Thursday, August 11, 2016

All I can do is my best

My job interview yesterday started off great, and then ended poorly. The experience was a first for me and I hope to not have any more like it.

The first 45 minutes went wonderfully. The two women who will be sharing the administrative assistant that they're looking to hire were giving the interview together. They were both warm, friendly, and approachable and so I felt almost instantly at ease. I thanked them both for delaying the interview by a day for me. I then answered all of their questions easily and it felt more like a relaxed, normal conversation than a formal interview (although I was careful to stay on topic and professional). It seemed easy.

Then, just when I thought we were wrapping up (and silently congratulating myself on how well it had went!) they told me the interview had a second part. They took me to a little cubicle in the back maze of offices and sat me down at a computer. They handed me an envelope with 3 tasks in Excel that they wanted me to try to figure out how to do. Then they said to print out my results, put them in the envelope, and drop them off before I left. Gulp.

I've used Excel quite a bit at my current job and my last one, but I'm far from being an expert at it. Clearly.

The first task wasn't too bad. I managed to figure that one out pretty fast, but the second one stumped me. It was basically asking me to filter and sort the information on a large list of fictional students, and then do a mail merge with a form letter to be sent to each student's home address. I tried for 45 minutes and it was no good, I couldn't quite make it happen. It was 2:30 by then, which was the time I'd told my boss I'd be at work, and I still had a 30 minute drive to get to work. I had to go. So I only got one task of the three done.

I won't be getting that job.

You guys, I've been feeling terribly low over this whole situation. I was disappointed, and what's worse, kind of embarrassed. I feel like I let myself down.

Two friends (one a professor from the local university and the other has a Master's degree in Computer Science) told me that it was a really difficult task to ask someone without any special training to do, so that made me feel a tiny bit better. I asked the advice of the one who's a computer whiz as to how I can best go about learning to really use Excel, whether I should take a class or buy books or what. She suggested free YouTube tutorials. I plan to get on that starting next week, once I finish feeling bad and taking a few days off to relax.

I don't want to have this happen again, as I've put several resumes out there for Administrative Assistant positions. Wednesday's experience left me with the feeling of being caught with my pants down. I didn't like it at all.


  1. You never know.... the task may have been set as 'impossible' just to see what happened. Don't give-up before you hear from them. My fingers are crossed.

  2. Like Cro, I'm tempted to say "you never know". If the two ladies liked you enough (and it sounds like they did), they won't base their decision only on how you fared with the tasks, but more on their personal impression of you.
    Such things can be learned while on the job, and they know that, too.
    Still, it's a very good idea to brush up on those skills.

  3. Good HR practice would have been to warn you that they would be asking you to do Excel tests after the interview. Not enough information on their part so don't blame yourself.

  4. I agree with Sue above. The people who are in charge of admin and H.R. - as with anyone who has mastered some bloody Microsoft system - like to think that only they have a grasp on it, and are delighted to be bolstered up in this delusion by catching others out. It is well known that computer wizards are not generally known for their people skills, which - I would have thought - would be more important than being familiar with some poorly designed software program for controlling them.

  5. Agree with these comments. Don't blame yourself, especially as experts have told you how difficult the second task was. Maybe the women just wanted to see if someone could solve the problem for them, as they had no idea how to ! Wishing you better luck next time - there's the perfect job out there, with your name on it.

  6. I could say something mischievous about catching you with your pants down but I shall avoid the temptation and instead say that I think they should have forewarned you that there would be a practical Excel test. By the way, what colour are the pants?

  7. Yes, entirely right what Sue says, you should have been told in advance that there was to be a typing test that would include working with an excel spreadsheet and a mail merge. Normally in-house training for specific excel tasks is carried out once you are in a job but if it is to be a requirement that you can do certain things beforehand this should be made clear in the job description and what levels of attainment are required to save everybody wasting time. This school interviewing you failed miserably. I don't think I would really want to work for them even if they offered me the job.

  8. You live and learn. Now you will be better prepared the next time, and you will learn more about Excel. It's all good. These are tasks that you could quickly and easily be trained to do if they hire you. (and they still might!) Also, next time there is something you don't know it is fine to say although you don't know how to perform that specific task, you are a quick learner and very interested in learning more about Excel, and you are confident you could pick it up in no time. P.S. There is a job like this in your future!

  9. First, pull your pants back up (That is difficult for a guy to say to a lovely young woman). Learn to do what they had asked and get to own it. It is not an easy task from what I remember about Excel, but I know you are capable. Don't feel too bad for too long. That was kind of a nasty thing they did, but get past it and move on. They may not find anyone else that can do it by surprise, also, so you may not be out yet. Another interview will be along soon, I am sure.

  10. "I (won't) be getting the job". It is not "I (didn't) get the job" You never know. Wait and see. Other candidates could not have made it either.
    Greetings Maria x

  11. Thank you all for the wonderful, supportive comments. They made me feel so much better.

  12. I have just finished a course in Excel, it was supposed to make me competent at a level suitable for management but I wouldn't know how to do a mail merge.
    It was a tough test and they wasted your time by not specifying a level of competence so thats a fail for them.

    having said that, you don't know how this will play out. Maybe they just thought an Excel expert would be a bonus and they would pay more if you could do it, maybe the other candidates bombed earlier, maybe they loved you i n the interview and had to do the test to fulfil a protocol.......