The Social Interview

Philip Berne - Mar 31, 2012, 4:30 pm CDT
The Social Interview

I should have known something was wrong when I sat down at the table. My interviewer was well dressed. She wore a neat pants suit and her hair was pulled back in a somewhat severe bun. But the questions she asked seemed out of place for the setting. She started by picking up my resume and asking about my college days.

“I see you went to Brandeis University. I had a friend who went there. Did you know Shana Liebowitz?”

[Image credit: Terry Chay]

I politely explained that my circle of friends at Brandeis was small, and there were probably a half dozen Shana Liebowitzes who had graduated since I went there. Her expression never changed as she continued her line of questions.

“Maybe you know her friend, Bob Youn? She was also friends with Steve Warren? Mike Dunhill? Sara Lipschitz? Noah . . . “

I wanted to stop her. I wondered how long the list of names would continue. I knew none of those people. They might have been friends of friends of mine, but I was unfamiliar. I’m also not very good with names; by the time you’ve told me what you do for a living, I’ve already forgotten who you are.

She rattled off at least 75 names. It took four minutes. I sat in my chair and tried to smile through it. I really wanted this job.

“ . . . Masterson? No? Oh well. Maybe they’ll come to mind later. Let’s start the interview.”

We hadn’t started yet?

“I see you currently work for Samsung Mobile. Do you know Melissa McNulty? James Heller? Kendrick . . .”

Another four minutes passed. I actually did know a few of the people she mentioned, but they weren’t in my department, and they certainly couldn’t say anything to my performance or recommend me in any meaningful way. Finally, she got to a name I thought would be relevant.

“Tim Bentley?”

“Yes! Yes, I know Tim. Tim was my supervisor for a time while I worked on a project in Strategic Planning. I’m happy to tell you all about it, it was a very interesting study.”

“Oh, you know Tim? I don’t actually know him. But I’m friends with Rob Edwards, who has a cousin Samantha Edwards who worked at Hollyville Advertising with Katherine Bentley, and she’s married to Tim.”

Again, shocked. I didn’t even know Tim’s wife’s name.

“So, I have a few questions I’d like to ask, if you don’t mind.”


[aquote]What did you think of The Hunger Games?[/aquote]

“What did you think of The Hunger Games?”

“The Hunger Games?”

“Yes, the Hunger Games.”

“Well, I read the first novel on a flight on my way to Korea. I read the second novel on the way back. They were both a quick read. I was invited to Samsung HQ in Korea to speak about . . . “

“No, not the books, the movie. I see that you went to the Cinemark Theaters in Allen this past Saturday, and you mentioned that you were off to see the Hunger Games? Did you like it? The movie, I mean. Was it worth seeing? Should I go? Should I take my niece?”

She peppered me with questions. Very strange, I thought, but at least she wasn’t rattling off a list of names again. I answered briefly, hoping to turn the conversation back to my work performance.

“Great, I’ll be sure to check it out. Now, I have a question about your timeline here. Do you mind if I ask?”

“Of course, please do.”

“Are we friends?”


“Sure. Are we friends? I’m asking this as a friend. I see on August 31, 2007, you asked people to lick you. Can you explain that?”

“I . . . I what?!? I said what?”

“August 31. 2007. I quote: Lick Me.”

“Wha . . . I, when did I . . . how did you hear that?”

“Oh, it’s right here. It’s on your timeline. It’s one of the first things you ever said, ever. Lick me. I don’t think you said anything else for two more months, until you saw Samrat on a movie poster on your way to work.”

“You know Samrat?”

“No, but you posted a picture of his poster. Was it a good movie? Wait, don’t tell me, don’t ruin it.”

[aquote]If we weren’t going to talk about work, why was I here?[/aquote]

By this point, I was getting a bit irritated, and I wondered if I should leave. If we weren’t going to talk about my work, why was I here?

“You went to Pocono Highlands Camp?”

“Yes, as a camper. But I really learned more from my time as Waterfront Director at Capital Camps. That was later.”

It was a stretch, but at least it was work.

“I also see you’re a fan of Alien and Aliens, but not Alien3 or Alien Resurrection.”

“Yeah, they were, um . . . is that a question?”

“No, not really. Do you still keep in touch with Yu-Ting?”


“I think she goes by Elizabeth now. But she was called Yu-Ting back in Mrs. Brackworth’s class.”

“My Kindergarten teacher? How do you . . . “ I was starting to get the picture. Apparently, she had already downloaded the picture. The one with 20 five year olds sitting and standing in rows. I was in the back, in between Bobby Scottsman and Steve Bachmann. Elizabeth Sung, formerly Yu-Ting, was sitting in front, holding a small placard with removable letters that now read: “Thunder Hill School. Mrs. Brackworth. PM Kindergarten. ’80 – ’81.”

“Congratulations on your baby, by the way.”

“Thanks, but he’s three years old, now. He’s not really a baby anymore.”

“I know. He’s grown up so fast! He was such a cute baby. And what an adorable infant he became. As a toddler, he looks like quite a handful. He’s really a fan of that tie-dye shirt, huh?”

I started to pack my things, ready to leave.

“Where are you headed? Are you going back to Barcelona this year?”

I slid my extra copies of my resume into my folder, and my folder into my briefcase. I reached across and picked up my business card, then slipped it back into my shirt pocket.

“Where did you get that dessert? The one with the chocolate and the crisps and the olive oil? That looks soooooo good? Was that sea salt on top, or sugar?”

I stood up and pushed in my chair. I opened my mouth to thank her for her time, then thought better of it. Instead, I settled for a slight wave.

“Oh well. Sorry to hear about your divorce! Thanks for your time! We’ll be in touch, Philip!”

She was calling after me now as I left the room and walked toward the elevator.

“Or should I say, Mr. Mayor!”

He voice faded as the door closed behind me and I descended back to the street.

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