In business, the term boiler room refers to an outbound call center selling questionable investments by telephone. It typically refers to a room where salesmen work using unfair, dishonest sales tactics, sometimes selling penny stocks, private placements or committing outright stock fraud. The term carries a negative connotation, and is often used to imply high-pressure sales tactics and, sometimes, poor working conditions. – Wikipedia — alternatively… watch the movie.
I’m classifying this one as a pseudo-interview. Because it wasn’t really an interview, but they wanted it to appear that it was. Anyway, to the story.
I happen to run across several postings by a head-hunting company looking for what amounts to roughnecks for oil companies. In the past 3 weeks, they supposedly had held several job fair style hiring sessions and they were listing quite a few positions. I looked at their website and ran a quick Google search, including a quick streetview of their office. Seemed generally legit. So I contact the recruiter and basically say “hey, I’m not what you were looking for, but do you think your clients might be interested in an attorney.” I was assuming that if someone was doing a fair bit of placement with oil companies, throwing out a resume to their clientele might get me into some of the smaller companies I might not have otherwise heard of before, or even interest from bigger companies who skipped over my resume from the dreaded web application.
I get a quick email back saying “thanks for taking a leap of faith and reaching out to us.” They seemed genuinely interested and had someone call me back the next day. Pretty quickly however, it became apparent the caller had no idea what an attorney actually does. And they made a point of asking if I wanted instead to work on an oil rig (because… you know, why not?) The call didn’t instill me with confidence in the company, and then they asked me to come in to fill out an application. There was a bit of a pregnant pause and I non-verbally expressed I’d rather not with a long.. ehhhuuuuehhhhhh… before saying “Can’t I just do that online?”
Apparently not. So they setup a time for me to come in. I assumed for some sort of interview / paperwork hybrid thingy. I’m told they’ll send out an email with the info. Several days later the interview date arrives, but no email. So I merely assume it is an oversight and I drive on down to the address I had found earlier. The building was located in the ‘wrong’ section of town, but it was close enough to downtown that I just assume they were just being cheap on the rent. I had no idea…
I arrive at what can only be described as an abandoned building. There are random people sorta wandering around, not exactly street people, more like the general increase in random (and weird) passers-by you normally see when you enter the wrong neighborhood. I’m sitting in my idling car staring at the building, thinking, this can’t be it. So I call them up. Apparently, it is. I’m told to go through an unmarked door and go to the third floor. (I swear I’ve seen horror movies start like this) So I park and am shocked to find a working elevator that takes me to the 3rd floor. I walk out to an open air atrium with a bunch of offices facing a courtyard that has several rather large dead, potted trees in it, but that’s ok because the dead trees are covered in kudzu so they sorta look alive. The offices are all empty and dark. Not a soul seemingly around. The outside of the building was run down — the inside was veritably crumbling, and reminded me nothing so much as a by-the-hour hotel that someone tried to convert to office spaces.
I stood in place a few seconds taking it all in before deciding I’d rather not add a story here about how I was mugged by a crackhead going to a fake interview. So I turn to leave and get a few feet before an interesting dressed woman standing near the elevator and talking on a call phone says “Hey sugar, is there something you’re looking for?” My mind first wondered if I had just been offered what I thought I was… then I sorta said “Uhm, I was looking for ‘Company X’… they were supposed to be up here.” She pointed and said “oh yeah, honey, they over there in the corner.” and went back to her phone.
So I had a moment to consider whether to leave, or just to satisfy the morbid curiosity that was now equal with my self preservation instinct. I mean… I was already there, right? What’s the harm in going to look? So I wander over. It turns out, the offices aren’t all vacant… There are probably three that have some folding chairs, and a folding table in the middle of the office… and a solo attorney’s name emblazoned on the door. (ouch). More telling was that there really wasn’t anything in those offices other than the folding table and chairs, no lights on, and no one inside. I end up at the corner office and the reason I didn’t see it is because it doesn’t really have a large atrium window, just a nondescript door with the company name taped to an 8.5X11 on the inside of a tiny window on the door.
I open the door, and the first thing through my mind was “I’ve made a mistake.” The office is tiny. It had at one point had carpeting that had long since been ripped out leaving a bare cement floor; but the glue was still rather prominent from where it had been removed at some indeterminate past. Someone had painted the walls and every other flat surface ‘Kelly Green’ in a rather fast and haphazard manner. The room was crammed with folding tables and cheap chairs manned by probably 20 or 30 call center serfs dialing out to ‘contacts’. I had walked into the office in a nice suit with a valise. Work stopped. Every eye was on me. This was apparently a highly unusual event.
In what I can only describe again as ‘weird’ I had not 1, but 3 people approach me and ask if they could help me one after another. Now, the room was very small, and everyone was already looking. So, the other 2 people had to have seen the first (and second) person talking with me, and then approached and asked if they could help too. I guess it was just a very helpful place. No one can find any record of the interview request, but they chalk it up to someone else’s incompetence and decide to move forward. I’m ushered into what at first glance I had assumed was a large closet, but in fact is their ‘conference room’. My mind is still processing, and at this point I feel like I shouldn’t walk out because that would be rude (not sure why my mind went that direction, my brain usually works faster than it was that morning).
I’m standing for a few moments too long in the conference room and the recruiter says “you look confused (or concerned.. or something).” My mind finally catches and I look over to the recruiter and finally say out loud what my brain had been screaming since I pulled up in my car. “I think I have made a mistake.” She brushes it off and says “oh don’t worry, we probably just misplaced the interview paperwork. It happens all the time.” The true meaning of my statement sails completely over her head.
The ‘recruiter’ asks me the exact same questions as the phone call several days earlier, including double checking to make sure I didn’t want to work on an oil rig. Then they hand me an application packet to fill out. I fill out some of it, but only some, because it was asking way, way more information than I felt comfortable giving to a recruiter not offering a job, let alone this recruiting company. I say thanks and they assure me they’ll be calling shortly. I beat a hasty retreat, and count this one as a learning experience to listen a bit more to the voices in my head, and not always satisfy my morbid curiosity at what’s on the other side of the door.
I also harbor a slight fear that I’m going to have to deal with identity theft in the not so distant future from even what little information I gave them. I sincerely hope not. But it is a nagging thought nonetheless.