Thank heavens for another day! Picture taken from my trip to PEI last year.
A ways back I went on a job interview at a religious agency that aims to assist neglected children, here in downtown Toronto. It was for a communications specialist position that I had, obviously, applied for. Considering that I spent three years of my early life working as an educator for children with special educational needs who had been marginalized by society I thought it might be a good fit.
My friends had a few reservations of course, due entirely to the organization’s religious affiliations. Foolishly I paid little attention to their worries. My philosophy in life is to keep an open mind, walk through every door, because you never know where you might land. So with that mindset I woke up one morning, put on my suit and walked to their office for my interview.
The first portion consisted of an hour-long test. I was to construct a faux communications plan for one of their annual events. After the hour expired I was escorted into a barren room, with only a few picture frames on the wall, where I was greeted by two women, both dressed in grey. They sat on either side of me, scrutinizing every motion I made.
I should add that as I was waiting in the lobby, minutes before my skills test, I happened to make eye contact with the woman now sitting on my left, who, if I were hired, would be my supervisor. As I greeted her in the drab, cramped room, I acknowledged our earlier encounter, but she behaved like she had no idea what I was talking about, and then, rather fakely, said, “Oh yes!”
In the first five minutes I was already feeling uncomfortable. Their questions were almost accusatory, their responses to my answers curt and their general disposition seemed off to me. I wanted to run for the hills. In addition they both had the personalities of a cardboard box. Robotically repeating key messages and talking about “diplomacy” and “strategic directions” as boring and uncreative people are wont to do. I resisted the urge to roll my eyes several times.
An hour and a half into our interview they asked me a simple question: “What is your ideal working environment?” I answered that it would be an organization that values the diverse personalities of all their employees because it fosters a happy work environment that benefits everyone. At the moment I used the word “diverse” I noticed them look at each other. Keep in mind that I used that word “diverse” to refer to personalities, not ethnicity or minority groups, though of course, I believe in DIVERSITY as it applies to these groups as well.
After their momentary exchange, I said the word “diverse” another three times, to gauge what reaction it would elicit from them.
Immediately the woman to my left began to flounder. She stumbled over her words as she asked me what my values were. Since that was a broad question I asked her for more clarity. The woman on my right, who worked in HR got up, and took the organization’s values message, which was framed, off the wall and handed it to me. It was awkward. I took a moment to read the message and observed that their values omitted any mention of DIVERSITY.
Once I was finished I said that “yes, these align with my values as well.” The woman on my left, who would be my supervisor if you remember, attempted once again to get out her point, “Yes, well, you see, ummmm.” This quote is not a paraphrase, it’s actually how she rambled on for at least a minute. Her face became red, she was visibly embarrassed. Then I began to clue into what was happening. She was trying to tell me that she knew I was gay.
“We have values that others don’t necessarily agree with,” she continued. “Like, for instance, how would you feel, if, ummmm…. I don’t know… People like you, with your values… well…. we don’t let everyone adopt children.”
Without skipping a beat I cut through the bullshit and replied, “You mean gay people?”
Before she could respond the HR lady blurted, “Well…. ummm… also we don’t believe in birth control.” It was so surreal I couldn’t believe what was happening. They were literally falling apart before my very eyes.
I was flabbergasted that they couldn’t bring themselves to say the words “gay” or “same-sex.” I laughed, I really did. Surely they’ve had gay people apply for positions before, I was almost certain that the woman to my left WAS a lesbian, but in all this time, they had never found a better way to express this information?
The lesbian continued, “There are times when we have to say things that we don’t necessarily agree with because of the values of the organization.”
“Well,” I replied, “Since you just told me that your organization hates gay people, and apparently, women, I don’t think I’ll be able to do that.”
And with that said, I collected my bag, my jacket and walked out the door. THREE HOURS after the whole ordeal began. It was the worst, most uncomfortable, awkward interview I had ever had the displeasure of enduring.
Whatever I did, it left an impact, because soon after they left three voicemail messages on my telephone apologizing and asking for the opportunity to clarify their misguided interview style. They even started ass-kissing, telling me how broad my skills-set is and how they would love to keep my resume on file for future positions.
I never returned a single phone call. My response, “Bitches, please.”