Unprofessional interview procedures - is it me or them?

Hey all, apologies in advance as this might be a long one!

So I’m back home in the UK after my stint in the States came to an end. I’ve had some freelance work thats kept me ticking over whilst I set up shop this side of the pond but the time has come to get something more solid. I’ve made contact with my A list companies and got a decent response from a few but unfortunately timing is a bit off with either no vacancies or people busy with deadlines and away on business. Conversations are being put off for a few weeks when things settle down.

So until then I figured it doesn’t hurt to cast my net as far as it can go and see what my B list has to say. One of those firms is interested in interviewing me but I’ve had a few red flags raised before I even step foot in the office and it would be great to get some more seasoned professionals advice on how to continue.

First red flag: This flag is about my grade from college which needs a bit of explaining. In the UK they are based on the class of your degree, so it’s First, Upper Second, Lower Second and Third - a little bit like Latin honors in the US.

So, I get a call a few days after submitting my work from someone at the firm, he asks me what grade I achieved at university as it is not listed on my resume. I tell him what I got, Upper Second and he asks “is it on your resume and I just can’t see it?”. I reply with “my apologies but no, I don’t list it as it has never been asked about”. He replies, actually he snaps in a very aggressive tone “oh well thats not right, what if you had gotten a Third (lowest grade), that would be telling us that you were obviously not very good”

I had to bite my tongue and not say to him “my work should give you an indication of how good I am, I could also rally up a few people from my university with Firsts (top grades) and show you how little skills they have when sat at a drawing board or a computer screen with Solidworks loaded up. A grade is merely an indication of how well you can tick the boxes of the institution you studied at”

Second red flag: I get an email from HR a week or so later, which was this Monday saying “congratulations you are in the shortlist for our graduate position, please be at our office this Friday with the other candidates”, no other information.

First off, I’m not a ‘graduate’ having finished my studies over two years ago, nor did I apply for that position. In the two years out of school I’ve had professional jobs, which I worked hard to get. I’m a junior. Secondly, I live over four hours by train from the firm with tickets around £120 - not a huge sum out of my own pocket but dropping that to just turn up with no other info is a bit hard to swallow.

I replied asking about clarity in the position, stating what professional experience I have and also if I could have some more details about interview schedules for which I get no response.

Third red flag: I get an email from someone else at the firm around 11:30pm on Wednesday evening telling me that the interview has been rescheduled to next week and that they hope I understand. They say I’m scheduled for the afternoon but it may run over due to the other candidates.

Now even though I’ve got a good book and a good chunk of professional experience behind me, the rosy cheeked grad that is still inside of me is screaming “don’t turn down an interview!!” but the overall bad attitude from that first phone call, to the mix up in job titles and finally the lack of information plus rescheduling about the interview tells me not to bother.

I’m unsure of how to approach speaking to the firm about some of these issues without ruining my chances of an offer. I’m still young so don’t want to come across as being too big for my boots, but I’ve worked hard to get to where I am and feel I deserve a little bit more respect than someone fresh out of design school. I just don’t want to burn any bridges incase nothing else comes through…

Id say do not burn them bridges.

It could be a bunch of things. The company could be going through some busy times and can’t give you proper time or hunt down the right people to respond to you in a detailed manner. Whatever the reason, I say if you want the job, go to the interview, even if it costs you 120 pounds, it’ll be a tiny investment into your future. If this tangled process is giving you red flags, then Id say go with your gut feeling and don’t go to the interview. But tell them in advance so that they can push up the times for other candidates. Lastly, “I’ve worked hard to get to where I am and feel I deserve a little bit more respect than someone fresh out of design school.” Sorry to say, but everyone has worked hard to get where they are. And I think I would steer clear from speaking to the firm about the admin not being to your liking. I don’t think its your business to tell them they aren’t doing a good job or a job to your liking.

Just my 2 cents.

Definite red flags though.

