Get up early. Trim your beard. Put on a tie and the shoes with the holes in the bottoms. No one will notice. No one looks at people’s shoes.
Drive a convoluted route to the industrial district. Remember your sunglasses, but squint sunblind anyway when you loop back east. Recheck your map – the area you’re looking for will be distorted by the page split. This is Seattle. Street signs will be tiny and hidden in leaves and moss. Building numbers won’t be visible on nine of ten buildings. You’ll be 30 minutes early. Put those minutes to work.
This is Seattle – people are courteous. So get out your cell phone to make a call: “I’m sorry, I’m a little lost… just got into town and am unfamiliar….” When you notice you have no cell service in the area, put the phone away.
Improvise. This is Seattle – there will be a coffee shop every 50 feet. But not where you are. Look around the knotted streets. Remember that clapboard flatiron at the brief convergence of Fidalgo and Mead just a little way back. Stop the car. Get out and walk – it’ll be faster than trying to turn around here. Rediscover Espresso by Design – it angles between a landscaping supply house and a tile showroom. When you cross the street, dodge the tractor trailer snaking its way to the artery.
Head inside to the first likely looking person. This is Seattle – everyone’s friendly. Ask the leathernecked gentleman in blue mirror shades sipping paper cup coffee with a guy in plaid. He’ll pause, then point through the window into the sun.
“Go that way another 2 blocks.”
“But wait, doesn’t that merge with…”
“No, it’s the right street.”
Thank the man. Don’t apologize. Go back to your car. But the guy from coffee will follow you, so turn and tuck your tie down. He’ll have something to say – a small clarification that will bring it all together in your head.
“The streets are numbered. Mead becomes Fidalgo when you cross 6th.”
Thank him again. Don’t reach out to offer a handshake.
Drive southeast into the morning sun. You’ll notice the building – someone’s stenciled “808″ on the grey-painted brick. Park in the hedge like everyone else.
Greet the casted duo of interviewees – a fat man in a t-shirt like a sail and a stubble-headed military kid. The fat man will say you’re at the wrong door – there’s no buzzer. He won’t remember the instructions, nor will you. Mention that you remember having to go to the east side and hit the buzzer, then pause. The building will be oriented diagonal to your mental compass – there will be a lot of chainlink and barbed wire between here and there. When the fat man suggests someone call someone, haul out your phone and look at it. There will still be no service.
But this is Seattle, and the fat man will have a bar, so he’ll call and say “there’s a gap in the fence”. There it is. Start walking. When the fat man jokes about an intelligence test, chuckle politely with the military kid.
When the bored, important voice crackles from the tiny speaker and tells you to come in one at a time, motion the fat man in first. Motion the military kid in next, but when he says “after you, sir”, go ahead in. This is Seattle.
When the door buzzes, go inside. Pass your license through the bank-style drawer under bulletproof glass to the pasty-faced man in tight grey clothes and a short purple tie so he can run a photocopy. He’ll gesture direction from the shoulder, open-handed, like he’s got a towel over his arm. Go through the second security door and into the office. Note the shag-carpet cubicle walls in PC beige with dark brown accents.
Sit at the paste-board table in an office chair older than you. You probably won’t stay long, so sit with your back to the room. The boss will stand behind you. A doughy woman will introduce herself and tell you she’s been working here for 2 months. She left the banking industry for a career change. When the fat man asks if she left banking voluntarily, she’ll tell you and the military kid that she commutes 30 miles from Tacoma daily. This is Seattle – it takes her about an hour to get to work.
“Do you need anything? Water? You can drink the coffee, but I wouldn’t.” She’ll hold a paper cup in a hand heavy with rings and flesh.
Turn your head so you can see the boss come in. He’ll strut his hips when he walks. He’ll wear a gun in a holster strapped directly to his waistband.
“Take a few minutes and fill this out.”
Take a copy and pass it around:
- What drew you [sic] attention to apply at Company?
- Where do you see yourself in three years?
- What is your feeling about customer service?
- What characteristics make a great customer service rep?
- What traits to you look for when picking a team or when being part of a team?
- What is your goal with Company?
Fill in some stock answers. Chuckle out loud to yourself. When the fat man raises an eyebrow at you, read each other’s answers upside down. Make eye contact again and grin.
The boss in his tight shirt, short pants, tactical shoes, and beltless holster will stand behind you and clear his throat. His hair will stand thick from a widow’s peak.
“Okay. I’m John Doe, Operations Manager.” Listen to the caps. “You’ve already met the office manager, Jane. She’s going to be running this interview, so I’ll turn it over to her.”
Direct your attention to the table.
“Well, they’ve already filled out the paperwork, so now you have to
tell them about the job.”
Look back over your shoulder at the boss. Rotate your chair.
He’ll talk for a while, but say nearly nothing. He’ll be interrupted several times by his staff on the phone. Look politely blank when he says “interview” and still gets a long story from the dispatcher. When he asks if you have questions, let the fat man ask first, then read yours off your notebook.
Note the answers in your book: $12 per hour. No benefits. Work all over the state in a semi-armored van collecting cash. You must buy your own weapon and armor and pay your own licensing and class fees.
When Jane passes out a 10th generation photocopy of a background check form, stare at it for a full minute. When she reads the room and says, “If you don’t want the job, please don’t fill out the paperwork,” get up and leave with the others. This is Seattle – you don’t want to make the company spend money on a background check if they don’t need to. Don’t look directly at the one who’s staying, either. His attention will be focused on the paperwork.
Banter on your way out to the car, laugh a little bit, then leave. This is Seattle – go back to the coffee shop so you can kill time and eat a bagel and drink some coffee before going to the next interview.Related: Popular: