02 December, 2006

Interview AAR

On the good side, it turns out the job is only half receptionist. The rest is dealing with clients in a more detailed way--everything from interviewing them to determine their needs to actually educating them about their situation and available assistance... which on one hand makes me want the job more, and on the other makes me think I have a lesser chance of getting it (even though I know I'd be good at that kind of work).

There were four people on the hiring board, all extremely thorough and professional: the director, someone who seemed to be the leader of the caseworkers, someone more focused on the clerical side of things, and a master chief.

I honestly don't know how I did. I didn't totally bomb, but I didn't feel like I aced it, either. Unlike the usual in my interviews, I couldn't really figure out what type of person they're really looking for or what their personal response to me was. What worries me most is that I didn't feel a personal connection with them, and I've never gotten a job where I didn't feel that we "hit it off."

As usual, it was an adventure. Due to a security-related foul-up, the master chief ended up having to request a duty driver to pick me up. When I finally sat down before the hiring board, it became very clear that they had never considered the possiblity that I was a civilian. They apologized for not making the proper security arrangements, but I insisted it was my fault as I had been uesd to dealing with more-open USMC bases and the hospital, and hadn't thought to check about the access requirements at a Navy base. I tried to spin it as a matter of habit rather than ignorance (I had a vague memory of hearing about day passes before), but I don't know if I succeeded.

I felt like the pass debacle had already shot me in the foot, but I soldiered on. The director asked if a duty driver had brought me. I said, "Yes, thank you. And a very nice duty driver he was!"

She instantly turned to the master chief and said "See, a compliment for your driver." The chief asked for his name and I couldn't supply it, as I'd never gotten a glimpse of his nametag. But the bright spot in this was that I was able to give the chief details about the sailor that made it clear I'd taken genuine interest in him and conversed as I rode.

Ah, well... the rest is mostly fuzzy and unclear to me. I didn't feel like I bombed, but didn't leave feeling nearly as confident as I'd like. I began to strongly suspect that they would've never interviewed me had they known I was a civilian. The master chief was the last of the four to ask me opening questions, which I felt (up until that moment) I'd answered pretty well. He somewhat condescendingly apologized in advance, saying, "I'm going to have to ask you a couple of unfair questions."

I tried to smile invitingly and said with a confident laugh, "Ask as many unfair questions as you'd like." His first question: What do you know about pay and allowances... what's the difference? In response, I discussed Basic Pay and Special Pay, then mentioned BAH and BAS, and explained BAH. I then kind of petered out because I wasn't sure what he was really asking. I said, "What exactly are you looking for? Is there a specific question you have in mind?"

He thought for a moment and then said, "No, I think that covers it." He then threw me a curveball, "There are times when something becomes serious enough that you must contact a sailor's command. How would you go about doing that?"

Huh? I really didn't understand what he meant. I said that I assumed there were procedures and guidelines about when and how that would occur, but that absent that guidance I would call and say, "I need to talk to you about one of your sailors." I pointed out that I would share the name and information with no one but the proper person, but then started to founder a bit. The chief interrupted and commented that there are "some very difficult commands to work with."

That gave me a lifeline and I pointed out that at the USO we often have people coming in with partial or confusing orders, or they're really clueless. "In those circumstances we have to figure out who can help them. That often means starting at the quarterdeck and digging from there to get to the people who have the answers and the power to fix things." I said that I have experience in asking the right questions about how to get things done and who really runs things. But I felt like I kind of biffed that answer. I still don't have a clue what he was getting at with that question. I wish I'd been quick enough on my feet to say with a wink, "Why, I'd call the Chief, of course! Everyone knows that's who really runs things..."

There is some hope that I may have overcome the "ignorant civilian" label. At the end of the interview I acknowledged that they may have concerns in that area and said, "I strongly encourage you to contact references A and B if you have any concerns about my understanding day-to-day military life and culture in general." I then offered them copies of a letter of recommendation from an officer stationed on that very base, which says I have much to offer and should be hired immediately and which they accepted. Unfortunately, I then promptly shot myself in foot again by saying that the letter was the kind of thing that I hope to someday actually live up to (Doh!!).

Like I said above, I really don't have a clue about how the interview went overall. All I've got is my intuition, which is currently being short-circuited by my pessimism and battered confidence, and my over-developed ability to pick myself to pieces and focus on the worst of anything I do.

At least I'll know by the end of next week, so I'll have only a week of torturing myself. Heh.