Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The $1000 Job Interview

There was a point in my career when I spent $1000 on a job interview. It was definitely worth it and here’s why...

I had been headhunted by a major company through a word of mouth referral and their interview process required taking a few different skills tests. I had some background in the subject matters as I had taken college courses and passed. I don’t think I got an A, but certainly a B or a C. Except the time when I got headhunted and when I had taken the classes was obviously many years apart.

I heavily debated about what to do. Who spends $1000 for the CHANCE at a job? To make the issue more nerve-wracking, I had to take the tests fairly quickly while I was working a job and trying not to get sick from all the stress. This is coupled with realizing I’d need time to study so I could ace the tests. Cause if I didn’t ace the tests, I’d be really embarrassed because I was referred by someone and it would reflect badly on them that I did so poorly.

I consulted my dad cause he’s pretty rational and pragmatic, yet optimistic. As I delved into the story his first instinct was to say no. It wouldn’t make a lot of sense, too much risk without any return, the amount of money was a lot, etc. When I finally got around to telling him which company it was (which I can’t divulge here, sorry), he INSTANTLY changed his mind. LOL His total change of heart surprised me because his decision had been based on what was realistic and logical. Yet, when I divulged that company name, he too felt it was a once in a lifetime opportunity. That’s how much of a game changer the company was. Of course, the $1000 still had to come out of my pocket for the tutor and study materials. And as much as my father agreed it would be worth it to spend it, I’d still have to do all the hard work while carrying on with my hectic life.

How did I come to my decision? I played out out the five scenarios.

1) Decline to take the test and back out of the interview process.
2) I’d take the test and fail miserably.
3) I’d take the test, pass, interview & dislike some aspect of the role.
4) I’d take the test, pass, interview and get a job offer.
5) I’d take the test, pass, interview, but not get an offer.

I addressed how I felt about them and what it meant for my career. For scenarios 1-3, obviously the first goal was to figure out if I even wanted to attempt to take the test. I looked at how many hours I could study each night and started looking at which study materials to buy and where I’d hire my tutor on such short notice. Seeing that all of this was possible although a bit stressful, I thought carefully if I wanted to take on the endeavor. What finally tipped the scales for me to say yes, was I thought it would be really unprofessional and ungrateful for me to say no to the opportunity bestowed upon me by my referral. Even if I didn’t pass the test, I was communicating that I was giving it my best effort with the hired tutor and cram study sessions. I figured if I said no now, this chance may never come again. I’ve written before, you can say no at any point in the process, just not in the very beginning. Once you say no, you’ve closed the door to all communication, discovery, and information. I figure if I did pass the test but discovered I didn’t like some aspect of the role, I would at least have been able to meet a few key people of the office, see the building, get a vibe for the culture, and ask all the questions I wanted, to determine if the role was the right fit for me. It was worth it for me to pay $1000 to get insider access that so few are privy to.

If number 4 happened, I’d be thrilled and I’d recoup the $1000 I spent to get there. They say you have to spend money to make money and sometimes it’s worth it and true. If that was the case, it’d be a great and smart investment on my part.

If number 5 happened, I’d be okay with it as to make it to the final 3 candidates says a lot. Competition is always fierce and landing the role is a combination of factors - not the right background, not the right personality fit, too much experience, too little experience, etc. At least I could tell myself I came really close and tried my best.

So what happened in the end? I took the test. It took me a couple of hours because I checked my answers constantly. I felt I did pretty well. Maybe not a 100% score, but I felt confident I passed with at least a B average. And then I waited... And waited some more. And this is what happened.

I got a very friendly, personal rejection email with a blanket statement. I figured I didn’t have anything to lose so I wrote them back trying to get some more information. If they didn’t answer, I would have dropped it. I got an immediate response back saying that my resume and tests were presented to my would-be boss as one of the candidates to interview and was not chosen. I was not the ideal match compared to the others. They said they’d keep me on file. So, I was disappointed, but I totally understood. (It's a really good company when they tell you you were rejected and more so when they answer your one polite inquiry on why you didn't get chosen. Most companies will just go MIA.) Did I now regret spending all that time and money for an opportunity that didn’t pan out? No. So here’s what I got from my $1000 investment.

-A leg up on these tests if I ever have to take them elsewhere
-The satisfaction of taking a risk and it going pretty well
-Confidence that my referral would not hesitate to refer me again
-A better understanding of their interviewing process
-A chance to visit their office and get a vibe for the culture
-An established relationship with their recruiter

And best of all, almost a year later, the same company reaches out to me. They want to see if I’m interested in a role that they have! Sometimes you just never know how things will play out unless you try!


  1. I applaud your risk taking spirit!!

    1. The Muser at Musings of a High Level Exec AsstDecember 18, 2013 at 6:00 PM

      Debbie - LOL I am so risk averse it's not even funny, but as you can see, I will take calculated risks! :) Glad you enjoyed my story!