Finding a Job Sucks: A Dislocated Design Company

I believe this is the only account in the series where I didn’t make it past the phone interview.

This job-finding tale is significant because of how horrible the phone interview was. It really exemplifies how some employers really don’t know how the hell to conduct a productive interview.

They think if they ambush the applicant with a chaotic phone interview, they are somehow being extra clever and crafty at discerning who will be a “good fit” for their work culture and work style.

On the contrary, this tactic is a great way run off perfectly good candidates in favor for ones who will accept a company’s peculiar brand of crazy.

Top Shelf Design is such a company. Split between Washington, DC, and Raleigh, NC, Top Shelf is run by husband and wife founders Branden and Kathryn Kiel.

The couple started the design agency in DC, but then moved to Raleigh a couple of years ago, with the remaining Top Shelf employees staying behind in DC.

I think my phone interview is indicative of how they communicate with each other, basically via Zoom conference calls.

The Position

I applied for a WordPress web design position for the company. At the time I applied, I thought they had a physical office in Raleigh, because it showed up on Google Maps. Turns out it was only a leased space that neither the husband nor wife used. Both worked from home, and they expected the web designer to work remotely as well.

This didn’t bother me that much, as I welcome the freedom to be location independent. But part of me was looking forward to experiencing the camaraderie of working in an office environment again. Dreams dashed.

Anyway, the position was a design position for their WordPress websites. They wanted someone to design and work with their module builder. So basically, Top Shelf developed their own proprietary page builder for their clients. And they needed a designer to design for the builder, in which the developers would code the design.

They also have a graphic designer who handles the other design aspects such as logos, branding, and other branded collateral. I’ll get to her later.

So far, this job is sounding a little different than I imagined, much like many other jobs I’ve interviewed for. 

The Phone Interview

Thankfully, I only got a phone interview with these people. 

I joined Brendan, his wife, the graphic designer Molly, and the developer on a Zoom conference call. 

I fucking hate these kinds of interviews. They’re chaotic, stressful, and annoying. I also got the feeling this type of communication is indicative of their company culture. It has to be with half the employees in DC and the other half in Raleigh.

Brendan was on another call when I joined. He sounded tense. He ended the call and was joined by his wife, and Molly and the developer from DC. 

Just to get this out of the way, the developer was the only person who seemed to be impressed by me, particularly my article on domain names and DNS settings.

The women were the most annoying on the call. The wife, Kathryn, was basically asking me questions to rule me out of the running. You know, you can just tell when interviewers are just going through a process of elimination and want to get you out of the way as fast as possible so they can move onto the candidates they actually want. 

The graphic designer seemed pretty territorial and was clear that she was the graphic designer and that I might help her out on some things, but WordPress was my only domain, and keep my mitts off of her graphic design. 

Brendan wanted to know if I design in Photoshop or Sketch. I told them neither. I used Illustrator. Molly wanted to see my Illustrator files. I said sure. But I actually never send them to her. Whatever. I was over it.

Brendan said he wanted to meet me since we both live in Raleigh and all. I’m thinking, where are we going to meet considering you don’t have an office. 


I never heard from Brendan again. Thank goodness. He even had the nerve to connect with me on LinkedIn, and I foolishly accepted. After the phone interview, I unlinked us. I never even received a rejection email. Or did I?

I think from here on out, I will not accept a job offer from a company that conducts these kinds of interviews. I don’t like the round robin ambush tactic. It shows a lack of consideration, it’s unrefined, it’s puts the interviewee on the defensive, and I think it signals a lack of organization. 

I also wasn’t crazy about working on some proprietary software that’s only used at one random design agency. No matter how awesome it might be, I don’t think it would translate well on a resume for my next job search.

The job did provide benefits, so that’s a bummer. But I’m not sorry I never heard back from Brendan or his high strung wife.

On to the next.

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