A Job Interview as Full Contact Combat
“Are you moving to Vegas for a job?”
A common question and the answer is two-fold. No, I don’t have a job here yet — I am definitely that brand of bold or stupid who leaps first and hopes the landing doesn’t shatter my femur. Yes, I moved here for the work in that Vegas is about events and that’s the resume I’ve built over thirty years.
I had some interviews even before we found our place to live and that was heartening. I’m working with a Freelance Rep company as well and that’s a good thing. I spent the first two weeks here unboxing and getting moved in. Now I spend each day applying for gigs (both full-time and freelance, both one’s I’m imminently qualified for and one’s I’m completely unqualified for but sound fun), making connections with folks here I should know, and learning the city.
I was surprised when I got a call for an interview for a Special Events Managing Position (set up and managing of front of house, green rooms for talent and VIPs, merchandising, etc.) for a major sports organization based in Vegas. I’m not a sports guy. Don’t watch sports, don’t follow sports. Not my bag. This company, however, is a bit of a big deal and the pay was a bit ridiculous so I said, “Why not?”
The first interview went great. I wore a suit and tie, I was over-qualified but not by a lot, I had them laughing the whole time. While I had almost no direct knowledge of the company’s sport I had the job itself soaking from my pores. The questions were pretty standard and my approach is to tell stories that exemplify what they’re looking for based on those standard questions.
Hugo, the boss in charge, was a bit intimidating. Wearing what looked like a $5,000 suit, underneath was a guy I guessed was both ripped and likely had a number of jailhouse tattoos. The guy looked like he could rip off his shirt and consume me whole without even bothering to chew. But he liked me. He laughed at my quips. The interview felt more like a conversation at a bar and the others in the room followed his lead.
I left feeling solid. If I wasn’t being strongly considered for the gig, I had completely misread the room. As I’m understanding things in Vegas, most of the events jobs I’m finding I am either wildly over-qualified for, strangely under-qualified for, or a fifty-three-year-old white guy. I have no beef with any of these reasons to knock me out of consideration — I know what I can do and have no problem not getting hired for a job I’d dislike anyway.
Sure enough, I was called in for a second interview. Hugo e-mailed that I could dress more casually (“I’m not wearing my $5,000 suit so you can wear jeans.”) and that he was looking forward to it.
It was in the same conference room as before except this time, there were three chairs where before there was one. On the left was a thirty-five–forty-year-old woman of Asian descent. I came in, introduced myself to her and sat down. She was not in the mood for chit-chat, so we sat in silence until the crew of four dudes came in and greeted us. A couple of off-the-cuff remarks and we’re all smiles.
The door opens one last time and in walks Olivia Munn. I mean, not the actual Olivia Munn but a tall, thin woman who looked a lot like Olivia Munn. Dressed like a stripper with money. I mean, this woman was breathtaking and knew it. All four dudes stood and greeted her like royalty had entered the room. She sat to my right.
I’ll admit to a bit of sexist bias entering my mind at the moment. I looked to my left and she was fairly low key and quiet. I looked to my right and automatically assumed a woman this put together couldn’t possibly be smart and she looked about twenty-five so I had her on experience.
After a moment of pleasantries (“We understand this is an unusual interview model…”) the melee ensued.
“Kim,” the boss began. “Let’s say you’re dealing with an event and you’re working the VIP Green Room. A high-powered guest is upset that the beverage options do not have his requested liquor and you are juggling with the ticket office who are having problems with a large group. What is your strategy?”
Kim answers quietly but her answer is solid. Logistic while prioritizing both the VIP and the large group. It’s a good answer.
“Don,” the focus shifts to me. “What do you think of her answer?”
What? Do they want me to criticize her strategy? In front of her? Is this how this is going to go?
“Uhm. Well, I think she just about nailed it. I suppose I might change the order of service depending on who the VIP was and how big a deal he was to the organization but otherwise, she seems spot on.”
Madame O was not surprised by this method (or didn’t show it at all) and immediately shredded Kim’s answer without hesitation. She obviously knew the culture of these events and my bias was shattered like a rotten cantaloupe as it became immediately apparent this super model sitting to my right was blisteringly smart as well. She knew her shit cold.
This process went on for about thirty minutes. Kim was really not into it and her discomfort and disdain was obvious. Olivia-Light was completely into it and her razor sharp answers and merciless critiques of both Kim’s and my answers was absolutely carnivorous. I straddled the line — I knew I couldn’t go for the jugular with either because one was laying down for the fight and the other was a fucking goddess with a verbal bludgeon. I couldn’t go with experience because that’s ageism and she obviously knew far more than I abut the company. The hiring quartet couldn’t stop looking at her like a group of teenagers in front of game of Fortnite.
So I kept it light, I tried be thorough but made jokes despite the fact that no one was staring at my tits.
“So, why should we hire you instead of the other two candidates?”
Kim was finished ten minutes before so her answer was less than enthusiastic. The Munnster basically called Kim a doormat and me an old man. My answer?
“I think Kim is super qualified but I get the sense she is more a logistics person than a customer service type. And, no disrespect intended,” and I referenced the hot body to my right. “She is going to be very distracting to work with.” Everyone laughed except for Boobs McLegs.
As we all were leaving, I pulled Hugo aside and handed him my sexy new MOO business card.
“Thanks for the interview. That was weird. If, for some reason” and I glanced at the Sports Illustrated Cover still holding court with the other three. “I don’t land the gig, I’ll be here in Vegas and would love to work with you if the need arises.”
It sounds defeatist but, c’mon. I would’ve hired Olivia. She was awesome.