How a job interview lead me to living in my hiring manager’s home
Why you should thank the hiring manager who won’t hire you
When I unlocked the door and looked down at four eyes on me, all I could do was laugh. This was the first time I’d ever gone on a job interview and ended up living in my hiring manager’s home. But before I tell you who those eyes belong to, here’s what else you need to know.
A little more than a year ago, I made the decision to not work in Corporate America for a full year to see if I could survive as a freelance writer. While I pondered on quitting my previous job, I calculated my earnings with freelance clients and realized I could be OK as long as none of those clients ditched me. And I was determined that no matter how nervous I got, I had to stick it out — even if that meant eating lentils and hot water cornbread every single day.
But about nine months into my yearlong mark, I went into panic mode after losing one major client and decided I needed a part-time job. Having a side hustle with Uber and Lyft just wasn’t my cup of tea, even though several of my Toastmasters members and past co-workers were all doing it. I still really wanted a dog, so I’d signed up with dog walking companies.
Regardless of my career, I was (and am still) adamant about finding an active activity that would keep me from sitting in front of my computer for 24 hours a day. I planned to complete dog walking assignments once a week, and just go to the gym for three or four days to avoid work-from-home weight gain. (Any snack in your home doesn’t stand a chance when you’re there all day long working on magazine and editorial deadlines.)
I love writing magazine and blog content, but I do not love Corporate America — at all. And before I applied, I knew I wasn’t going to enjoy going back to a 9-to-5.
I applied for an office assistant and proofreading position for a real estate company. Not only was I already interested in real estate from a legal perspective and as a new homeowner, but proofreading was already in my career wheelhouse. But there was one initial problem with this part-time job: I would have to give up a dog that I walk in the afternoon five days a week. And I just wasn’t willing to give this dog up.
So in my cover letter, I told the hiring manager that my lunch break or my work shift would have to be around the time this Cockapoo needed walking. (The dog lived close to this office building.) If you are not a dog walker, dog owner or dog lover, this idea probably sounds absolutely stupid.
But if you are any of the three, you know just how therapeutic it is to just have a peaceful walk in the park with a four-legged friend. Dog walking is not only good to avoid sedentary living; it also improves heart health, makes you more resistant to allergies and makes children more empathetic.
But the hiring manager called me anyway — who I found out later was a dog owner — and said he was willing to be flexible with my work shift. However, a little under a week later, he e-mailed me to tell me that it came down to two people and his decision was difficult.
He picked the other applicant over me. I still thought he was a great guy and thanked him for his time. In his reply back, he told me that he and his wife were looking for a dog sitter, and he’d like to keep me in mind. I was caught off-guard by that follow-up question, but I said, “Of course, feel free.”
Sometimes the hiring manager who rejects you for one job (and in my case, hires you for another) sees your truth even when you try to deny it.
I never expected to hear from the man again. I’d already talked myself out of a job during the interview. I spent more time talking to him about his two dogs, looking at his cute family photo, and sharing my dog walking adventures than I did telling him about my 14 years' worth of writing and editing. How could I not? He had a dog bed in his office! That put dogs on my brain and sounded more fun than telling him how I religiously follow the monthly #APStyleChat.
Thirty-two days later, I got a phone call while I was walking a Beagle (who was howling in the background and making the other end of this call almost impossible to hear) from the hiring manager. And that hiring manager had kept his word. He and his wife were going out of town, and he wanted to know if I’d mind staying with his dogs for a few days.
I accepted the job. We made payment arrangements, and I packed up to stay in his (gorgeous) home. That 30-minute job interview made him trust me enough to enjoy his La-Z-Boy. I loved every millisecond of those two Terriers and continued to work on freelance assignments while I was there. His wife also asked if she could rehire me and wrote a recommendation for additional clients.
Clearly I’m not a terrible interviewee. I have had a myriad of jobs from high school to my 30s — and some job turnouts I never expected to happen — but this particular job told me more about my current state of mind than any other job. Sometimes the hiring manager who rejects you for one job (and in my case, hires you for another) sees your truth even when you try to deny it.
I’d applied to that Office Assistant job because I’d gone into panic mode as a freelancer, not because I was passionate about the job. I love writing magazine and blog content, but I do not love Corporate America — at all. And before I applied, I knew I wasn’t going to enjoy going back to a 9-to-5 (or even a 9-to-1). My conversation during the interview made that more than obvious regardless of how much I tried to ignore it.
Although my hiring manager knew I had the career background to be able to do this particular office job, it was my attitude toward a second job that made it more than obvious I preferred dogs more than clerical work. (My eyes lighting up when he said he brings his dogs into the office sometimes didn’t help.)
I’ve been hired many more times for other dog sitting and dog walking jobs that made me more money than the freelance client that I lost. But what I learned from that job interview was that I’ve finally decided that financial happiness just cannot trump mental happiness for me anymore. If I can’t have both, I don’t want either.