Recollections of the Worst Interview of My Life

Seeing former PA Senator Santorum (current Republican White House hopeful) on TV the other day suddenly reminded me of when I interviewed for a staffer position with his DC office.  I had just graduated from undergrad in May 2004 and was waiting on a country placement from the Peace Corps. Applying for a Staff Assistant position in Senator Santorum’s office was my “back up” plan.

It was my first “real” job interview – and the worst one I have had to date.

My best friend and I drove to DC the day before the interview. I did a cursory hour long review of the Senator’s website and a quick glance at current events and I called myself ready. Despite my lack of preparation, I felt I was more than qualified for the position so I had a lot of confidence in my educational background.

On the day of the interview, it was a balmy 88 degrees in the nation’s capital. I was sweating in a tank top and shorts much less the suit I was wearing. My interview was scheduled for 4pm, so my friend and I had lunch at Union Station to kill time. I ordered the worst possible choice of a meal before an interview – cheap Chinese – and proceeded to roll a piece of General Tso’s chicken down my shirt.  I tried to cover the stain with the jacket, but the stain was too much for my confidence to handle. I caved and purchased a new shirt at a store in Union Station.

After I put myself back together, we slowly made our way over to Capitol Hill. I tried to not get sweaty – that didn’t work. I was dripping with sweat 5 feet out of the air conditioned train station. My friend and I spent almost 45 minutes hunting for the correct Senate building – this was before the smart phone age, mind you. Who knew there were more than one office buildings and they weren’t all beside each other?

After sweaty LP found the correct building, the next step was security. I placed my purse and binder on the scanner and walked through, and my friend did the same. However, my bag did not appear on the other side of the scanning machine. I stood there and patiently waited. Still no bag. The security guard became suspicious and questioned me as to why I was not moving. I told him that my bag did not come through. They had to turn the machine off and dismantle it to retrieve my bag…the outcome was brutal. The strap was mangled and the leather was snagged. The guard offered to write an incident report, but it was 3:35PM and I still needed to figure out where I was going. My friend and I agreed to meet in the cafeteria after the interview.

When I found the correct office, I was greeted by a staffer who handed me some paperwork to complete. I assumed that it was the standard name, address, home town rundown. Not even close. It was a full blown test that I needed to complete in 15 minutes before I could interview.

Page 1 – questions on my state representative and state senator

Page 2 – quizzed me on Senator Santorum and Pennsylvania (what is the state beverage?! For the record, it is not beer.)

Page 3 – questions on my personal beliefs.

I thought I was almost in the clear when I turned the page to find …

Page 4 – a grammar test in font size 8 (punctuate this sentence, find the misspelled word, identify the synonyms).

I thought it could not get any worse, when…

Page 5 – Name that elected official.  It was a page of about 50 faces that I have never seen before and I had to identify name and state. It was bad. Really bad. I could not even find PA’s other Sentator because 4 guys in a row looked identical.

All this had happened before I could sit down with an interviewer. I don’t remember how the interview itself went. I do recall the interviewer was skimming my test while he asked questions, Senator Santorum and I had a Penn State connection, and the job would pay about $25,000 per year.

Somehow, I received a call back from Santorum’s office, but I never returned the call. I realized at some point during the test that I was not cut out to be a Capitol Hill staffer…well, that and I had heard back from Peace Corps so I had a new adventure in my future.

Have you ever had a terrible job interview?

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