Saturday, September 8, 2007

Unbelievably Weird Interview

Yesterday I went to one of the strangest interviews for the most bizarre organization I've ever seen. The company (I'll call it AS) is a sales company that sells giant tents to private companies, the military, etc. The CEO of AS is a very rich man and has a foundation; he is the only contributor to the foundation and the foundation's purpose is to reduce homelessness. The primary way they do this is enter countries that have had disasters and massive amounts of displacement and provide tents and money to help alleviate the problem. They're especially proud of their work in Pakistan after the earthquakes a few years ago. I applied for a job as a foundation assistant. I was grossly overqualified for the position. It sounded a bit like a secretary, but there were also key words in the job description that made it sound as some strategic planning and programming might be involved. So I applied and was excited to be called for an interview to at least learn more about the position.

Before the interview I first tried to research the foundation. There was no website and really no record of the foundation in a typical google search. I then decided to research the company AS. Their website didn't provide a lot of information and there wasn't much information about them. However, I came across a search engine for jobs that allowed for people to ask questions about companies and how to best interview for them. I found the blog/commentary for AS and read the 76 comments with amusement and a little incredulation. This company sounds insane. There was information about the CEO being rude and crazy (acting drunk during the interview process to see people's reactions), being required to work from 6am-4pm, and 6-12 on Saturdays, employees being required to sell products without knowing anything about the product, etc. So, I decided even before the interview that I would probably not work for this organization, but I'd still go to the interview for the practice and so that I could see if these comments were true.

I searched for the 990 forms for the foundation (the most basic tax forms that are required to be a nonprofit organization). 990's show the assets of the organization, who contributes to them, how much they spend money on, etc. The 990's showed that they only had about $800,000 worth of assets and donated about $20,000 in 2005. That's not really a large amount of money in the foundation world. So I decided I would ask them about this in the interview. I was hoping that they were wanting to grow the foundation and make it better, and that's why they were hiring a new position.

The interview was on Friday, originally scheduled for 8am, but the day before pushed to 7am. (Good to miss most of rush hour, but bad because this place is about an hour away from me.) I get to the AS offices and find that there are a total of 7 people being interviewed for various positions (sales, IT, etc.) at the same time. As we're waiting for the interview to start, we are handed a printout of the blog/comments that I had read in the previous days. We were then shown into a conference room and everything I read in the blog/comments comes true. Three interviewers sit on the other side of a conference table with their mac laptops open and do not introduce themselves. One of the other interviewee's asked for their names and they seemed to reluctantly give them to us. They then asked us one by one what we thought of the strange blog/comments we had read. Most people said that it was concerning, but they like to form their own opinions about the organization and don't take a lot of stock in the Internet comments. However, the interviewers kept asking if we had more questions about the blog and we must have concerns about what it says. At one point another AS man came into the interview and began explaining how the company worked. He said that they are so successful because they do the opposite of what every other sales company does. Their turnover rate is 96%. They want it to be at 99% because then that shows they weeded out the weaklings. The salespeople do not know anything about the products they are selling. They are supposed to be rude to the customers. It was obvious to me (after reading the blog/comments) that this man was the CEO of the company. However, at one point someone asked him who he was and he said he was just a salesman who had worked there for a few years. He didn't give out his name. He kept talking about how great the CEO was, what a wonderful businessman he was and how much he just wanted to help people. It was actually quite amusing.

I then asked about the foundation. I asked if they donated more than $20,000 in 2005, as their 990 said. They said that they gave away millions. I persisted and asked why it wasn't listed on their 990. They said they didn't know what a 990 was. After I explained it and it's importance, the CEO said that they don't waste time on paperwork because that means you're not spending time helping people. And it's especially stupid to waste time on government paperwork, because the government is terrible and doesn't really care about helping people at all. I later asked if the foundation had a strategic plan or goals and I got the same type of answer. Working on a strategic plan or writing out goals means you're not spending time getting into the nitty-gritty of helping people. To me, that implies that because I would be interested in filing the correct tax forms and consider working on a strategic plan, means that I don't truly care about helping people. At this point I was truly convinced that this foundation might even be a complete scam and a way for the CEO to get massive tax breaks.

Never during this interview did they ask us about our skills and our qualifications. They just talked about their organization and asked us to react to that. At the end of the interview we were told that after hearing about how different AS was,we needed to decide if we were still interested in working for them. If we were, then we would have to call back AS and set up another interview. I will not be calling them back. And I'm even contemplating reporting them to the IRS or something of the sort. At least the interview was entertaining.

On another note, I went to a temp agency the other day and hopefully I'll be getting called next week to do some temp work. I'm very proud of my typing score at above 70 words a minute!

(Well, alright, I was going to be discrete about this company, but I think they're so weird you have the right to know about them if you want. Here's the link to the blog/comments I was telling you about. They're obviously proud of themselves if they feel they can print out negative comments and tell the interviewees to read them. )


Victoria Langlais said...


I've been following your blog for a little while now and decided to comment on this.

That is so incredibly strange!!! It sounds like something out of a movie!
People are crazy aren't they?!?!?

Anonymous said...

Hi I'm a Nestie too

And I just inteviewed there too!

It was strange but at least I was the only one being interviewed.

My appt was at 5 am!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the comment. I think I'll cancel my 7AM (they wanted 6) appointment tommorrow.