an update from our most notorious letter ever: I had to prepare a meal and entertain 20 people for a job interview

Remember the letter-writer back in January who had to prepare a meal and entertain 20 people, along with 19 other people competing for a job? Of course you do — it might be our craziest, most notorious letter ever.

Here’s her update.

I’ve just landed a great job with a leading public health organization doing exactly what I want to be doing. I’ll be in the field doing real frontline public health work. It was the most casual interview process ever! I had met with the director several months ago and consistently followed up with him to see if he knew of any openings. Finally they had an opening and he remembered me. One quick phone interview and I got the job –no cooking or dancing like a performing monkey required.

Best of all, it seems like an organization that respects and appreciates their staff! Thanks for your advice. Following your website is one of the few things that kept me sane during the job search.

{ 54 comments… read them below }

  1. James M

    Nothing like interviewing with a horde of ****-flinging monkeys to make a normal interview smell like a rose garden. Congrats!

  2. MMouse

    Glad the OP found a better job.
    What happened to the company with the insane hiring process? Still set in their ways?

      1. CoffeeLover

        Thanks for the read. It’s interesting to hear things from the companies side (though it didn’t help them in my eyes). I hope the fact that this ridiculousness has been brought to light means future candidates can decide whether they want to work for such a company before being subjected to insanity.

      2. Melissa

        “For the job candidates, the surprise of being told to cook a huge meal is ‘one of the most fun things they enjoy about the interview process,’ according to OS PR director Sabrina Zimring. “It’s really fun.'”

        LIES. I don’t see anything fun about being told that you have 2.5 hours and $350 to cook for 40 people when you are competing for a job that pays less than $25,000.

      3. Sable

        OMG. This was Operation Smile?????

        Dude. DUDE!

        I don’t know about the rest of you, but personally, I cannot continue to support these types of manipulative antics with my donation $$.

        Geez. $25,000 a year. For crying out loud.

    1. Jess

      Oh wow. That makes me really not want to donate to Operation Smile. If the director condones crap like that, how else are they wasting people’s time and money in the name of charity?

  3. Vancouver Reader

    So glad you found a great job! But I appreciate all you went through with the previous interview and sharing it with us, it made even the craziest supervisors I’ve had seen normal by comparison.

  4. Clever Name

    That’s awesome! I’m so happy for you! Still can’t believe that interview process, and the fact that someone else who had interviewed for them in the past found the discussion. Some people watch too many reality shows.

  5. Dan

    Man, and here I am actually worried that your interview process was almost *too* casual. I mean, no in person interview? No meeting the rest of the team?

    1. BRR

      I’m with you on this one. The LW went from one extreme to the other. I’m going to chalk it up to previously meeting the director. Although it would make me nervous to accept a job under these circumstances because what if they hired others like this. In the end I’m glad they’re happy.

      1. Dan

        At my last job, I met an analyst of theirs at an out-of-state conference, and handed them a resume. Next day, I get a *brief* phone call with HR.

        A week later, they call, asking me if I wanted to *fly* in for an interview. Boy, did I think that was weird — not even a cursory conversation with HM.

        The first question I asked the HM was “why no phone call?” He basically said that the call would be a waste of time, because there was nothing I was going to say to him that would stop him from bringing me in for an interview. (I wanted to say, “But what about me?”) But then, I did chat with their analyst, so maybe he *was* right.

        1. Molly

          This feels like a stupid question, but–the company paid for the flights, right? (I’ve only ever hired locally, and only been hired locally.)

      2. Dan

        Oh, one other thing… Awhile back, my ex and I were planning an out-of-town road trip for the weekend. As she’s in the shower Friday morning, she gets a VM from a recruiter that she had never had contact with before. “We need you to come in TODAY! for an interviewer.” I told my ex that we have plans and that crap can wait until Monday. My ex is a little nutty, and she was like “nope, I’m gonna go in.” I told her, “Look anybody who pulls this crap on you and won’t wait until Monday isn’t worth working for. I certainly don’t want to be hearing about all of the other crap they are pulling during your tenure there.”

        It turns out that by the time she got back to them an hour later that “We’re sorry, all of our interview slots are full. Thanks!” She was upset, and never quite understood the bullet she missed.

    2. LBK

      I get the sense that they had enough of a relationship that the director felt he already had the kind of info he’d be looking for in an interview anyway.

      1. LBK

        Oh – and the letter says “met with the director,” not “met the director,” so it’s possible some form of interview/long conversation had already taken place. It doesn’t sound like they were just briefly introduced at an event or something and then months later he hired her.

      2. Dan

        Yes, but the other part of my comment was “but what about meeting the rest of the team?” The director could be a great guy, but if you don’t mesh with the rest of the team, things are really going to suck.

        I’m not one who seeks out formalities for formalities sake, but there *are* conventions and hoops we have to jump through. The same is true for employers too. (E.g., not accommodating a two-week notice to a previous employer or something.)

        1. LBK

          Meeting future coworkers is nice but hardly a standard part of every interview, though. In my department, interviewees sit do sit with a team member for about 10 minutes but they don’t meet everyone.

        2. ChiTown Lurker

          There are many companies that do not require or permit that you meet with the team first. Although I have had group interviews and panel interviews, I have only had 3 team interviews. I am in IT and mainly interview at Fortune 100 companies.

