View Full Version : My weirdest interview ever

Marian Perera
05-10-2009, 05:14 PM
After two years in customer service because I couldn't get a better job, I couldn't take it any more. So I applied to the Michener Institute of Health Sciences for their Medical Laboratory Technology program. I always wanted to work in a lab, but although I've got a degree in microbiology there's a gap in my resume where I spent three years in the Middle East (and couldn't get a lab job there either). That put my skills somewhat on the old and decrepit side, hence the need for a more up-to-date education.

Anyway, I had all the documents sent from abroad to be evaluated and convinced everyone that I could speak good English despite coming from a foreign country. Yay, I passed the first hurdle and was invited to come in for an interview.

They called it "multiple mini interview" (which made me think of little cupcakes or petits fours for some reason) but still, I'd been asked for an interview. I got my suit in order and put my documents in my tote bag. Something told me not to prep for questions like "Describe a difficult situation you had to deal with", so I didn't worry too much about it beforehand, and I even read Roger Ebert's Your Movie Sucks while waiting in the lobby.

The first indication that this was not going to be a normal interview was that there were seven other people waiting with me, and we were all led off upstairs by a guy with a walkie-talkie. He actually radioed ahead to tell someone that he was bringing the next batch up. When the elevator doors opened, he turned the eight of us over to a woman with a headset, who ackowledged acceptance of the delivery. There were signs on the walls saying, "Restricted Area" - it was all very hush-hush, like we were trying out for the Secret Service or MI-5.

The woman showed us where to leave our coats and bags and then took us to a long corridor where the doors were marked with the numbers 1 through 8. Each of us had to stand with our backs to a door. "Don't look at the door," she said, "until I blow my whistle. When you hear that, turn around. You have two minutes to read the question taped to the door. I will blow the whistle again. You enter the room and have five minutes to answer the question. One room will contain an actor with whom you will act out a situation. After five minutes, you will hear the whistle again. Leave immediately and proceed to the next station."

The whistle blew. I didn't even have the time to feel nervous as I read the question. "If a patient could not speak English, would you treat them through an interpreter or would you suggest another facility where the health care professionals might be able to speak the patient's language? Explain your answer."

This was definitely not what I had in mind with regards to medical laboratory technology - that always makes me think of labs, biochemistry, analyzers, Petri plates, happy science stuff far removed from the front lines of dealing with patients. Fortunately, working in customer service had given me at least a little experience with people who don't speak English. So I answered that question and went on to the next station feeling a little better.

With the next station, I had to work with another victim interviewee. She sat at the other end of the room, her back to me. I was given a Google map that had six locations marked (A through F) and she had a similar map without the locations marked. I had to give her directions on how to get from A to B, from C to D and so on - which turned out to be difficult since I don't drive and am not good at giving directions unless it's a route I've traveled at least five or six times. But even that wasn't as bad as the station with the actor.

"You're a volunteer in the ER," the interviewer said to me. "Alex is a patient in the waiting area who came in with a pain in his knee and who has been there for four hours now. He's seen patients who came in after him be taken in first and he's upset about this. The nurses have sent you out to calm him down. Please go ahead."

Now I work in customer service for a medical laboratory network, so I'm familiar with people who have complaints. The difference, though, is that I answer phones. I can put the person on hold or transfer them somewhere else. It's not so easy when you're face to face, and "Alex" was a pretty good actor. He reminded me of those telemarketers who won't take no for an answer, because nothing I said really seemed to work. At one point he started complaining that if we left him there for much longer, the doctors would have to cut his leg off, and I restrained myself from saying, "If I were the doctor, I wouldn't stop at the leg."

After that were more hypothetical questions - should patients be allowed to choose health care professionals of the same gender? what were my thoughts on e-learning? - and between those the other candidates and I were running from numbered station to numbered station, trying to stay ahead of the whistle. I wouldn't have been surprised if I'd gone into one of those little rooms and been told, "drop and give me fifty". It was a total "keep 'em on the hop, make 'em think on their feet" exercise, and I don't recall the word "laboratory" ever being spoken during the process. I was so wrung out afterwards that I got lost on the way back to the subway station and had to retrace my steps for a good ten minutes. So much for my competence direction-wise.

But I got an email from Michener a few days ago to say that I was accepted. Classes start in September.


05-10-2009, 05:19 PM
Congrats! That sounds like a hell of a trip down the rabbit hole, if you ask me...but CONGRATS! I love outside the box people...and you may find this interview technique as a positive. I certainly would.

