Saturday, October 08, 2011

“Flashback: Hand Grenade Interview”

c. 2011 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

Note to Readers: What follows here is a story about the most unusual job interview I’ve had in the past 27 years. The experience came as I was attempting to re-enter the world of retail supervision. It was re-written from an old manuscript discovered in the household archives.

In April of 2009, after deciding to re-start my career as a retail manager, I interviewed at an upscale market located in another county. A friend on Facebook had suggested that I connect with the business, because she was a regular customer.

The store was very diverse and appealing to shoppers who desired something different from the typical fare of everyday food markets. After visiting to leave my resume, I was very happy to secure an actual interview.

My work background included many years of service both in the retail and logistics areas of the food industry. So I felt confident about selling myself as a potential employee.

On that day, I met personally with the business owner in his cafe. Excitement tingled over my skin. Yet I could tell immediately that something was wrong. When I said his wife had called me, the response he delivered was terse.

"Oh she did, did she?" he groaned.

With minimal interest, he looked over my resume. “I need someone in the seafood department!” he barked. “You… are… overqualified. You wouldn’t be happy with this job.”

The revelation caught me by surprise. But I assured him that I just wanted to find employment.

He looked at my resume again. “So… all you’ve done is… run a store?”

The comment made me flinch. At one point, I had helped supervise a bustling team of 275 associates. But I tried to maintain my composure.

“That’s right,” I agreed. “My experience has been in retail management, specializing in customer and employee relations.”

He noted that I left my last supermarket in 2006, and asked what I did after that had transpired.

It was on my resume of course, but I repeated it anyway. I described the odyssey of writing three books, while continuing to work for a local newspaper.

His reaction was predictable. "That's just great but I need a seafood manager!"
Again, I stated my desire to work for his company.

He grew more tense, and rubbed his eyes. “So, why would you accept such an entry-level position?”

For the third time, I stated a yearning to resume my retail career. His store seemed innovative and customer-friendly. I wanted to join the team!

Sweat beaded on his forehead. It was easy to see that he remained unimpressed.
“But, why did you apply for this job?” he said again.

“My resume was submitted last month, sir,” I said. “Not in relation to any specific position, but with the hope that you might be interested in a face-to-face meeting. Your wife called to schedule this interview.”

He grunted as if in pain. “Yes, yes! But why would you want THIS job?”

I admitted being in the midst of an interview process with several potential employers. “My desire is to find the best ‘fit’ for myself.”

At this point he lost control. Red-faced, he got up from the table and began shouting. "So you've already got a job! You’ve already got a job!"

Customers near the café were alarmed. I heard gasps from people who were working in the department.

“Not true,” I said with a frown. “I’m only looking for the best opportunity out of different alternatives…”

While storming away, he shouted like a military drill instructor. "I have an opportunity! A hell of an opportunity!"

He literally left me sitting at a table by myself. I felt like a hand grenade had exploded in my face. All conversation in the café had completely stopped. Now, I seemed to be the center of attention.

Suddenly, the overhead lights were unbearably hot. I just wanted to go home.

Across the store, I could see him leaning against the service counter. With wild gestures, he was growling at someone who I guessed had to be his wife. No words were intelligible, at such a distance. But his emotions rang out like a warning bell.

I collected my paperwork, and left under a cloud of embarrassment. I felt sorry for the owner’s wife. And, for those who depended on this rowdy fellow for employment.

It was not going to be a good day for them, at work!

Needless to say, I never patronized this business, again. But the tale of my encounter with its owner will endure into eternity.

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