I had a VP at rather large corporation ask me to apply for a position. I was pretty excited, I had been at Nike maybe a couple of years and this was a big global CE company. I applied to the link he sent. Nothing for a few weeks and then someone in HR asks for my resume (which I submitted in the application), no problem, I send it. A few weeks go buy, another HR person asks for my resume… OK a little weird, but fine. Another week goes by, the VP reaches back out to me and asks if I’m ever going to apply. I reply and say not only did I reply the day he asked me a month before, but two separate HR people asked for my resume. He apologizes and says someone will reach out to set up an interview. Nothing for a week until the first HR person emails me… and asks for my resume again. I empaled the VP back and told him thank you for the time and consideration but clearly the group was not ready to recruit and to please stop contacting me… since then that company has been bought and sold a few times …

Anyway, the kernel of thought here is that red flags like this are indications of how a group of people behaves and you have to ask yourself if that is the environment you want. ?Now if you need a job, take the interview. In my case I didn’t need the job, so I didn’t.

Thanks for the quick reply Sketchroll!

I’m just a little nervous as to me a “graduate” position is basically just a glorified intern. Not to make too may assumptions but I figured this means a lower salary with less responsibility, this is what I’d like to clear up with them before I make the trip down to see them as I don’t want to waste their time just as much as I don’t want to waste mine.

I didn’t mean to come across as though I’d be telling them that their admin procedures are wrong. It’s just that first phone call set a bad tone for my first interaction with the company. I figure if thats how they speak to me as a candidate I question how I’d be treated as an employee. This is also relates to my statement of respect and working hard, I meant that during the phone call I was asked about my experience which they can see I have, yet they’re interviewing me for a job below my current level and it feels as though I’m being treated like I don’t know any better.

Sketchgrad, I’d really like to commend you on knowing what you want and sticking to your guns.

You need to keep the faith and make sure that you get what you believe you need. You will have to kiss a few frogs before you find the right fit.
Actually, these experiences while frustrating, are all part of the process and you learn a lot about what you actually want and what is important to you. While I was recently looking for a gig, I interviewed at around 5 places and by the 5th interview, I had a much clearer picture of my demands and wishes.
So while 4 of those interviews didn’t lead to any employment, they were still important experiences and I am glad I talked to everyone.

As Yo hinted, the best time to look for a job is when you have a job and while you might not have a stable position right now, it sounds like you do keep busy with freelance work.
So don’t freak out and let the potential employer exploit the situation.

Based on your current example however, it sounds like you might want to walk away from this.
I think also that the company should reimburse you for your train ticket and if you go, I 'd also check on that.

Maybe that question on that first call came from the guy thinking you were a graduate with little / no experience, then he wanted to have the grades to see how you are. However, having submitted a portfolio, it’s awkward that he focused on the grades and not on your work. Anyway, it could be just a misunderstanding. Have you tried calling them before the interview and directly talk to someone? You could clarify if they would pay the transportation. I remember having an interview in Cologne when I was living in Hamburg (Around 4 - 5 away) and the company paid the train ticket, even though it was just for a 3 or 6 months internship. If I needed the work, I’d probably show up and see how’s the people and the company. It could be that, as Sketchroll said, they are just going through some busy times.

Thanks for the advice and input everyone! Really great to hear the personal stories from Bepster and Yo as always.

I’ve decided I’m going to give them a call tomorrow to clarify the position and make sure I’m the right candidate, both for their sake and my own. I’m about 80% that I’ll attend the interview if the phone call goes well, it doesn’t hurt to not put all of my eggs in one basket. As Sketchroll said maybe they are busy and the admin side has not been on par, although from what I can gather I’m one of many candidates and the whole day will be a bit of a revolving door process for them.

On the plus side though, one of my A list firms gave me a phone interview towards the end of the week which was worlds above the dealings I’ve had with the firm mentioned in this thread. It started with an incredibly polite phone call from HR asking about my availability with subsequent follow up phone calls and a confirmation email. It was incredibly organised and positive considering I haven’t even stepped foot in the office yet.

It just goes to show the difference and to add to the positive experience they are eager to have me in for a face-to-face interview! :wink: