Let’s start this series off with the story that inspired it — namely, mine. Advertising is a competitive and cut-throat industry, and getting your foot in the door, even for an interview, can be hard work. Even back in the early 2000s, before the Internet bubble burst, getting a decent job in the industry was tough.
So, when getting an interview at a place known for doing outstanding work, the usual routine for candidates was to go in, sit down, be polite, let the interviewer tear your work apart, and hope for a callback. If you were lucky, he or she would actually like a few pieces in your portfolio.
In my case, the hiring manager, who was a director of marketing, looked like a bulldog chewing a wasp as he went through my work. “Seen it before. Crap. Not impressed. That’s obvious.” And so on.
As he got halfway through the folio, I’d had enough. I needed a job, but not one that would be filled with this kind of derision. I stood up, closed it, and politely said, “thanks for your time, but clearly my work is not suited for you or this company.”
As I walked out, he got out of his chair and patted me on the back. “Wait, wait,” he said. “Maybe I was being a bit harsh. I think there are actually some strong pieces in there.”
I sat down with him, and it turns out this was his “test.” To see how candidates react to a real ego bashing. Would they cry? Would they get angry? Would they say nothing? Apparently, my reaction was the one he had been looking for.
Moral of this story: Trust your gut. If you really feel like you need to react in a certain way, and it does not seem inappropriate (like punching someone in the face for instance), go with it. Showing people who you really are can make a big difference.