Bully Incident#16: The Interview (1990)


It’s been over a year since I finished writing my personal bullying stories from my youth on my blog. For those of you that might not have read them, you can see all of them listed by going to my tag called Bully Incident or CLICKING HERE.

Given all the feedback I have received and the stories about workplace bullying I’ve heard, I realized that this is also an issue. While I consider that I have been fairly lucky in my 20 years of working to have only dealt with minor workplace bullying, I thought I’d add a few more personal stories here about my experiences later in life with workplace bullying.

business_interviewMy first story, I realized, was actually my first real interview after I got out of college. By the time I got out of college I had been working since I was sixteen in different jobs and didnt’ consider myself new to the job market (mistake #1). I also had done two summers working in my career field and felt that, combined with the several years at the student run television station at college equalled work experience in my field for me (mistake #2). So, I put together what I considered a pretty good resume and proceeded to send it to many, many, many, many places.

Finally I got my first interview at a small video studio right down the street from me. Boy was I excited! In fact, if I recall, I went out to get a new suit so I could look sharp and professional for the interview. The day of the interview I was pretty confident. I had done my research and it was a small video production studio with a small staff. I felt it was similar to my summer and college experiences. I showed up a few minutes early. I do recall the place was not anything fancy. It was a small space in a multi-floor building.

There was no receptionist. I was to meet the General Manager of the place. Someone came out to tell me to take a seat and that he would be with me. My interview was at 2pm and I sat down to wait at about 1:50pm.

Tick-tock…2pm…tick-tock…2:15pm…tick-tock…2:30pm…tick-tock…2:45pm…tick-tock….3pm.

I waited and waited. No one came out to see me to update me. First interview, so I didn’t want to make a scene so I just sat there. About an hour late the General Manager finally came out. No apology, just a wave to come back.

He sat behind his desk. I sat in a chair facing his desk. He was all smiles. He was looking at my resume and asked me to discuss my experience with him. I told him about my summer work at a production studio and my experience at collge with the student station. I started to talk about what I was looking for.

‘Hold it there…’ he said to me. Then he said something that I will never forget to this day. ‘Let me tell you something about working in this field, because you don’t know anything about working in this field. You college kids think you’ve learned something. You put together this resume that says you have experience. You don’t have anything. You don’t know anything. You don’t even belong at this interview. If you want to work here, what you need to do is go work for free for a few years in New York or Los Angeles. Be a gofer and get coffee while learning this business. Then, maybe you could come back here and interview with me…’

I felt like a fist just hit me in the face (similar isn’t it). I think I was in shock for a minute. I turned and left, never looking back, still shocked and amazed.

What a bully this guy was. The whole waiting in his lobby. First calling me in for the interview, knowing I would be excited to be there was a form of bullying. Making me sit there was a form of bullying. Then, the words used to try to cut me down was a form of bullying. Luckily for me, I had gotten over being defeated and he just egged me on to succeed. I still find it hard to believe this happened. I’m happy to say it’s the only interview it happened on.

Dick Clark

Dick Clark

I thought back on this some time later and recalled something I heard an industry leader, Dick Clark, say in an interview. He told a story about a time early in his career when many many people would not give him a job and were cruel. He started a list of all these people. When he became successful, he taped that list on his desk. Inevitably people on that list who didn’t give him a chance and were mean to him came in to work with the now successful Dick Clark. When they wanted to meet with him, he refused. He wasn’t going to do business with any of them. The lesson, why, even when you are in power and the big fish in the little pond, would you be cruel and a bully. Later on, the person you did that to could be just the person you need to help you. A good lesson to learn, but don’t learn it too late.

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8 thoughts on “Bully Incident#16: The Interview (1990)

  1. This is the most pitiful story of bullying. The employer / interviewer did you a huge favor by being honest with you and letting you see your own arrogance and sense of entitlement. The fact that you don’t think you need to pay your dues, that you think a resume actually tells the truth is an obvious sign of your lack of experience, the fact that you did not humble yourself and express your earnest desire to learn as you go..shows only how clueless you were. Most employers would never tell you the truth and you would never have the chance to self correct. You were not bullyed. You are just young and foolish and dont want to hear the truth.

  2. There is certainly some truth in what you are saying, Millie. But what I ask is, as human beings, can’t we be kinder about it? If the person brought me in and let me, upfront, know that was going to be the discussion, then that would be a wonderful mentoring opportunity. Certainly a new college graduate doesn’t understand the world. 20 years later I know that. But the whole situation seemed planned, from waiting for an hour before they even talked to me. I do think there was some truth there as well and it was a humbling experience no doubt and obviously one I remember.

  3. Got kicked out of a job interview for graduating college in three years with honors. Didn’t boast or say anything about that; the interviewer read it off my resume. (“Set yourself apart,” they said about it being “competitive” out there, you know.) “What’s wrong, didn’t you like school?!” she sputtered, tossing my ass out.

  4. Wow… I disagree 100% with Millie. Being in the same field as Alan, I am fully aware that entry level jobs can be extremely low paying and being the low man on the totem pole. Anyone who has headed down this career path should know that.

    However, there is absolutely NO excuse for anyone to talk to someone like that in an interview. Not apologizing for making him wait an hour – inexcusable. Starting into him as if he was “entitled” – no excuse. If the GM wanted him to get that kind of message, what he SHOULD have said is something to the effect of, “I’m not going to sugarcoat it…starting out in this field can be rough, even at a small company like this – you may not be able to do exactly what you want right away. But as you learn, you’ll get more and more responsibility.”

    Any GM worth anything would have WANTED to hear what you “were looking for.”

    • As you know, Paul, our field has some big egos. Watch the movie, Swimming With Sharks, if you don’t believe me. And that’s exactly the way I felt. There is no excuse for the behavior.

  5. The interviewer was a very abusive person. Why would anyone degrade another person. The first thing he should have done was appologise for keeping him waiting. Everyone deserves that much respect. I absolutely agree with Paul.

  6. Welcome to the root of the bullying problem in the US – it is standard practice and the norm for our society. You get ahead by stomping on everybody below you. Your rise depends on somebody else’s failure and fall.

    Our children see the adults in this country act like that every day, on TV, in the movies, when they go out into the world and have adults telling them they have to make it on their own and that when they do, it is all theirs, nobody else contributed. And if you don’t, you’re garbage.

    WE literally manufacture bullies in this country, it’s our biggest industry.

  7. Yes, college kids may not know it all. But what I want to ask people like Millie who obviously know it all is, why do you expect them to know it all? If they know it all and they show it, they are arrogant, if they dont know it all and accept it, they are dumb. I have never understood the resistance workplaces have for anything new. Agreed everyone had to go through some troubles before making it big, but shouldnt that be our clue to make it easier for people who come in later? Why do we have to have this sadistic streak about I had to suffer so let them also learn the hard way? Why do we have this whole method of treating young ones badly and then justifying it by saying you are preparing them for the fact that life is unfair? Maybe if all of you who know how unfair life has been work together, we could make it a more fair place. I cant help but think some older members are jealous of the younger crowd, for god’s sake, that kid who started yesterday is in no way going to overtake you and also if he does something better or different tomorrow, that is in no way going to take the sheen off of what you have achieved earlier. No one can take away your achievements, why cant you understand that and cut the others a little slack? Sorry if its too much of an outpouring.

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