Finding A Job Sucks: Take Me to the Symphony


What Drew Me to this Job

The job was a major gifts and gift planning coordinator position. I applied for this job in December 2018 because working for the North Carolina Symphony sounded interesting, and I figured with my 10 years in development, I could at least get an interview.

Before I even had a phone interview, the director of major gifts and gift planning sent me an email saying she liked my resume, but that I was overqualified for the job and the pay was way below what I used to make. Was I still interested, or should she save my resume for a more appropriate position that might come up? I wrote back that I was interested in the job. It took her a few days to get back to me to set up a phone interview.

Round 1: The Phone Interview

Usually, I have pretty good phone interviews. I seem to shine really brightly over the phone. Mostly because the interviewer can’t see my face, and I don’t have to worry about what I look like.

Well, this phone interview wasn’t one of my best. Or I should say, I found it to be awkward as hell. The
director of major gifts and gift planning interviewed me, and she came off a bit stilted and nervous. Which made me feel a bit stilted and nervous. I’m not sure why she was so strange on the phone. Maybe she’s not a phone person. But on the phone, you can be anybody you want to be. You can make yourself sound interesting and engaging, even if you’re not.

That last thing she said to me before I got off the phone was, “Thank you for sending your really nice cover letter” or “your really detailed cover letter.” Something to that effect. I was like ??? “Oh, you’re welcome. It was a pleasure speaking with you.”

When I got off the phone, I wasn’t feeling too confident. I didn’t think I had made it to the next round, so I shrugged it off and started looking for other jobs.

ROUND 2: The First in-person Interview

About a week after the phone interview, the director finally got back to me and scheduled me for an in-person interview with herself and the vice president of philanthropy.

Okay, I did better than I thought!

I honestly didn’t think I would hear from her again.

I went in my standard interview outfit, looked really good.

It’s kind of the moment of truth, because up until this point the major gifts director does not know I’m black. It’s always amusing to see people’s first reaction to me when they first meet me for an interview. I can usually tell off the bat from that initial reaction if they have eliminated me from the running.

I’m usually interviewed by white women, and their body language is pretty telling. They tend to tense up immediately when they see me. Then they “recover,” plaster on a smile, and then try to affect their voices in an attempt to sound friendly and pleased me meet me.

The NC Symphony director displayed this very sequence of behavior. But she recovered, got herself together, and let me to the conference room where the interview would take place.

She left and retrieved the vice president of philanthropy, who unlike the major gifts director, seemed very confident, sure of herself, open, and friendly. If she flinched at my blackness, I barely noticed, because she had that much control over her facial expressions and body language. Her aura and her energy put me more at ease, because she actually seemed like she liked me, even though this was her first time meeting me.

There really is something to be said about people like the vice president. People like her are confident, generally positive people who tend to see the good in others. They don’t look for flaws right off the bat. They see the best, and they assume the best until proven otherwise. Such a smart and emotionally intelligent approach.

ROUND 3: The Second IN-PERSON Interview

The third round of interviews featured the director of major gifts, the annual fund director, the corporate foundations director, the person who held the position before, and the finance guy.

First, I met with the young lady who vacated the position and moved onto special events. She was in her mid twenties, had long, dark hair, and seemed really friendly and down to earth. I felt pretty relaxed talking with her and we had a good chat about the position. My only thing was when she brought up Excel spreadsheets and “analyzing data.” I hate that kind of work and avoid it like the plague.

Next, I had to endure the insufferable round robin questions from the director of major gifts, the annual fund director, and the corporate foundations director. Actually, the major gifts director was pretty quiet during this session, since we had met previously and talked pretty extensively already…I guess.

The annual fund lady was white, overweight, looked perpetually exasperated and like she needed to take her vitamins. The corporate foundations lady was black, light-skinned, had amazing, curly hair with highlights.

There’s not much to say about this stage of the interview process. Lots of stupid, irrelevant questions that sane people wouldn’t want to bother answering. Just ineffectual and a waste of everyone’s time. The annual fund lady had a hard time looking my directly in the eye. One her questions was what do I do to relax. Easy: yoga. Like, who gives a sh!t. She seemed like a handful, and I wouldn’t be surprised if she caused a lot of stress and bottlenecks in the flow of the organization. She just seemed like the type.

The black lady was a little better, but I’ve learned that having a black interviewer does not give a black candidate any significant advantage, especially if the office is predominately white.

Don’t get me started on the finance guy. He was about as charismatic as a cardboard box. Very dry, very hard to communicate with, and he didn’t really answer my questions about the benefits the NC Symphony offers.


After the interview, I followed up with my post-interview emails. I should dig them out. I thought they were pretty solid. I took notes during the interview and tried to tailor each email to comments made by each interviewer.

I have email tracking on my Gmail account so I could see who read my emails and who didn’t. The annoying annual fund lady read my email. But no one else even bothered, not even the director of major gifts to whom I would have reported.

…and more crickets…

As of the date of this post, February 2019, I have heard zilch from NC Symphony. I just find that so unprofessional, especially since I made it to the third interview round. They could have at least had the decency to let me know they hired someone else.


I can’t lie. I’m not sad I didn’t get the job. The prospect of working in development again sounded life-draining, but it was in Raleigh, and it would have been convenient. But I’m pissed that they didn’t even have the decency to respond to my emails or update me about the status of my application.

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