A reader writes:
I left my most recent position as an assistant manager for a high-end specialty retailer last year in order to look for a position that utilized my degree. Well, I just got back from an interview for a recruiter position, and I guess I’m just wondering if what happened in the interview is “normal.”
When the interviewer (who is also one of the owners of the staffing agency) asked what I had been doing for the last year I was unemployed, I told him I was finishing my degree and looking for internships or entry-level HR positions. He then says to me to me, “So, I have a paying position and you’re looking for an internship … that means I can get you really affordable.”
I didn’t even know what to say but tried to politely explain that I was not exclusively looking for internships and that some internships do pay. He then said, “Well, I, as an employer, am trying to get an employee for as little money as possible and an employee is trying to get the most money that they can and you tell me you’re willing to do an internship so what am I supposed to think?”
I kind of wanted to scream, “I DIDN’T SAY I’D WORK FOR FREE!” but didn’t Should I have not mentioned looking for internships? I think he got the impression that I was a 22-year-old college student with limited work experience even though I’m not (I’m 28 and have held managerial positions).
Toward the end of the interview, he tells me that he doesn’t think I’m the most polished person for the job but I have potential and that I’m in the running and he’s hoping to make a decision by the end of the day. He then asks if he called me tomorrow and said that I got the job, would I take it? I told him yes, pending the salary, benefits, schedule, etc. He laughs and says jokingly, “You said you’d do an internship, you lost your chance for negotiation,” and then tells me how the conversation we are about to have is not official and it’s basically pretend negotiation. He asks what my minimum salary requirements are and I asked him what the range for the position was. He tells me that he can’t discuss the salary because the walls are thin and the other two employees will hear (it’s a small staffing agency with only two other employees) but I needed to tell him a range. So I gave him a range but definitely didn’t feel comfortable with it and felt that I was kind of at his mercy. I didn’t think that’s how salary negotiation worked.
At the end, I gave him my resume and he commented on how it definitely looked like someone inexperienced wrote it.
I felt like an idiot when I left. This interview left a bad taste in my mouth and my gut is telling me that I shouldn’t work here. But on the other hand, this guy runs and owns a staffing agency with several offices, so he has to know what he’s doing a little right? Am I just clueless? Should I work here? If I don’t take this position, what do I say to decline it? I think I do pretty well in interviews, but I’ve never really had any major “this is my career” type interviews and since I’m (hopefully) going to be interviewing for more positions in my field, I just want to know if this is the norm or if this is just a bad interview. Thanks for your help!
This is a bad interviewer.
And I doubt you want to work for him, because he’s someone who thinks that his job is to lowball you out of as much money as possible (whereas good employers will want to pay you a fair market salary because they care about attracting and retaining good employees). He also thinks it’s okay to mock you and openly criticize you when he barely knows you (the resume comments) — and yes, you should expect feedback in an employment relationship, but (a) this guy isn’t currently your employer, and (b) feedback should be delivered respectfully, not derisively. And the entire conversation screams that he’s someone who’s a little drunk on power and thinks that he can be as rude as he wants to people.
I can’t imagine this guy would be anything less than a jackass to work for.
As for feeling like the fact that he owns and runs a staffing agency means that he must know what he’s doing: There are lots of jackasses out there running all kinds of businesses, including staffing agencies. (Maybe especially staffing agencies.)
Unless your finances and job prospects mean that you’d have to take this job if it’s offered to you, I hope that you will turn him down with great relish.