not bode well for my partner, and I most definitely threw him a curveball. I began the conversation with the following line, "Hello, I would like to return this banana hammock I purchased last week, please." Now, I'm not entirely sure where the use of the term banana hammock falls within the parameters of things you should not say during an interview. If I had to guess it probably ranks fairly high on that list. At least in the upper 30th percentile of terms that shouldn't be used. If only it had ended at that point. My partner quickly responded, "I'm sorry about that. What seems to be the problem." At this point I could have still recovered and gone about with a mature response that would have been deemed acceptable. As you may have guessed I did not choose this route. "Well, people at the pool have been laughing at me, because my bulge is too small," I informed him. Yes, it's true. I had started to discuss my "bulge" at a professional job interview. Things were turning sour very quickly. Inside my head I was telling myself to stop, however my mouth was working more quickly than my brain could process this mess I was creating. I could see the interview quickly sliding down a slippery slope but it seemed to be too late to turn back now. "I tried stuffing it, but that wasn't very effective either. So, I would just like to return this if at all possible." I'm sure that more dialogue was included during this discussion, but I believe I have touched on the major points involved. The group seemed to get a good laugh, and if I do recall I saw a smile on the interviewer's face as well. I'm still quite certain that this dialogue hurt me in the long run. The group interview continued from there as planned.

That evening I decided to inform friends and family of my blunder. I feel that I laugh at myself more than anyone I know. I believe that everyone needs to have this ability. Things aren't always going to go the way you plan. There's nothing you can do at that point. You can either dwell on a bad situation, or make light of it and move on with your life. I guarantee the latter will lead to a more joyful life. Sure, my dream was shot for the time being, but in that case it just wasn't meant to be. I knew that I would have plenty of other opportunities to fulfill this dream down the line. At least I had an entertaining story to share with the world to show for this blunder. Alright, enough with this preaching. Back to the point at hand. When word reached the ears of a certain significant other, one could instantly notice the tone in her voice change dramatically. Joy had once again filled her body, as she knew there was no possible way that I could recover from this disaster. In a sudden turn of events she was lending words of support. She was damn certain that I was done for, and she had fairly good reason to believe that.

I did go back the next day for the one on one interview. This only took place with one of the three department heads. The woman with whom I had shared my deepest insecurities, did not conduct my individual interview. Whether that can be seen as a positive or negative is debatable. I could have potentially recovered from my mishap, or it could have been incredibly awkward. As I see it, this very well could have gone in two entirely different directions. Once that day was complete, I returned to my paradise back home.

Once I arrived home, I decided to send the obligatory thank you to the interviewers. I literally sat over the keyboard for about an hour pondering whether I should make a comment regarding "the joke." I couldn't decide if there was any possible way to salvage what was left of my dignity. In the end I came to the conclusion that I should leave that portion out of the message. Needless to say I did not receive an invitation to join the organization. I suppose I was never directly told that this banana hammock incident was directly tied to my not having received an offer. However, I find it safe to assume that it played some role in the final decision. When placing two fairly similar candidates together, how often are you going to choose the guy that brought up banana hammocks and his small bulge in front of a group of strangers? I'm afraid that guy simply isn't going to win that battle very often.

The interview was not a complete waste. I received a call shortly after from a member of the Arizona State University Athletic Dept. stating that he had received a recommendation from the Diamondbacks for a position within the athletic department. Perhaps they had decided that I should be amongst my people: other immature fools that would like nothing better to do than discuss their genitalia at inappropriate times. What better place than a university!?! I did end up receiving the position at ASU. I chose not to accept it for certain reasons, but that is irrelevant to this story so I won't delve further into that. Thus ends the story of what may possibly the worst job interview ever conducted.

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