How I Got Here

Last time, I told you that I got myself a lovely job with Ardiwa, the American Retirement and Disability Insurance and Welfare Administration*. Here's the story of how I got it.

Since being admitted to the bar in Key Midwestern Swing State, I practiced general law out of my mother's house in Greater Northeast Key Midwestern Swing State City. I lived (and still live) with her because it was cheaper that way while I was looking for something steady to pay off my crippling law school debt. As it turned out, the market for legal jobs was grossly overestimated by my school's career planning office when they were begging me to attend four years ago. The private sector legal job market also took a massive nose dive after Obama was elected, but the far-left legal academic establishment can't be excused for failing to predict that. They should have warned me. Maybe I would have stayed away from law school altogether. Or maybe not. It has been, despite the lack of steady work, damn fun being a lawyer.

So I was living out of Mother's house, doing sporadic business. Mostly what could be considered elder law: wills and trusts drafting and modification, health care powers of attorney, that sort of thing. A few other issues. Low-dollar contract disputes. Personal property damage. I wanted to get into bankruptcy and I was studying internet law with the hope of expanding in that direction. Not much administrative work, and I had never done any Ardiwa claims.

In April (yes, April), I found a listing for an opening for an attorney advisor at a new Ardiwa hearing office to be opened "eventually" in Lesser Northeast Key Midwestern Swing State City, where I went to law school. They were apparently going to hire a bunch of people and open a new hearing office down there in order to help relieve the workload on the hearing office in Greater Northeast Key Midwestern Swing State City. Apparently the worse the economy gets, the more disability claims get filed with Ardiwa. Funny how that works.

Anyway, they needed people, so I applied. I sent in my application packet on April 22, 2010. I mailed it off to some place in Chicago, actually, because that's where some district human resources peopleguy has his office. A very good friend of mine from law school (The Vegan, capital T, capital V) also applied for the same position, as well as a number of other people I knew from law school. I heard nothing until May 12, which is, in retrospect, not really all that long. I got a call asking me to come in for an interview that Friday, May 14th. (My birthday is May 17th.) What a lovely gift! An interview! The last one I had saw me flying down to the very nibbly end of the nipple on the bottom of Texas. And I didn't get that, obviously. The Vegan also got an interview. I never heard about any of the others.

I hate interviews. I hate them because the only feedback you get is in the form of either an offer or a rejection. Never any explanation of what went right or wrong, so no way to know what to keep doing and what to change in order to get better. And of course you cannot really write to the interviewer after the fact to ask how it went. They won't reply, because if they do, and say something with any kind of content, they'll get sued. Stupid lawyers and their stupid lawsuits.

Anyway, the interview was awkward. I felt good about it, then not so good, and eventually miserable. It was held at the Greater Northeast Key Midwestern Swing State City hearing office because the Lesser Northeast Key Midwestern Swing State City office hadn't opened yet. It was with the hearing office's chief judge, who didn't say much the whole time, and the hearing office's office manager, who said quite a lot. He spoke for a long time about the job and what it was like to work for the federal government. He explained that there was a union, but membership was voluntary. The interview was mostly unstructured. The questions he asked me were rather scattershot. It was hard to tell how it was going. They took my fingerprints. They thanked me for coming. They told me I'd hear something within a month. I wrote my follow-up letter when I got home, and that was that.

I heard nothing. Either way. For a long time.

On around June 17th, I found another listing for the same position at another hearing office--this time all the way down in Greater Southwest Key Midwestern Swing State City. I applied for that one, too. The packet got sent to the same person to whom I had sent the first one. That's what the listing said to do, so I did it. A very nearly identical packet. In fact, I think I only changed date, location and announcement number on the cover letter.

Another month of silence. Actually, I have it written down that I applied for the same position at yet another hearing office--this one in Greater Northwest Key Midwestern Swing State City--on June 22. Again to the same HR peopleguy in Chicago. I don't really remember that, but I have the letter here right in front of me, so I must have sent it.

On Monday, July 12th, The Vegan sent me a text message telling me he had gotten a call at approx. 2:00pm offering him a position at the hearing office in Lesser Northeast Key Midwestern Swing State City. The next few hours were really, really awful for me.

The next few days were even worse.

By Friday, I was a mess. And that's when the letter came. I think. I don't save those things.

It took them two months to tell me they didn't want me. Sigh.

Then things got weird. Here are the cogent facts so far: I applied to the same HR peopleguy three times with nearly identical application packets; I got rejected after an iffy interview; and everyone was taking their sweet bloody time about everything.

The following Monday, I get another letter from the same place as what sent me the "thanks, but no thanks" letter the Friday before. That was very bizarre. I open it up and there's no letter inside. No explanation. Just a photocopy of another job posting, this time for (yet again) the same position in the hearing office in Greater Northeast Key Midwestern Swing State City.

CONFUSED!

Ok, so I took it as an invitation to apply at that office. Which I did when that posting opened for applications on August 1. I sent my packet to (yet again) the same HR peopleguy in Chicago. Same letter. Same resume. Same everything. That makes four. It went out with the mail on August 2.

That very evening I got a call asking me if I could please come to an interview in Greater Southwest Key Midwestern Swing State City that Thursday (August 5th). Of course. No, there is no need to do it by phone, I will happily drive the four hours there and four hours back for a simple 30-minute interview. No, of course it is no bother. No, I am quite sure.

I tried during this interview to do things differently from the first one. I was more assertive. I demonstrated my knowledge of the position. I asked challenging questions. This interview was structured. The office manager asked me questions off a prepared list. They were the typical ones ("Describe a time when you realized you did not have enough information to complete a task you were assigned.") and I provided the proper responses. All went well. The office manager remarked that there was a union, but that membership was voluntary. The fingerprint cards were there, but they didn't take my fingerprints. They thanked me for coming. I drove home. I wrote my follow-up letter when I got home, and that was that.

I think I got the "thanks, but no thanks" letter for that one only a week later. Like I said, I don't keep those things.

I had forgotten about the application I sent for the job in Greater Northwest Key Midwestern Swing State City, so I wasn't too broken up about never hearing anything back from them. This was the point in the timeline when I should have heard something, but didn't. I'm still not sure what happened there.

Another month of silence.

Thursday, September 9. Would I care to come back (yes, they said "back"--they knew I had been there before) to the Greater Northeast Key Midwestern Swing State City hearing office on Tuesday for another (yes, another) interview with the same (yes, the same) chief judge (but not the talkative office manager from last time), this time for the position in that office?

I found out later that interviews had actually started on Wednesday. I have many theories as to why I got the call on Thursday. They are all pretty fantastic.

This time, the interview was very brief. Fifteen minutes. It was just with the chief judge. The same one from my earlier interview. He asked what I had been doing since my first interview, and whether I was still interested in working for Ardiwa. I answered. He remarked that there was a union, but that membership was voluntary. He said I'd hear something either way soon, because there was a big federal hiring freeze starting October 1, so they needed to get all the new hiring done before the end of the fiscal year. He thanked me for coming.

At this point, I was confused, frustrated, and a little angry. I mean, I didn't express those emotions in the interview, of course, but they affected my actions. Specifically, as the interview was ending and I realized how short it had been, I decided to ask a really dangerous question. I asked why I had been called back after not being offered the earlier job. The answer I received was cryptic:

"I called you back. That should tell you everything you need to know."

They took my fingerprints. I left. I wrote my follow-up letter when I got home, and that was that.

One week--one week!--later, I got an offer.

*A fake name, so search engines don't find this post when searching for Ardiwa's real name.

Tom G Varik