An Extraordinary Interview

I’ve interviewed a few times, and did hiring-side interviews (hundreds, of not thousands) over the course of decades, but my most extraordinary interview happened in one of my very first handful of interviews as a freshman at Stanford. For a reason I don’t now but might later recall I told this story to Ronni this morning and I thought it worth writing down; I may move it later, but I’m putting it here for now.

My dad was a not-well-paid University mathematics professor at University of New Mexico at the time. So I did qualify for a work-grant “scholarship”, and I applied to any part-time jobs I could possibly qualify for as a freshmen ( :) ).

I found an opportunity at the university medical center (SUMC), and it was a bit better-paying than most others (going rate at the time was about $2.10/hr ish).

So when I got there, the interview was not very verbal; the interviewer, a (graduate?) lab assistant put me across a lab table from him, and demonstrated how to remove the adrenal gland from lab mice. He put chloroform on a pad, put the pad over the nose of the mouse, cut the body vertically about less than an inch or so, found the heart, found the adrenal gland, used what looked like an exacto knife to remove it, and then stitched the mouse up again. Then, he said “Your turn”. So I did the whole bit: chloroform to sewing, and we made sure the mouse revived. Afterward he said “Most interviewees don’t get this far. You got the job.” Unfortunately for me, I didn’t see myself doing this one or two dozen times per day, so I said “I think I’ll look for something else.”

lab mouse

I don’t often remember this, but now I’m wondering how different my life would be if I’d taken that job…

Footnote: I eventually took a (really boring) job as a data entry clerk at ARAMIS (American Rheumatism Association Medical Information System), entering numeric-digit-codes into very long forms on a late / night shift. I was too error-prone, so that only lasted about a half-year.

Written on May 18, 2020