05-10-2009, 05:29 PM
What a weird interview. Congratulations (I think)

I'm sure I would have been hard pressed not to tell them to go fuck themselves... thankfully I'm not looking for a job with them.

Thought this was priceless:
At one point he started complaining that if we left him there for much longer, the doctors would have to cut his leg off, and I restrained myself from saying, "If I were the doctor, I wouldn't stop at the leg."

05-10-2009, 06:40 PM
Congrats on the new position, QoS! That's a hell of a story to tell at dinner parties.

05-10-2009, 06:49 PM
So, when do you get your black suit...sunglasses....and that little thingy with the blue light that when flashed will cause the person to forget everything that happened? lol (MIB)

Keep us informed of any other strange teaching methods they might have. Oh, and congratz.....I think.

05-10-2009, 06:53 PM
I fucking hate interviews like that and I would have walked out.

Calla Lily
05-10-2009, 06:58 PM
Wow, Queen. Weird, indeed. Congrats on getting in and I hope you love it!

Wayne K
05-10-2009, 07:19 PM
I keep thinking of the interview when the guy started laughing when he asked if I've ever been convicted of a felony.

We laughed...

I got the job.

05-10-2009, 07:35 PM
Wow, that was strange.

So, how long, do you think, until they let you use all the Alien Technology and stuff?

05-10-2009, 10:44 PM
Way2go and congrats! Calls for :Cake: :)

05-11-2009, 12:25 AM
Wow, actually, I think that's a fantastic way to interview! I mean, most interviews are kind of skewed toward people who are "good at interviews" (otherwise known as creative BS), but may not actually be the kind of people you want. Sounds like this tested your ability to quickly adapt to unexpected circumstances, think on your feet, and improvise - all qualities that employers are really looking for.

05-11-2009, 03:23 AM
That puts my weirdest interview - the one where the guy asked me "So did Daddy get you all your jobs or just the IBM ones?" - to shame.

(And for the record, he didn't get me any of them. Knowing that bastard, he would have deliberately sabotaged me if he'd had the chance, just to "toughen me up.")

05-11-2009, 04:52 AM
i had an interview that was very similar to that.
only it turned out not to be an interview.

at the end. they just all left to room and never came back.
so i left too.

05-11-2009, 10:40 AM
I suppose you were so busy running from here to there that you didn't have time to look for the hidden cameras.

Marian Perera
05-12-2009, 05:19 AM
Thought this was priceless:

Thanks. One reason I don't make a good customer service agent, I guess. I'm always thinking up smartass replies, which are great for making your co-workers laugh but which don't exactly make you feel compassionate and helpful towards the patients either.

Marian Perera
05-12-2009, 05:25 AM
Thanks for the congratulations, everyone. :)

Wow, actually, I think that's a fantastic way to interview!

In retrospect, yes. You're right that it tested far more skills than just the ability to answer the standard interview questions convincingly. It's just that during and after the actual process of running the gauntlet, I never wanted to go through anything like it again.

But you're quite right. I've decided that if I ever have to interview candidates I'll scrap the standard questions too. Give 'em something completely unexpected, see how they function under pressure. They can cuss me out later.

05-12-2009, 05:30 AM
That is bizarre! It sounds like something from Men in Black!

My favorite interview was when I showed up and the boss started piling text books on my lap and giving instructions on how I should proceed with the first class. That was the best interview ever!

Matera the Mad
05-12-2009, 07:53 AM
Stress-testing the brain! Congratsos!

05-12-2009, 08:06 AM
This sounds like something you would read about in a book! Seriously!

05-12-2009, 08:17 AM
That is quite strange indeed, but I think they wanted to see how the people could do under pressure both with time management and people. Strange but interesting all the same. Personally I have never had an interview in my life, well except for days of similar strangeness getting into the Army...but we had to drop down and excercise and loads of other oddities as well. Congrats QS, sounds like you deserve it! :Sun:

05-12-2009, 08:20 AM

I would have just wandered around halfway through yelling 'WTF IS GOING ON?!' at the top of my lungs. ;)

05-12-2009, 08:21 AM
Or "I'm scared and I wanna go home!"

and it would have been true...

05-12-2009, 07:21 PM
How thrilling! I've never had an interview like that. Mine have always been the boring, "Tell me about yourself."

I've had to test my abilities before, but nothing like that. That's pretty elaborate. Must be amusing to HR personnel who make up things like this. Congrats on getting in!