The Interview

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A lot can ride on a job interview. Al Gilbert had one recently and everything seemed to go so well – until it didn’t.

“Account Executive - Enterprise Sales”

I saw the job posted online at a fast growing travel technology company in Palo Alto. Based on my sales experience in corporate travel, I knew this was my sweet spot.

I received a call from the company recruiter who, after a 30-minute conversation, exclaimed, “Awesome, you’re exactly what we’re looking for. I’m going to forward your resume to the hiring manager.” Next day, the hiring manager and I talk by telephone, upon which he exudes, “I like what I’m hearing. I want you to come into the office to meet our team.”

Next week, I’m in Palo Alto. The office is an expansive space of Millennials in a frenzy of collaboration and creativity. A large digital map of travelers moving around the world, frames an area of complimentary lunch, lounge chairs, and an espresso bar. This is my kind of work space.


The evaluation consists of three managers: the first has been on-board less than two weeks and gives a drive-by conversation. The second spends half the time looking at his laptop and the other half looking at me. The third is the hiring manager. I feel he and I are on the same page, until he asks, “Are you comfortable using sales enablement technology like Salesforce and Zoom?”
I assure him that I am proficient in such technology, and then ask him a closing question: “Given my sales record in enterprise sales, and knowledge of your product, is there anything that would give you pause in hiring me?”

“No,” he replies. “You’ve got the goods. My only question is whether you would fit into our culture.” “What does that mean?” I think. Is he afraid that I can’t play foosball, air hockey, or appreciate kale and broccolini?

The company moves quickly. The recruiter reports that the team felt that I didn't have enough enterprise sales experience. I try to think where I lost them: was it when they did the math and realized that my total years in enterprise sales equaled their age? Was it when I made an analogy to “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid”? One person never heard of it, and the other vaguely remembers seeing the video in high school? Or was it when the person they thought was awesome and qualified on the telephone, whose pitch the team leader liked what he heard, then walked in with grey hair and laugh lines? Did they succumb to ageism? No, that couldn’t be it. That would be wrong. But we’ll never know.

With a Perspective, I’m Al Gilbert.

Al Gilbert is corporate travel professional living in Brisbane.