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Posted 06-17-2009 at 07:48 PM by sweetiepie
Updated 06-28-2009 at 01:18 PM by sweetiepie

I just had an entry level actuarial interview, and I feel okay talking about it here because the only actuary in the company is too old to read this nonsense. Besides, I don't have all that many terrible things to say. I don't usually, I'm a pretty easy first date.

I guess age was the first curiosity. The financial/actuarial department seemed to have all the business archetypes covered except youth. There was no group of "guys" full of ignorance and ambition to pile into a car or SUV and take me to some highly neutral eatery and make sports comments, trying not to scare me, and me trying not to scare them. The only apparently young guy was the financial analyst, but he wasn't really that young, it's just that those guys don't ever age, they can't afford to, their whole expertise is in being and looking sharp, and smooth, and dangerous, and you just can't do that if you're old.

Next was everyone's busy-ness. What the hell? Why was everyone so busy? Did I come at a bad time? Meetings meetings work work. I know, necessarily, most companies that are looking to hire are either new or understaffed, but this was a little absurd. Everyone I talked was pulling 10 hour shifts, and it's not like they were sort of pulling 10 hour shifts, with superfluous meetings and breaks while models and queries ran. They were really pushing themselves, and barely had time to say hello.

And then. Why were there no desks? A couple tables. A couple computers. A couple pictures of family or books on medical diagnosis. But the company was pretty old and most of the people I met had been with it for a couple years. So why no desk? It's so weird to interview without something between you and them. Or without plants, a view of the city, a friendly abstract print.

Anyway. You probably want to know who I saw.

First there was wizard, of course, though not the smiling curious kind. But not mean either. Honestly he barely noticed me. Too much in his own head. He talked and talked about his story and then had to go. No real interview. He did interview me over the phone, and during that interview he asked me about my history, but he didn't understand it (I'm an oddball for an actuary) so I tried to provide cliftnotes, but he didn't use them. On the other hand, he really was trying to put my pieces together, and not just looking for an excuse not to hire me, as do most men when confronted with an enigma. In any case, 2 of my other interviewers assured me that he was brilliant. They both used the word brilliant, and they both italicized it with their voices. That means he's nice too. You don't call someone brilliant unless you think they're nice (of course you're also usually trying to excuse some other apparent flaw).

Next was the tech guy-- I mean he was supposed to be finance, but he and this other finance lady were basically the only ones who could handle sql. Or sequel if you will. He made me nervous as hell trying to dig at exactly what I know (nothing) and what I'm capable of learning (everything). He didn't have the patience to make friends with me really, which is a shame, because I think he'd like me.

Then there was the data lady. She was the other programmer. She was so busy and concerned about her work that she talked twice as fast. But she still tried to be friendly about it. Priding herself on knowing everyone. She said, looking at me, that she wished she could convince (us kids) of how important it is to have a life. She told me everything about everyone, got me water, and showed me what she was doing on Excel. She didn't have time for a life. Instead she had an electrical engineer husband and a daughter who was 18 or so, and going to college in graphic design. She joked that she's glad she didn't have another (child) because it might not have been smart like the first, and she couldn't have dealt with that. I probably should have tried to convince her that I am also brilliant, but her joke had made me sad.

Then there was the young looking financial analyst. I don't really have much to say about him. We only talked briefly. And I don't think I would be working with him. Anyway, he was the only one wearing a suit and tie. He was also the only one who bothered with commenting on my alma mater's sports team. I did my best to play my part-- the firm hand shake, the eye contact, all that bs. But in the end the guy knew who I was just as I knew who he was.

Then I saw my shadow walk by. Another interviewee. All dressed and proper and nervous. It was like seeing Death. All the air in the hallway seemed to be pulled away in a single inward breath. It's funny to think that Death might be nervous about meeting you too.

Then one more, the one with enough credentials to not be too stressed about all the change the company was going through. Probably the only one who ever sleeps. She was also nice, with a pretty round face. She told me good things about the department, asked me light questions, and then disappeared.

Nobody really grilled me. Thankfully. No "what is your greatest weakness" rehearsable bullshit. They just wanted to know my technical skills and why I was applying. Why did I apply? Because I don't have any health care, because my car is making a terrible rattle, because there's a leaf-shaped crack in my lcd monitor, because I'm 25 and still living with mom... no no no.. I applied to them because they are local. That's the right answer, because after all the skills and specialization and marketing and cover letters, that's the only thing that really makes a company, or a candidate, belong.
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