I was working with a recruiter, I suppose maybe I still might be, who set me up on an interview with a company based here in Columbus for a “UX position”. From our first conversation, my recruiter let me know that the woman doing the interview would also the boss, and she felt it was significant that I’d been granted an interview because the boss lady had tossed out a lot of candidates up to that point.
The experience just getting to the building was a harbinger of sorts. I drove 30 minutes to the industrial park the office was supposedly located in. My GPS guided me to a parking lot with huge buildings, all showing the wrong street numbers from what I should have seen. I reset the GPS to the same result, I was in the general area but no streets showed, just gray blobs denoting parking lots. I took a chance and went into one of the doors and was directed to a different building around back. It seemed correct but there were no street signs and no address numbers so I took a chance and went in, luckily I was early and it was correct.
Our interview went well, we went through my portfolio and she told me about the position. The more she described it however, the more red flags began to pop up. She required one program be used, the program she uses, which I am not proficient in. The work was already done, she said, and just needed to be set up into the required prototyping program*. I waited for the keywords of typical UX to cross the table but they never came. Among the descriptions and basic timeline of work, she let me know in not terribly subtle ways that she was not happy with the company. The creative department is housed under marketing, which is a terrible idea, she was alone in the position and her help had just quit. She would hire two of the five contractors she planned to bring in, and the contract would be for two months with an offer coming shortly after. She spends much more time than anyone should, creating almost complete prototypes of her designs to give to her developers, because three out of the four were bad and needed that much hand-holding to produce accurate work (this revelation housed like, four red flags all on its own). Her calender was 80% full two months out, she had no more time to do the work herself and needed help, yesterday. By the time our conversation was over, we’d connected on a few items but mostly I had a stack of questions and warnings about her working style and the company both. In spite of that, as I drove away I felt an offer would be coming that day.
When I returned home, I sent an email to my recruiter to let her know of my concerns, which were plenty. I let her know that the required program wasn’t listed anywhere in the job description (and had it been, I’d have bowed out before wasting anyone’s time), that without any additional design help, we’d be a team of two so she likely would have deep expectations about that software straight away which could spell disaster, and above all, the impression she gave of the company simply was not good and she didn’t really hold back letting me know that. I’d had a bad feeling about the position from the very first mention of it, and that feeling only grew after learning more. I told my recruiter that I wanted to keep looking. She called me within five minutes of receiving the email to let me know an offer had been extended.
She assured me that the woman was excellent to work with, she treats her coworkers like rock stars and I would get all kinds of credit for helping to build the team. The permanent hire offer and salary which would likely come after two months was staggering and I briefly figured I could put up with anything at that point, and while she admitted that the expectations for using one program was a blindside, she encouraged me to give it a day and remember that the contract itself was only for two months so if I wanted to leave then, I could without harm or foul. That caveat along with some thoughts and advice from trusted people, I decided the next day to accept the offer.
Two mornings later, I realized I’d been carrying around a heavy ick. I was supposed to finish some paperwork and take a drug test but something told me to postpone it, so I did. After much thought and an unexpected call from a hiring manager at another company I applied to wherein our brief talk the fit seemed legions better, I realized I needed to trust my gut and pass on the job I’d been offered. Those two months of trial simply carried no real weight. As soon as I had that thought, my shoulders lifted and I felt better than I had since even before the interview. I talked to D about changing my mind, that we wouldn’t have a guaranteed additional income soon after all, and that I needed to continue the search. He gave me his full support.
I called my recruiter and told her I was having serious reservations about the position (which mind you, I’d already said a few times and a few ways), that ultimately I was going to have to pass on it, and that I was sorry for the waste of time. She got pissy with me almost immediately. Her tone changed and she asked if I would still be needing her services, and if I’d been speaking to other recruiters. I assured her this was a clear headed decision and I’d like to still work with her going forward but that I had intended to keep looking on my own as well. Her goodbye was barely that before she hung up. I figured there’s a good chance that’s the last time I’d hear from her, and while I was indeed sad to possibly break that connection, I had to remind myself that she deflected or attempted to change every reservation and red flag I mentioned to her. Aside from some other issues like poor communication and blowing up my phone several times a day rather than calling or texting me, I had to face the fact that she is perhaps early in her career and doesn’t yet know that as a recruiter, the person she’s placing has to be a good and right fit or it’s bad for everyone. She took it personally rather than professionally, and that is a shame.
Nothing about this decision was rational. The money was there and would have been great. It could have lead to many other opportunities if my recruiter is to believed, by having this company on my resume. It would have meant a likely offer in two months unless something went seriously sideways, and more money than I’d ever seen in my working life.
But it was wrong, everything about it felt wrong. It was a bad scenario and two months with a built-in out or not, the moment I decided not to take it, I knew that was the right decision. I know something will come soon, I reached out to four more recruiters after we hung up and corresponded with two of them. An opportunity is out there, a better fit, and the lesson in all this is to never try to out-think intuition because it will always win, one way or the other.
*general school of thought for UX notes that whatever tool gets the job done, is ok to use. As soon as a company specifies exactly which tool needs to be used, it becomes a question of micro-management, licensing, accessibility, or a sturdy refusal to let the designer use what works best for them. In the case of this position, the program is a hearty but outdated prototyping program. It’s great for a lot of things, but to be proficient in it would definitely require a heads up in the job description, since many designers are proficient in newer, updated programs.