The Worst Job Interview of All Time
Getting angry and describing how much you love beer are generally frowned upon if you want to get hired.
Image by author via Getty
The Brett Kavanaugh hearings had me thinking back to another incredibly high-stakes job interview process: the one that led me to my current job at VICE. My first interview was a cordial, albeit slightly awkward conversation with my now editor. Next, I met with two senior members of the editorial staff, and pitched them various ideas for what I'd write about. Lastly, I met with the department's top dog—we got along swimmingly, and a couple weeks later I got a job offer. Throughout my interviews, I managed not to insult the people who were asking me questions. I did not lose my temper. I don't recall ever scrunching my face in anger and fear or bringing up any facts about how I once enjoyed binge-drinking. My adequate performance in those interviews never felt like something to brag about. I was able to behave like a sane human being in a somewhat high-stress situation. So what? I did the bare minimum. Go me!
Considering the current national disaster we find ourselves in, as the hyperpartisans in Washington and beyond go head-to-head in a fiery debate over whether Brett Kavanaugh should get a really important job that requires an incredible amount of grace and reason—arguably more grace and reason than my job does—I have come to realize that I actually performed exceptionally in my job interview. I didn't even cry—not a single tear was shed! Regardless of whether you believe the women who have made allegations of sexual misconduct and cruelty against Kavanaugh, I hope you can see one glaringly obvious fact: By the standards of a job interview, Kavanaugh's performance was abysmal.
Recently, Benjamin Wittes, a national security think tank guy who is personally friendly with Kavanaugh, penned a piece for The Atlantic where he asserted, "If I were a senator, I would not vote to confirm Brett Kavanaugh." The argument wasn't that the allegations against Kavanaugh were airtight, but rather that the judge's response at the hearing was revealing: "His opening statement was an unprecedentedly partisan outburst of emotion from a would-be justice... The allegations against him shocked me very deeply, but not quite so deeply as did his presentation."
Wittes's case against confirming Kavanaugh tracks with common advice given to jobseekers. According to US News and World Report's "Job Interview Mistakes to Avoid," his emotional outbursts are a big no-no when interviewing for an employment opportunity. "It's important to be friendly to everyone," an expert explained. When Senator Amy Klobuchar asked Kavanaugh if he had ever blacked out while drinking, he sniped back, "I don't know. Have you?" US News also cautioned against "expressing desperation or anger," a pitfall Kavanaugh was also unable to avoid when he fumed, “This whole two-week effort has been a calculated and orchestrated political hit."
Famously, Kavanaugh repeatedly expressed his affection for beer throughout his testimony. Per US News and World Report, a job interview "is not the time to talk about recreational drug use or any other hobbies that violate the law or employer conduct policies." So telling senators "I liked beer; I still like beer" over and over again might not be an automatic dealbreaker, but if a normal person mentioned beer 29 times during any job interview not conducted at a brewery, chances are they wouldn't get the gig.
Forbes's "9 Interview No-Nos That Will Keep You From Getting Hired" warns against "seeming needy" instructing the reader, "don’t desperately try to land the job at all costs." So when Kavanaugh fumed, “I will not be intimidated into withdrawing from this process... You’ll never get me to quit. Never,” he not only oozed with desperation, but also came off as kind of entitled. As it turns out, Forbes also says "being arrogant" is also to be avoided.
Of course, most job interviews don't involve multiple sex crime allegations. A common argument from the right is that it's justifiable to be angry if you are falsely accused of sexual assault. But any employer who heard that a potential hire for a big job—a lifetime appointment, actually, which is a weird perk—was accused of raping someone, that would require some looking into. Getting visibly pissed off, and making insinuations of this all being a conspiracy, seems like it would be an automatic disqualification.
Kavanaugh isn't the only candidate for this job on the market. There are plenty of conservatives who would be happy to put on a robe and overturn Roe v. Wade—hell, nominate the ghost of Scalia for all I care—but if your goal was to appoint someone qualified to the high court, sticking with a possible alcoholic sex criminal who screamed and cried at the Senate seems like the wrong move.
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