Job Hunting Sucks, or A Tale of the Most Inept Admin of All Time

Now that I’m firmly entrenched in a different job and industry, I have to share this hellacious recruiting experience from about this time last year. I was interviewing with an asset manager in DC for an equity analyst position. A full year has passed and I still cannot believe this happened. I find it all incredibly insane, but I’m pretty sure it is also objectively insane.

Long and rambly story below was typed out then, so I apologize if it sounds a little rant-y. There are some positive takeaways at the end if you can get all the way there!

Late August

After four or five phone/Skype interviews with various fund people, the firm invites me to a second round in DC on 9/13. I make arrangements to take a vacation day on Friday, 9/13. [Now I wonder…was this all due to bad Friday the 13th luck?]

Friday 9/6

No travel itinerary yet, so I get in touch with the admin via email:

me: When you get a chance, could you send my travel itinerary for my visit next Friday?

Admin: oh yeah! let me get back to you

….

Admin: Actually, can you come Monday instead?

me: No. I requested Friday off already.

Admin: Okay how about Thursday?

me: No. I requested Friday off.

Admin: Can you come Thursday afternoon?

me: No. I requested Friday off.

They clearly forgot I was coming at all and as a result half their analysts are in New York for a conference, half in DC. The result is the following hellish schedule:

  • 5:30am Ride to airport
  • 8am Flight from Chicago to DC
  • 10:30am to 2:30pm Interviews in DC
  • 3pm Train from DC to NYC
  • 6:30pm to 8:30pm Dinner/Interview in NYC
  • 9:30pm Flight DC to Chicago
  • 11:30pm Arrive home/Chicago

Two more emails from Admin:

  • “Can you take an earlier flight on Friday? Do you live near the airport?”
  • “Can you stay overnight Friday?”

The answer to both is no. I refuse to get up at 4am for a long day already, and I must be back home the same day because my friend is staying with me that weekend, arriving Friday night for Riotfest. I’m already hassling her by asking her to kill time in a coffee shop until I get back to Chicago at 11pm, well after she arrives.

Monday 9/9

I email again to get the itinerary. Admin sends the day’s schedule, flight info, etc. on Wednesday.

Friday 9/13

6:30am Arrive at airport. I learn my flights were never booked because the company never paid for the tickets. So the reservations lapsed. I call the company to see if I should just book the next flight available myself, but it is too early and no one is in the office. I manage to find the travel emergency line. They get me on the right flight and I sprint through the airport, barely making the flight — I only made it because O’Hare happened to open another security line right when I got the checkpoint. The gate closes behind me when I get on the plane. I leave a voicemail for the admin to let her know what happened.

10:45am Arrive in DC. I tell the admin what happened with my flights again, emphasizing that while booking my flight at the counter that morning, I learned that my previously planned return flight is fully booked. I do not have a seat, and I must get on another flight from NY to Chicago that night. She apologizes profusely and says she is on it.

Then, two interviews go all right. Not stellar, but not bad.

Third interview starts around 1:15pm. Halfway through, Interviewer #3 eyes his watch…”Wait, oh no. Wait let me check something.” He leaves, returns, tells me, “okay I think I got your schedule wrong. You need to do this valuation project now. You were supposed to have 2.5 hours…”

1:45pm I’m led to a computer in a cubicle cluster filled with IT folks talking about IT things. I’m told to value [Company X]. Instructions: full five-year projections for all three financial statements, DCF model, and write-up.  In 45 minutes. Materials: they give me the wrong years of financials in Excel and a print out of the latest annual report.

I note the wrong financials. Interviewer #3 goes, “Oh. Wow, you’re right. Oops. Just do what you can.”

At this point, I’m extremely irritated that they’ve asked me to do this given:

  1. They made me do this the last time I visited this firm in person in 2010! I had interviewed with these guys pre-MBA for a more junior role and ultimately decided to go to business school. At the time, I had to value [Company Y] though at least back then they gave met the right financials and enough time. I thought the request was stupid even then, and this time it is worse because I have more experience, a public track record, and…
  2. I had just completed an entire stock pitch specifically for them for a tiny, hard to research small-cap company. I devoted two weeks of my life to complete it. I sent my model, a 10 page write-up, and we had had an hour long call to vet the investment idea and valuation.
  3. I’m 30. I have been working in this industry for more than six years. Do they really think I’ve gotten along all this time not knowing how to execute a model?

I decide I’m not okay with working there if they believe time spent this way in a live processing exercise — twice — is worthwhile.

I work with the financials for about ten minutes and bail. There is no way I can do anything constructive with insufficient data and no time. Instead I write questions in a Word doc of things that I would like to look at, questions to ask, issues to consider when looking at this type of firm/industry. [In retrospect, I wish I had just written a play-by-play of my day so far.]

2:30pm Interviewer #3 to me: “You might not make your train. You should go.”

Admin then rushes over: “You have to go! You’re gonna miss the train!”

…as if this is my fault? I rush out and barely make the Amtrak train, after sprinting through my second transportation terminal of the day. Doors close right behind me. Again.

