Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The best job interview ever

So I might have mentioned that I was going to DC yesterday for an interview that I was really nervous about. I was so nervous because my interview had its own schedule that was four hours and fifteen minutes long and involved meeting eleven different people--where they do that at?! And I was going to have to get up at 5 in the damn morning to catch a 6:28 Dinky to make a 7am Amtrak and none of this sounded like it was going to be fun.

Oh, how wrong I was. I may have had more fun at that interview than I would have between the hours of 11am and 3:15pm on campus. Let me explain:

First off, omg Amtrak has wi-fi. I was totally tweeting and catching up on Facebook and whatnot while I was on the train...before I got a good hour and a half nap in, because did I mention it was 7 in the damn morning? haha And the train was running late, but that just meant more naptime so I wasn't really complaining.

I grabbed a muffin and some delicious hot chocolate from a place in Union Station and then set off to find the place I was interviewing. It was only a 5 block walk from the station, so I wasn't about to pay for a cab, and I got turned around a little in the beginning, but figured that out quickly and made it to the building with 10 minutes to spare. Step one, check.

So, the first person I was meeting with was a woman who had phone-screened me back in December. She was just as friendly in person as she was on the phone, and just went over a bunch of stuff we'd talked about before and told me some more about the benefits of the position and the work climate and whatnot. We finished talking with a few minutes to spare and she let me finish eating the muffin I was too busy wandering around trying to find the office to munch on. I asked what makes that particular policy research company different from its peers as my "Do you have any questions?" question, and her first response was, "That's a good question," which made me feel like she was a little bit impressed.  Best thing about her: she asked me again what my minimum salary requirement would be and I didn't know what to say again, so I was saying thirtyyyyyyyyyyyfive? And she cut me off and said that "the salary for this position is in the 40s." (woot!) And then she walked me to someone else named K's office. 

K was a senior researcher in the survey department and worked on a lot of really cool projects, including the National Survey of Recent College Graduates, which of course fascinates me. And we were joined by T, who phoned in because she was working from home that day because her kids' schools had a 3 hour delay due to an ice storm or something. (And even though I'm not a family-oriented person AND I'm not planning to stay wherever I get a job for any longer than 3 years at the most, I took note of the fact that she could work from home and that that seemed perfectly fine. It means the company as a whole takes the work-life balance very seriously and recognizes that its employees are people.) And T majored in Sociology for her undergrad work so we talked about that for a while, and she sounded young-ish and bright and bubbly. I liked talking with her a lot. 

After that half-hour block, I went on to meet TB and L. TB would be my direct supervisor if I got the position, and he started off in that very position right out of undergrad and worked his way up, so he was a great person to talk to about both the position itself and growth/development as an employee of the company. By the time L asked me to talk about my JP, I'd pretty much refined my little speech about it, and she seemed genuinely interested in my findings, whereas T had seemed more interested in how I like, had measured things and what I'm doing differently in my thesis survey because of my JP survey. TB and L both work in K-3 education primarily, and were telling me some of the other cool things associates get to do besides work on surveys, like go on site-visits to school districts and do classroom observations and stuff. 

Then it was off to D and J, who both work primarily in Health. They both told me a little about the projects they're working on, and then J asked for my spheel and seemed to like what I said about my JP. When I was done, she said she was going to ask why I decided to major in sociology, but that she could tell by the way I'd answered the previous question that I'm really passionate about it. (+2 for me) D asked me questions about time management and working in teams and being involved in lots of things at once and said what she was most impressed by was all of the leadership roles I've had, so I talked a little bit about balancing different kinds of work and showed how I can take the initiative by talking about having gone from never having acted in my life to being on the BAC|Drama board, writing and co-writing two one-acts, and directing two one-acts in the course of a semester. 

Then E, KM, and JB came to take me to lunch. KM and JB both hold the position I'm applying for, and E had just been promoted to the next level up from that position. They were SO MUCH FUN and seem like they'd be really fly coworkers. They seemed really interested in my thesis and offered their opinions based on the various schools that they'd gone to (Northwestern, Dartmouth, and...I'm not sure where JB went.) They were telling me about how they've been involved in various projects--E just got to go to Africa for three weeks in August for something work related, how cool is that?!--and how they like TB and the company overall. They all had great things to say, even when I told them to be real with me. And they were telling me about how fabulous a city DC is and how it doesn't feel overwhelmingly large like NY but is still full of stuff to do and lots of free stuff (who doesn't love free stuff?). And they were saying the company has a really social atmosphere, both professionally because everyone goes by their first name regardless of their position and everyone's door is always open for questions/advice, and personally in terms of there's a softball team, an ultimate frisbee team, an a capella group, a gym on the premises, parties when projects are finished, holiday parties, they go out to happy hour together a lot. And OH MY WORD I had the absolute best macaroni and cheese of my life. It was a good southern-style baked mac with shrimp baked in. E ordered it first and it just sounded so good when he was saying it that I instantly switched from what I was originally intending to order, and that was the best decision of my day, because it was orgasmic. We had to fist bump at the awesomeness of our meal (and later at our love of Waffle House) and kept talking about how good it was to the point that KM and JB wanted to taste. (Restaurant was called The Watershed, if anyone in the DC area wants to check it out. On First St. NE, about 6 or so blocks from Union Station.) 

After lunch they took me to meet D, the Director of the department I'd be working for, and within two minutes of me being in her office, she was telling me how fascinated she was by my writing sample (an excerpt of my junior independent work) and asking if what she had was the whole thing or would she be disappointed when she got to the end. I told her it was just an excerpt and she leaped up to get me one of her business cards so I could email her the entire thing, and she was saying how a) she was interested because she does a lot of work with college-aged students and b) it's more well-written than any writing samples she's seen in a long time, and writing isn't usually such a strong suit of their applicants. (+100 for me) We talked a little bit about how my day had gone so far and I told her how surprised I was that I'd been enjoying the entire thing, and then she asked more about my interest in the company and my future plans and yada yada a lot of the same stuff other people had talked about. Then she explained what happens from here: they've done this four hour interview with a few candidates, and then they'll have a big group meeting with everyone on the interview team to talk about how people vibed with the candidates and who has the skills they're looking for, and when they make a decision Human Resources will reach out to the lucky candidate.

And then the woman from Human Resources who had met me first met me again, and gave me a big packet full of information about various benefits, took my receipts from my train tickets so that I can be reimbursed (in 2-3 weeks, not cute for broke college students, haha), and sent me on my way. I unfortunately didn't get to see Pariah because everything went right according to schedule rather than ending early, but still I didn't know it was possible to enjoy yourself during an interview like this. 

I want this job. I want it so bad(ly). So keep your fingers crossed for me, please!

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