how to blow a job interview

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I witness the most unfortunate interview of all time

Submitted: April 06, 2017

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Submitted: April 06, 2017



How To Blow a Job Interview

One of my first "real" jobs out of college was working as a residential counselor at a therapeutic boarding school. For those unfamiliar, a therapeutic or "emotional growth" boarding school couples the traditional boarding school concept with a highly structured and specialized program for special needs students. This particular school focused on boys with autism spectrum disorders in the 12-15 range. Although I quite liked the kids, looking back this gig ranks pretty low on my list of favorite jobs. 

The school was beautiful and rich in acreage, but the dorms were dusty and cramped. For the duration of my employment, I slept there 4 nights a week, sharing an thin-walled 800 sq. foot dorm with 12 special needs students. I ate two meals a day (sometimes three) in the school cafeteria, way too many plastic trayfuls of bland, unhealthy, kid friendly fare. I struggled through a session of group therapy every afternoon. And I pulled out countless fistfuls of hair trying to get those guys through the simple minutae of daily tasks we all take for granted: brushing teeth, making beds, tying shoes, taking showers, turning off the tv, etc...

Still, for most of my time there I remained happy to be employed. And for all the children I worked with there and since leaving that school, there is one I'll never forget. Let's call him Andy. He joined us mid-semester, about two months after I began working there. I recall he was around 13 or 14 and from California. Among this group, Andy was a pretty agreable and easy going guy, and we shared a decent rapport based on us being the "new guys." 

But the poor little dude had a volatile tummy. I think maybe Crohn's disease. For as bland as the food got, within minutes he was attacking our tiny dorm's toilet. I mean attacking. Because the dorm was so small and there was often nowhere else to go, all eleven of his compatriots and I could hear him in there after every meal, unleashing a torrrent of fireworks fit for an Independence Day grand finale. The noises he made were unhuman in their humanity. They sounded the way farts sound in a cartoon. Think of the sound produced when we place the bases of our palms together against our lips, grip our face with our fingers, and blow hard. The sort of sounds we almost always make when we're pretending to fart but rarely produce in earnest. Imagine those noises for 10-15 minutes without cease, coupled with a shitty smell inside of a tiny dorm with amazing acoustics.

Now imagine the effect this would have on the other eleven kids, special needs or not. For a few weeks, chaos erupted everytime the poor kid used the john. I admit I sometimes had difficulty choking back the giggles. But after a while, things changed. For one, the other students really liked the new boy. For another, something can only be funny for so long. So after a while, very few people laughed when he shit. And those that did got publicly dressed down, not by the staff, but by the other kids. After a month, no one even seemed to notice anymore.

Then one afternoon, a man came to the school to interview for the job of school psychologist. This was a gentleman in his late 30's or early 40's, a dude with a Doctorate in Psychology. It was the school's custom to have anyone interviewing for a job spend the day among the students, and to have other staff who observed them fill out feedback forms. Although staff and students alike dressed casually on the school grounds, I recall this poor guy had come to the interview in a suit and spent the day participating in school activities like art & crafts or soccer practice.

He was a bit rumpled by the time he arrived to participate in our afternoon group therapy session, but seemed to be in good spirits. Often people would come interview and leave in horror after witnessing a student outburst or trying to stomach a meal in the cafeteria. But this guy was hanging in there. He pulled up a chair and sat through our afternoon group session or "house meeting." He listened to the kids and offered feedback that seemed neither too stuffy or rehearsed. He told them a bit about himself, his family, cracked a joke. I began mentally checking off high marks on my feedback form.

None of us really thought much about it when Andy excused himself to use the bathroom. He was gone a couple minutes before things started to pop and fizzle. Even a few farts were emitted without anyone stirring. Then I noticed the interviewee begin to rock and shake in his chair, to tighten his lips and grind his teeth a little. He sniffed a bit at the air. I considered saying something, but couldn't think of what to say. As the kids kept talking, I thought the man was going to pull it off, he was regaining composure. 

Then Andy let one really rip. Grand Finale. Hiroshima. Big Bang Theory.

The man wrapped his arms around his chest and rocked hard back and forth. His face went purple. Then he just erupted; he let his arms fly out and screamed with laughter. He fell out of his chair and lay on the floor for a good two or three minutes, quieter now but still shaking and hiding his face. 

The kids were dead silent; these same kids who would applaud wildly when someone dropped a tray in cafeteria and go incontinent with mirth over a horse neighing. Stone-faced silence. When the poor guy finally pulled himself back up onto his chair and offered a flushed apology, one of the kids looked him right in the eye and explained in a monotone that Andy had stomach problems.

I'm not sure what happened to the gentleman interviewing, whether he left right away or stayed for dinner. Obviously he didn't get the job. I wish him the best and think about him every now and then. Especially if I have an interview coming up.

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