3-6pm On Amtrak. I have had essentially nothing to eat all day. I devour two of three Powerbars that I amazingly packed with me that morning. The first Powerbar had been consumed on the plane that morning because I didn’t have time to get breakfast, thanks to the flight-booking snafu. I was in their offices from 10:30 to 2:30, interviewing the whole time, and only offered beverages. I give up on preparing for interviews and just sleep on the train.

6pm A car is supposed to pick me up outside Penn Station. It is not there and I cannot contact the car company. Almost needless to say at this point, the car driver and I were given two different intersections near Penn Station by Admin. Despite my calling the inept admin three times to give me the phone number to call the car company directly (she keeps telling me, “I just called. Just wait…it’ll be there”), the driver and I ultimately end up waiting 35 minutes for one another while only a couple of blocks apart. During this time, I try to hail a cab but it’s Friday rush hour at Penn Station. Anyway I’m massively late to my next interview.

7pm Dinner meeting with three other fund guys. Two are late because they also could not hail cabs and ended up walking. This meeting goes fine. I have to leave at 8:30pm — before I can actually eat dinner — in order to get to LGA to make my flight home.

9pm I get to LGA. Of course my flight is not booked and there are no more available flights from any airline for the day. Because Inept Admin. She managed to book a flight NYC to Chi all right, but for NEXT Friday. Not the Ice Cube movie, but next mothereffing Friday. How is this level of ineptitude from one individual possible, you wonder? Because I wonder. I am also near tears at this point. I book my own flight for the next morning, get a hotel for the night, and make arrangements to for my visiting friend in Chi to stay with another friend.

It mostly ends there except for the weird mailing of my travel reimbursement check. Apparently the admin sent my check first to “the address they had on file”  from the last time I interviewed in 2010. In California. ??? I explain I do not live there anymore, to please send another check. Admin’s first reply is, “Is that the address of a family member? Could they just re-direct the check to you?” I just, I can’t even.

So that’s the story. I did not perform well that day, but I’m also confident that the travel craze certainly did not help. That’s it. End rant.

There is no real moral to this bizarro story. It’s just something that happened. Though re-reading this all now…there is a slight conclusion to add. And a few positive takeaways:

  1. The fund said they’d get back to me in “a couple of weeks.” I did not prod because I had already decided no on them myself. They got back to me in two months with a ding.
  2. I scheduled a separate call after the ding to discuss the travel fiasco. The timing of this call was difficult to plan actually because I didn’t want to seem like an ungrateful and bitter asshole in a relatively niche part of the industry. I figured the risk of that was worth it and anyway, the post-ding timing worked out well. My main contact there was very apologetic and seemed shocked. However, I note the Incredibly Inept Admin (IIA, patent pending) is still working there according to LinkedIn.
  3. I remain irritated that the company asked for my credit report (soft pull), interviewed my four required references, and contacted my then-current employer (!!!) before this second round interview disaster even happened. While I respect the firm for doing its due diligence on me, that level of inquiry is far too high for that stage in the recruiting process. That stuff should happen after I visit, in my view. It’s all just a huge waste of time for everyone involved.

Takeaways:

  1. This is a brutal reminder that job hunting sucks. For everyone. Every time. It’s a time filled with feelings of insecurity, nerves, doubt…it’s like this awkward short courtship with sudden starts and stops usually at the whim of one party. There is very little that feels good about any of it while in the moment.
  2. At the same time, it’s odd to consider that all these pains of recruiting are also all wrapped up in a fluffy white cloud of hope and optimism. Everyone goes into an interview hoping for something better, right? It’s this weird pleasure-and-pain bet on own capabilities and charisma.
  3. The pain on this particular day ultimately worked out for the best. Prior to the trip, I had been really excited about the job and the potential of moving to DC. However, the fund visit (both interviews and the travel fiasco) made it very clear how far off the firm’s priorities were compared to mine.
  4. The trip also made me very grateful for my job at the time, where I worked with kind and thoughtful people. I’m even more grateful that the terrible visit kept me in the recruiting game, because I am now in an awesome job and thankfully not in DC.
  5. DC adventure also set the bar for terrible recruiting travel stories, which…well, who knew there was a bar to be set. But it came in handy for a later recruiting visit to NYC. On that trip, I was stuck on a plane for 7 hours (for a normally 2 hour flight) due to bad weather at LGA, around which we circled for a while…until we ran out of fuel. Had to land in a tiny airport in Harrisburg, PA to refuel and we waited out LGA weather there. However, we couldn’t deplane because Harrisburg evidently doesn’t have suitable/free gates for a giant plane. So seven hours of cabin fever on the plane — again with no food all day. I missed my interviews completely due to the delay and again I ultimately was stranded overnight in NYC. And again I had to partly bail on a visit with a friend (same friend! what a trooper). Huge pain in the ass overall but compared to DC fund day? Ain’t no thing.

So. If you take away only one thing from this extended diary entry, let it be this: always pack three Powerbars and a toothbrush when traveling for interviews. You never know.

Leave a comment

  • Advertisement:
  • Advertisement:
  • ChicagoNow is full of win

    Welcome to ChicagoNow.

    Meet our bloggers,
    post comments, or
    pitch your blog idea.

  • Meet The Blogger

    cinnatwists

    i miss working next to taco bell.

  • Recent posts

  • Tags

  • Monthly Archives

  • Latest on ChicagoNow

  • Advertisement: