The most unqualified person ever to be elected president has officially been sworn in and he’s carrying with him into Washington a quiver of cronies. It’s hard to distill a lesson from all this other than failing upwards is becoming the only exercise some Americans get any more. We’ve seen Trump’s nominees flub their interviews, showing up wholly unprepared or revealing they don’t not actually know what the job they’re applying for is, exactly. So let’s take a minute to consider those of us who still fail the regular, downward way, especially when applying for jobs.
The single worst job interview I ever gave started going downhill in a wind tunnel. I was applying for a job at a legal newswire, had aced the first few rounds of the process and was called in for an in-person interview at the Soho office. I was new to the city and with about a month’s rent to my name, so I donned my one good outfit, one of my dad’s old ties, a way-too-shabby corduroy blazer and headed into the city. The February day was brisk and windy, and I hadn’t been able to afford a haircut, so once I stepped out of the subway, I was immediately harassed with the full force of the Broadway wind tunnel that immediately turned my combed hair into an anarchic rat’s nest, all volume and jagged angles, unable to be tamed with hands alone.
So I was in a bad state of frizzy mess when I entered the conference room, and proceeded to flub most of the questions about the reason the housing market crashed (I said “greed;” the editor was looking for a slightly more complicated explanation of Chinese debt markets), all of which belied the fact that I truly did not actually want the job. But I did need the paycheck, so after a few days of not hearing back, I asked my friend who worked there for some insider info: They didn’t hire me, he told me, for a reason I did not expect: They said I didn’t “address the room” during the interview. Note: there were only two people in that room; only one of whom talked during the interview. Also, public speaking is in not a requirement for any journalism job ever.
Things worked out in the end: I would have died at that office, and probably wouldn’t have ended up writing for Brokelyn and living this cool blogger lifestyle, so I wasn’t that mad. Instead I kept working at Trader Joe’s and made some of the best friends of my life while learning how to pack a grocery bag so fast your head of lettuce would spin.
“Not addressing the room” is still the best reason I’ve ever been rejected from a job. But it seems like that company, like so many others, has higher standards than being appointed to a cabinet position in the United States of America. So today, for a dose of reality to counteract the surreal spectacle in Washington, we’re collecting stories of times you’ve been told you’re unqualified for a job, because apparently restaurants and publishing houses have higher standards than Trump administration. Here’s a few to start from Team Brokelyn and friends, add yours to the comments.
“Four inches too much skirt.”
“I once went into a lower-Manhattan restaurant for a hostess interview. It was a neighborhood spot, nothing too trendy, so I wore a knee-length skirt and a blouse. Very business-casual. The general manager and the owner were both there for the interview, and the first 10 minutes seemed to go well … until the owner pulled out a tape measure and told me to stand up. Confused, I did what he asked … and he proceeded to measure the length of my skirt. He then shook his head and said “You’ve got about four inches too much skirt here.” And that was the end of that interview. —Taylor Tobin
Not bone-able enough
“I was a senior in college about to graduate with a graphic design degree. A friend of a friend who had graduated the year before was working at Anthropologie’s corporate headquarters in Philadelphia. He reached out to a friend of mine who I THINK he was trying to bone to tell her that Anthro was hiring a designer and would she want him to recommend her? She wasn’t interested but I was, so I sent him my portfolio and asked him to send it along. I also took the liberty of applying through Anthro’s website just like anyone else would. Not to be an asshole, but my portfolio was pretty good, I was always at the top of my class. He responds and says ‘I’m sorry but I’m just not really feeling your portfolio and I can’t recommend you.’ I was pretty taken aback, this guy was in some entry level position that was not in a design or creative area. I don’t think he wanted to bone me though.
In the end, I got a job interview (and offer) anyway. I ended up not accepting the position because I wanted to move to NYC, but if I had, that dummy would have missed out on a referral bonus.” —Madelyn Owens
Just actually unqualified
“After getting my masters degree in engineering, I moved to California to pursue a career as a drummer. To support that career, I decided to be a math teacher by day. I had a masters degree in engineering, high school math should be a piece of cake, right?
Since private schools in California don’t require a teaching license, I figured I’d start there. I applied to a few in Marin County — rich kids, stoned parents, fat paychecks. The first was a middle school, and the interview went smoothly enough. Starting the conversation with my expensive degree, I breezed through with a minimum of questions. “You certainly have a strong enough academic background, and you’re personable enough, let’s get you in a classroom to assess your class management skills.”
From the instant I opened the classroom door, I knew I was in over my head. Over the course of the next hour, I went from cocky university grad to vexed and sweaty beggar, pleading for the attention of twelve year olds. It turns out kids don’t really want to pay attention. Or perhaps they can sense when you don’t know what you’re doing. Either way, when the bell rang I was the only person who learned anything.
My follow-up meeting with the principal was brief and to the point. All she had to do was smile, and I replied ‘yes I know. I’ll gather my things. Thank you for your time.’
A few days later, I found work in the laundry room at a gym.” — Ghan Patel
“I was once told I wasn’t ready for a promotion because I didn’t know how to ‘network the operation.’ I asked, ‘you mean talk to my colleagues?’ I never really got a straight answer.” —Erin Scottberg
Shoulda plead the Fifth
“In high school I tried to interview for a job at KB Toys in my town. I did well in the interview and the guy was ready to hire me, but he said I needed to take an automated phone psych test in the store (which was just a formality). The test had statements I had to agree or disagree with, like “Everyone steals.” I said I agreed with that statement, and other similar ones, and lost the job. But I thought I was being a good retail employee, suspecting everyone in the store of potential theft. Instead they thought I was going to be more inclined to steal, myself.” —Eric Silver
“You’re too pretty.”
“I have some doozies from acting jobs (and have heard even more). Top 2 favorites:
1) This one seems like an obnoxious humblebrag and, believe me, I AGREE it’s obnoxious as fuck!! ‘You’re too pretty.’ (Don’t even get me started on all the implications of that and how much it fucked with my psyche, including the woman who did get cast [who is GORGEOUS] is a dear friend of mine. I did/do not agree with the assessment – though I do think I’m pretty … Amy Sedaris is pretty too).
2) “They ended up wanting someone with a speech impediment.” (this is real shit people put IN WRITING – no joke. I did/do not agree with the assessment. Amy Sedaris doesn’t have a speech impediment either). —Havilah Brewster
Gravitas them by the balls
“When I was up for a big promotion, a colleague who held the position previously and was in charge of hiring told me he just wasn’t sure I, a young woman, had enough “gravitas” to do the job. Now, this sounds almost too cliché to be real. At the time, I took him very seriously.” — a local news reporter who requested anonymity
Flu the coop
“I was trying to get this nanny gig, and after meeting with the family they gave a trial date to pick the kids up from school. The night before my trial pickup, I felt myself coming down with the flu. I didn’t want to get these v. soft West Village kids sick by next day, so I called and left of a voicemail with apologies to reschedule. (And sure enough, I woke up with all of the flu.) Day of, I didn’t hear back but stayed in bed. After a few more days of radio silence from the family about rescheduling a day with the kids, I nagged a bit via email and finally heard back from the mother that ‘it wasn’t going to work out.’ I called to ask why, and she told me that they found me ‘unreliable.’ I asked how not wanting to get her kids sick made me unreliable. She told me it was a ‘red flag’ for them. The flu was a red flag for them.” — Sam Corbin
“And you are?”
“Then recently my book manuscript got rejected on the grounds that I am not a celebrity.” — Katarina Hybenova, founder of Bushwick Daily.
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