Exponent II Classics: The Interview

The Interview
Judy H. Wright
Missoula, Montana
Volume 17, Number 4 (1993)

The interview I remember most vividly was not one about a Church calling but one for an account executive position with a prestigious communications company. I walked into the building with a very impressive resume, numerous letters of recommendation, and full confidence that the position was mine, if I wanted it. As I sat in the foyer in my expensive suit with my leather briefcase at my feet, I realized that I was a picture of self-assurance to the others who were either waiting or working nearby.

So, when the Vice President of Sales and another executive walked toward me, it was easy to return their smile; however, when the extended hand was accompanied by a “Sister Wright, how are you today? Come on into my office, and let’s visit a bit,” in a loud booming voice, I knew that my credibility was sinking fast.

When I realized that the one who would be holding my temporal future in his hands was the first counselor in our bishopric, I almost didn’t apply for the position. But we needed the money and security this company could provide and, quit frankly, I could do the job with my hands tied behind my back. I loved working and was very good at it.

He sat behind his desk holding a pencil in one hand and drumming it on the fingers of his other hand, while he leaned back in his chair and asked own my “little” family was doing. He inquired about the different children by name and mentioned the status of a ward member who was ill.

He then brought his chair upright, rubbed his hands together, and said, “Well, let’s get on to the reason you are here today.” Quite frankly, I was having trouble remembering. Was it because once again I had taught the lesson without using the material included in the manual? Was it because once again my daughter had skipped Young Women’s, preferring sitting in the cold car rather than enduring one more endless hour of handouts and platitudes that sounded so ideal but had very little in common with her real life? She excelled in sports and math but had no interest in learning to make decorative dolls out of rag mops.

My experience in Church interview had taught me that when you are on the other side of the desk from a white shirt, you automatically become humble and answer honestly any question you are asked, no matter how personal. My experience in job interviews is that you share information that will prove your value to the corporation by being confident as well as competent.

I finally recognized that I was giving my power away on a silver platter and that I needed to regain control of the “job interview.” As I began to enumerate the various accomplishments I had made, he just gave me a soft smile. He didn’t say anything, but in my vulnerable state right then, my mind hear what I thought he was probably thinking. “Well, no wonder you older daughter is no longer active in the Church; you didn’t have time to mother her.”

As I began to flounder, I murmured something about how important flexible time is to women. He said, “Oh yes, that is what I would insist on for my wife, if she ever had to work. But it certainly is not something that we encourage or allow for our employees.” He went on to discuss quotas and bottom lines and the big picture as if I were a novice in the business world. I was so annoyed at myself for bringing flexible time up because, as in every other job, I simply organized my day so that all the quotas were met and then took whatever time I needed. I mean, men play golf or shoot the bull on a regular basis during work hours; women just use the same amount of time to run kids to the dentists or pick up Scout uniforms.

At this point in the interview, I realized that even if I should get the position after the non-professional job of selling myself I had just done, I would not be happy here. He had been in the Corporate Good Ol’ Boy Club for a long time and wasn’t likely to change his methods or double standard of expectations. One or the other of us would have a hard time making a division of Church and state. His patronizing attitude would continually annoy me, and it would not be very long before we would be in head-to-head combat. If my stomach were tied in knots now, I knew that Rolaids would be a daily companion in this workplace.

When we met in the hall on Sunday, he pulled me to the side to let me know that I was a top contender but that they were still checking reference. It felt wonderful to be able to tell him I had been offered a job with another firm and that I was going to take it. I think we were both relieved.


EmilyCC works for a national non-profit and lives in Phoenix, Arizona with her spouse and three children. She is a former editor of Exponent II and a founding blogger at The Exponent.

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  1. Judy H. Wright says:

    What an absolutely wonderful surprise to see a Google alert from the Exponent. That was an essay I had written many years ago in another life time.

    I now work full time from my home office and travel internationally speaking about family and end-of-life issues.

    However, no one calls me Sister Wright, because I no longer attend the LDS church.

    My relationship with God is strong and we visit often. My spirituality has increased so much since I left the Saints.

    Thank you for refreshing my memory. I had forgotten the incident and the patronizing attitude of that particular man.

    Your magazine was a bright light for me for many years. It helped so much to know there were other women out there using their brains.

    Judy H. Wright

  2. Johnna says:

    whoa…that’s an interview nightmare. Yikes.

    Cool that Judy Wright found her essay up on the net and stopped by.

  3. EmilyCC says:

    Judy, I’m so glad you found this! I think this is such an interesting piece because of the collision of Church life and work life (and the temptation of this guy to mix the two).

    Thanks for giving us an update, and thank you for this story!

  4. Ana says:

    Here’s the bit that blew my minds:

    “Oh yes, that is what I would insist on for my wife, if she ever had to work. But it certainly is not something that we encourage or allow for our employees.”

    What a classic statement of the disconnect between treating employees humanely (as one would treat one’s own spouse) and the bottom line! Women can be guilty of this, too, but fortunately it seems absent in the university where I work now. Between being nonprofit and being woman-founded and largely woman-led, I find it a very friendly work environment.

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