After overcoming my first awkward interview experience, I really thought I couldn’t leave an interview feeling dumber. I was wrong.
Months later, once I had shifted to applying for internships over jobs, I received two interview opportunities. One became the internship that helped me to finally move overseas, the other became the awkward story I’m about to impart.
I applied for a position as a copywriter and social media intern with a travel company. The interview happened two days after a successful interview with my number one internship choice, but I decided to follow through and make an informed decision between the two companies.
The interview itself went fine, though was quite generic as far as interviews go and my job description remained vague. Though applying for copy writing and media, they also asked how I was at accounting, building websites, and administrative tasks. They alluded to a branch of the company opening in the U.S., but as my end game was never to move back to the U.S., I smiled and nodded and moved on.
I completed an hour-long writing, administrative, and accounting task for them after the interview and then began weighing my options.
A few days later, both companies offered me their internship positions, and I decided to go with my first choice. I emailed the second travel company to turn down their offer and things got interesting.
Awkward Interview #2
Within a few days, they emailed back asking to set up a follow-up interview. It was strange, seeing as I’d turned them down, but I figured they wanted to know how to improve the position and/or their interviewing process.
The director of the company replied to my availability and we set up a time to chat the next week. I did little preparation except to dress nicely and be presentable.
He called and I answered on Skype video chat, only to find out he had audio called. So for the remainder of the interview, I stared at a black screen and tried to make eye contact with the tiny camera at the top of my laptop.
As if that wasn’t awkward enough, the rest of the interview went like this:
Him: “So, we were just wanting to know what company you decided to intern with and why.”
Me: “They are a travel company in London, as well, and after a lot of thought I chose them because they give me experience in the actual travel planning part of the company versus simply writing and social media.”
Him: “Well, we could’ve offered you that. We had no idea you wanted to work in that part of the company. We could’ve made that work, but when you applied it was for the copy writing position so we didn’t know.”
Um, excuse me, sir. Sorry for tailoring my application to the only open job description you had. Guess I should’ve come into the interview going, “Okay, now I’d rather not actually do the position you have open and instead would like to do my own thing.” Like, what? If you want me to know the different parts of the position, explain them to me.
Meanwhile, he continued talking for a good five minutes without pausing for my input about how hard it would be for me to get a full-time work visa and how they are setting up a branch in the U.S. where I could go after my internship.
Without asking if I even would like to be back in the U.S. after my internship, he says: “I don’t know what they other company has told you, but it is nearly impossible to get a work visa for an American.”
Me: “Yes, I know it is difficult. I’ve been searching for jobs for four months now to no avail and have looked into full-time work visas. They have said that barring visa issues (which may come up), it is possible to move into a full-time position, but I am fully aware that may not be possible.”
Him: “Well, I don’t know how far along in the process you are to get your certificate of sponsorship with them, but could you rescind your application?”
What? You haven’t even asked me if I am still interested in working for your company, and you’re assuming that I will cancel my promise to work for another company after rejecting your offer just because you may or may not be able to have me relocate to the U.S. (which you haven’t asked if I want to do, and for the record, I don’t)?
Instead I said: “No, I have done quite a bit of paperwork as well as paid several fees for the certificate of sponsorship. My employer also has filled out paperwork and conducted a site visit with BUNAC, so I will not be rescinding my application.”
He went on to ask if I would want to meet up once I arrived in London to discuss future options or a second job, and then if I am available to start working for them remotely from home before departing for the U.K. I politely (though internally dying of the awkwardness) declined both.
We chatted for a total of 15 minutes, and I spoke for 2.5 of them.
What I Learned
First and foremost, I gained huge insight into the culture I would’ve been working in. I would never want to work with a director so determined to get his way without truly listening to my needs or input. It is a very small company, and being around insufferable condescension everyday is just not my cup of tea.
Plus, what kind of company asks someone to renege on their promise to another business for an intern position? It just doesn’t bode well for how the rest of the company operates.
Do Not Make Job Decisions Lightly
I was both embarrassed and annoyed that he assumed I would want to rescind on my acceptance of the other internship in lieu of what he obviously thought was a better option. Also, I carefully thought about my decision and did research into both companies beforehand, and wish he could have respected my decision instead of brushing it aside.
I realized how vital it is to make an informed choice, so that when push comes to shove and a company director is challenging you, you know you’ve made the right one.
Looking back, I may not have been as forthcoming with my rejection as I should have been. The awkwardness of it all and my Midwestern politeness kept me from standing up for my decision. And I should have. Because I made the decision in full knowledge of what I wanted, and my biggest frustration comes from knowing that he does not think I did.
Read about another awkward interview experience here.
Have you had any awkward interview experiences? Please share in the comments.
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