Dima had just finished her Masters in electrical engineering, and was eagerly seeking out a job. She didn't feel any particular need to stick close to her alma mater, so she'd been applying to jobs all over the country.
When the phone rang during lunch hour, she was excited to learn it was a recruiter. After confirming he had the right person on the phone, he got right down to business: "We saw your resume this morning, and we're very impressed. We'd like you to come out for an on-site interview and tour. What's your availability next week?"
Dima agreed. It was only after she hung up that she realized he'd never given his name or company. Thankfully, he sent her an email within ten minutes with the information. It seemed he was representing DefCo, a major defense contractor with the US government. This would normally be worth a look; it was particularly interesting, however, because she'd only submitted her resume about an hour and a half prior.
They must be really impressed, she thought as she replied to confirm the travel arrangements. It'll be nice working someplace large that doesn't take forever to get things done.
A week later, Dima hopped out of the cab and made her way into the building. Wrinkle number one immediately presented itself: there were at least twenty other people standing around looking nervous and holding resumes.
I guess they interview in groups? she wondered. Well, they're clearly efficient.
As Dima waited to tour her first top-secret manufacturing plant, she made small talk with some of the other candidates, and hit wrinkle number two: they weren't all here for the same job. Several were business majors, others had only a high school diploma, while others were mathematicians and liberal arts majors.
Clearly they're consolidating the tour. Then we'll split up for interviews ...?
The tour guide, a reedy man with a nervous demeanor and a soft, timid voice, informed them that interviews would be conducted later in the day, after the tour. He walked them down the hallway.
Dima kept close to near the front so she could hear what he was saying. She needn't have bothered. As they passed the first closed door, he gestured to it and stammered out, "This might be a lab, I think? It could be one of the engineering labs, or perhaps one of the test facilities. They might even be writing software behind there. It's bound to be something exciting."
This went on for the better part of two hours. They passed locked door after locked door, with their guide only speculating on what might be inside as he fidgeted with his glasses and avoided eye contact. Finally, he declared, "And now, we'll tour the test facilities. Right this way to the warehouse, please. You're going to love this."
Wait, he didn't hedge his bets? We might actually see something today?! Dima knew better than to get her hopes up, but she couldn't help it. It wasn't as though they could get any lower.
They were let into the warehouse, and their guide took them straight toward one particular corner. As they crowded around what appeared to be an ordinary truck, their guide explained its significance in hushed, breath-taken tones: "This is the system upon which our new top-secret mobile Smart-SAM and cross-pulsed radar will be mounted. Soon, this will be one of the most advanced mobile platforms in the United States!"
And soon, it will be exciting, thought Dima in dismay. Right now, it's a truck.
"This concludes our tour," announced the guide, and it was all Dima could do not to groan. At least the interview is next. That can't be nearly as much of a let-down as the tour.
Dima was shown to a waiting area with the mathematician, while the others were spilt into their own separate areas. She was called back for her interview moments later. At least they're still punctual?
The interviewer introduced himself, and they shook hands. "Have you ever worked on a power supply, Dima?" he asked, which seemed like a logical question to begin the interview. She was just about to answer when he continued, "Just last week I was working on the supply for our cross-pulsed radar. That thing is huge, you wouldn't even believe it. Of course, it's not the biggest one I've ever built. Let's see now, that would've been back in '84 ..."
To her horror, he continued in this vein for fifteen minutes, discussing all the large power supplies he'd worked on. For the last five minutes of the interview he changed topics, discussing sound amplifiers you could run off those power supplies, and then which bands would make best use of them (Aerosmith? Metallica? Dima didn't care. She just kept nodding, no longer bothering to even smile). Finally, he thanked her for her time, and sent her on her way.
The next day, Dima was informed that she hadn't obtained the position. She breathed a sigh of relief and went on with her search.