        3. JMegan

          I’ve never been in a situation where I have met anyone on the team, other than the hiring manager of course, before Day 1 of New Job. And nor have I been introduced to any applicants in the middle of their own interview process – this just doesn’t seem to be a thing that happens in my industry.

          That said, people who hire without a formal interview process are actually usually pretty good at it. They have a “hire for fit, teach the skills” mindset, and you wouldn’t even be having the conversation with them if the didn’t think you were a good fit already.

          Of course it’s a two-way street, and the applicant should have the chance to evaluate “fit” as well. And of course it does go wrong sometimes. But in my (all second-hand) experience, 99% of the time these arrangements work out pretty well as far as fit is concerned.

        4. Stephanie

          I think it would depend on the role, too. If all your work is individual work and you’d only really need to work directly with your manager, I’m not sure the benefit of meeting the team outside of being social. I could see a benefit to having a would-be peer sit on an interview panel.

        5. AnotherAlison

          Meeting the rest of the team would have been very important in my current position, but in my previous positions, the team you worked with was the project team and that changed all the time.

          AND in my first post-college job, I wasn’t that great of a judge of what a quality coworker looked like anyway.

        6. CoffeeLover

          Ya this definitely depends. When I was looking for a paid internship, I had an offer from one place and another place wanted to do second round interviews where I met the team. Even though I could have done this since I was given time to reply to the offer, I chose to just accept the offer. It’s not worth the effort to see if I mesh with the team since I was staying for a short period of time. Not to mention the role wasn’t collaborative. Honestly, with junior level roles I don’t see the point in meeting the team unless there’s significant collaboration.

    3. Stephanie

      Well, depends. I’ve done all phone or Skype interviews for out-of-state roles. I do think it puts you at a disadvantage because there is an awkwardness to phone-only or Skype-only interviews (especially the latter).

      My first job at a large government agency would go on hiring sprees and hire 150 new analysts for specific training class start date and do all the interviews via phone or at conferences. Since training was very formalized and about six months to a year, you didn’t even interview with your non-training manager. I think I interviewed with HR and an available manager in that division. Granted, that place has really bad turnover, so that might not be the best hiring process…

      1. FishMicrowaver

        I applied for a job that I really wanted a couple of years ago, did the full formal interview and then was unable to take the position. I always wondered about it and when I ran into a friend who had been working there casually, who mentioned they were recruiting, I was delighted. I rang the manager, who remembered me (I was their best candidate), she sked me in for a very quick informal interview and I was employed on the spot.

  6. Sara

    So great that you got a good job. Although I’m still pissed that an organization could get away with (and defend) treating an interviewee like that.

  7. Eden

    Good gravy, I had never read the ENTIRE THREAD about that interview before! Holy cowbells, batman. Glad the OP got a non-insane position.

    1. Cautionary tail

      Back in January I thought I read the whole thread but didn’t realize that it kept going long after I stopped reading it so I just read all the parts I missed.

      Now I have to go back to therapy to be able to sleep at night again. Sigh.

  8. Mena

    Somehow I knew that any follow-up would be good news if the OP had escaped these nut-jobs.

  9. Stephanie

    Operation Smile had a commercial on the other night and all I could think of was this crazy-ass interview process.

  10. Phyllis

    This letter has stuck with me because I was in Austin TX a few weeks after it ran and was approached on 6th Street by an obviously newly minted college grad who was shilling for, you guessed it, Operation Smile. I felt so bad for her.

  11. NS

    I’m glad to hear that the letter writer found a position that they are happy with.

    I also want to add that I’m tired of companies trying too hard to be different or outside the box! It is becoming more common to read things in job descriptions like “you must love to dance and have fun”, “we have a ping pong table in the break room”, or “every friday we have drinks and games”. Obviously, this company was just nuts and overboard, but interviews should be calm and professional, and no one should be forced to socialize with or “entertain” co-workers.

    1. Sara

      My old workplace had a pingpong table in the breakroom and a chess board. (or is it checkers? idk…..) I’m gonna say I never saw anyone playing chess but a few select did use the pingpong table frequently. Yet when layoffs came, they were some of the first ones to go, even though they were high producers and good at their jobs. Not sure if there’s a connection there. :-/

  12. Lizzy

    Glad to hear you are doing well. I also hope that other commentator who participated in that ridiculous interview with the OP got his or her own happy ending too.

  13. Persephone Mulberry

    The extended reply from OS hadn’t been added the last time I read the Gawker article, and on this read-through, this jumped out at me:

    “the comprehensive goals of the process are to re-create uncertain, fast-paced, challenging environments and conditions that applicants may encounter in a mission setting.”

    I get where they’re going with this, I really do. It’s sort of an over the top, insane version of Alison’s advice to give potential hires real-world-esque tasks to complete during an interview. But why does the very nature of the activity need to be a secret? The fact that it’s a high-intensity, challenging job certainly isn’t, right? They want applicants who come prepared for anything. So why not be up front that the group activity is designed to blah blah blah, instead of coyly implying that the day is wrapping up with a “typical” group bonding activity like a bowling tournament or laser tag?

    The only people who could possibly have fun with this activity are the ones who had been secretly warned about what was coming.

  14. AK

    Wait, was the coordinator job in public health?? I guess I should be glad that my MPH is seemingly useless and I’m staying in my current cushy career. There are too few jobs out there if so many people are desperate enough to endure that.

  15. anon-2

    hey so much for the fact that I was chided for saying that companies and managers don’t do weird stuff with interviewing candidates for their own amusement.

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