What is the worst time, place, and situation to interview for a job? Like everything in life, it depends. For me, interviewing for a job while pacing the halls of hospital waiting for my fiancée to recover from major cancer surgery was a distinct low point.
I have and do work from odd places now and then, not always by choice. I do not proclaim to hold the persona or prize of romantic-location digital nomad, although there are nice locations in my history of travels. Without doubt, the least desirable is from a hospital.
I am fortunate having never being a patient while working. I can, however, count my time in months and weeks spent in hospital waiting and recovery rooms, from the cancer treatments of my spouses through two marriages. I was a contract worker for the decade through this time, with nothing but a laptop and cellphone. What I lacked in paid time off, I made up for in flexibility. Remote working allowed me to care for my family in ways I could not otherwise imagine.
Waiting in a hospital is an exercise in patience and anxiety. Nothing happens quickly, and I am of the belief that any time estimate is merely a random amount of time multiplied by the number of elevators doors, and doctors in the building. I am also of the opinion that hospitals order furniture as an experiment in torture methodologies, and I don’t mean like the humorously inspired renderings of the Torquemada Collection from Torturous Furniture Designs. I have filled days and weeks working in painfully uncomfortable corners as time heals my loved ones.
It may be strange to learn, I have gotten quite good at working in this environment. While the furnishing may be torturous, there are often unused waiting areas or “hoteling” office spaces. If you find yourself in this situation, take a moment to ask nurses or staff for suggestions.
Noise, Stress, Interruption, and the Interview
In my case, the possibility of an unoccupied waiting area was unavailable for my interview. Kally just entered recovery from an unplanned surgery, and my scheduled interview was on short notice. I suspect I could have rescheduled. There is considerable stress when cancer materializes in you or your loved ones. I was also extremely interested in ending the contract scene I was in at the time. In retrospect I could have made better decisions, but that is the benefit of hindsight and in this case not as it seemed.
I set out to find a place to call in for my interview, a teleconference without video. The lack of a fixed working space was thankfully not an issue, or so I figured. I made do with a long and what I presumed an empty hallway to pace while on the call.
I mentioned I could have made better decisions, right?
There are no carpeted hospital hallways. You can imagine why. Also, people walk through hallways or are pushing people who can’t walk. This means they are echoey and are loud. Empty and quiet turns to crowded and noisy in mere moments.
Distracted, periodically unable to hear questions clearly, stressed both about the interview and my fiancée’s recovery, and incapable to focus in general, my performance was abysmal.
It was, and is still to this day, my most inept and worthless interview.
Which, as it turns out, was a good thing.
Not long after, I had an opportunity to apply and re-interview for a related job, with a better fit for my skill set, better pay and growth options, and to not have the interview while walking around a hospital.
It took that job. Then, a while later the company cut the position I had previously applied. I consider myself fortunate. By a strange bit of fate, had I done better on the first interview I would have later lost the job for unrelated issues.
While there is great flexibility in remote work, use that flexibility to your advantage intentionally, not by fate.