Amazing Interview Stories from the Past III: The Search for Curly’s Gold

You are not going to believe this story. I don’t really believe it. Early in my process I interviewed for a job that a friend recommended me for. Sorry to dangle that proposition, but there it is. She was leaving, it seemed like a great fit for me. Right budget size, right discipline of the arts, fun challenge.

Right off the bat there were warning signs (the ED texted my friend on the weekend while we were having coffee, the job focused on an area of the arts that I am not super excited about, and the office was in the ED’s apartment), which I ignored, because I was not as self-actualized as I am now (whah, wha). I sent in my resume and within 24 hours got an email requesting a meeting. It was really exciting. I bought a new needlepoint project to celebrate.

I went in for the first interview, and it was great conversation. Very open and honest. The ED actually asked me how I handled conflict, and not the other way around. Amazing meeting, very concrete, very friendly. The “office” dog was gloriously cute.

The second meeting happened a couple of weeks later. It was less structured and lasted for almost two hours, mostly about my thesis and problems in the theater field, and issues that would need to be addressed with the company. I was exhausted by the time it was over. I went out for sushi that night and I could barely carry on a conversation, which is not normal for me.

The third meeting was with the Board of Directors’ hiring committee, also a good meeting, though it became clear that the position would report to the ED and not directly to the board (bad sign). They were extremely nice and enthusiastic about the company, and its position in the theater community. I left feeling pretty positive.

And then….the email.  I received this correspondence at 1:30am on a Wednesday (which some people say I shouldn’t care about, but which I do care about). The email (underline for emphasis is mine) is excerpted here:

So here’s my fundamental question:

You are a charismatic and articulate woman, interested in tangling with the larger questions of the role of artists in our society and how to accommodate, support and expand that. This particular job is a bit outside of what your recent experience has been, and is rooted in a ton of petty necessities, in addition to the grander questions.   I have to ask you to look deeply within yourself and ask yourself if your can find equal enthusiasm for receipting and invoicing and a great deal of regular donor cultivation chit chat. The lion’s share of what I do is unglamorous; an even greater part of the managing director job is. You would deal regularly and immediately with seminal artists, and be able to have a real impact on them and, in its fashion, on the field. But this is fundamentally a management and administrative position, and the job is well-populated by paperwork and accounting, as well as deadline, detail  and budget management.

I know that you came to apply for this job off the beaten path. Is it truly a job you can commit to? Let me know.

I was very surprised to receive this email. I was surprised by the time of day that it was sent, the tone of the email, and what clearly seemed to me to be a total lack of connection around what my skills were and what I could bring to the organization.

I sent this email to a few people whose opinions I really trust, we discussed it, and I wrote a long email back to the ED. I received some answers in return, as well as some financial data and a salary “offer” that I was told was non-negotiable, and that was also not a formal offer.

How had this process turned so hostile? I was really taken aback. By the end of the following week, I rescinded my application by email.

Two weeks later I received a reply that was pleasant but weird, saying that it didn’t seem like a right fit. But honestly, for me, it could have been a great fit, if the process hadn’t taken this wild left turn detour into Crazytown. But thankfully, this was revealed to me before, and not after, I had accepted a job there.

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