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Breaking Down the Worst Job Interview the World Has Ever Seen

If you enjoy breaking out in hives and having a panic attack on someone else’s behalf, I must recommend this video of a Trump judicial nominee choking so hard in a hearing that by all rights he should’ve turned blue. Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) casually gutted the dude — Matthew S. Petersen, a lawyer appointed to the Federal Election Commission by George W. Bush — by posing a series of questions about his experience and legal concepts that crop up often in federal court. In every single case, Petersen either hadn’t done it or couldn’t define it. Few men have ever been so humiliated.

I get it, I really do. I’ve bombed almost every job interview I’ve ever booked; usually my hiring is contingent on the employer never meeting me in real life. (Hooray for remote freelancing!) But those catastrophic failures are between me and the people smart enough not to give me a job. Petersen stepped on a landmine in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee and the entire country: As of this writing, the footage has been streamed more than 4.3 million times on Twitter alone. That’s not great news for whatever’s left of Petersen’s self-esteem, but it does let us analyze his mistakes:

Being unqualified. Granted, Petersen didn’t nominate himself, but he might’ve taken two minutes to consider whether he had the knowledge and skill set to become a federal judge — just as I could have reminded myself that I have no business being a graphic designer for an ebook publisher when I’ve literally never used Photoshop. But both of us plowed right ahead like we could fake our way through the interview and learn on the job, when in fact we would have continued being ignorant fuck-ups. Smart!

Trying to play out the clock. Petersen knew that Kennedy had the floor for a short five minutes, so he tried to eat up time with meandering, evasive answers that completely ignored the yes-or-no queries posed to him. That only served to annoy Kennedy, who, as a member of congress, is no stranger to the art of stalling. But whoever’s interviewing you for a position is already exasperated that they have to go through this tedious process, so it’s inadvisable to hem and haw and draw the torture out in any way. Better to admit you’re a gigantic dumbass and get it over with as quickly as possible.

Repeating what’s on your résumé. One of the cringier exchanges in Petersen’s interview came when Kennedy asked him what a “motion in limine” is, prompting the lawyer to wax awkwardly on the “path I have taken to be in a decision-making role on, I guess, somewhere between 1,500 to 2,000 enforcement matters,” to which Kennedy countered, “Yessir, I’ve read your résumé.” Fuuuuuuuuck, man. You may as well have told him which private school you attended for all that helped. This redundancy strategy is best saved for the cover letter, which nobody understands how to write anyway.

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Looking like a shifty, squirmy, sweaty fuck. I hate to say it, but appearance counts. That’s why every time the air-conditioning was broken on the subway or I got caught in a sudden downpour on my way to an interview, defeat was completely assured. How I wish I’d simply turned around and gone home instead of plopping myself down in a private office and trying to pretend I was comfortable enough to talk about my strengths and weaknesses as perspiration collected in my groin. A shave may have been in order for Petersen, though this alone may not have been enough to prevent him from looking like he’d had his last shot of tequila six hours before. Premature celebration, perhaps?

Not really wanting the job. This is what trips me up most, and I can see it informing Petersen’s god-awful performance. As a lazy man, it’s difficult for me to convince an employer that I want to show up and perform repetitive duties for them every single weekday over an indeterminate period of my sad, fleeting life. What I want to say is: “Please give me this job so I can have money, which is what I use to buy food.” I suspect Petersen’s own “ambition” is nonexistent, apart from him imagining that the title of “judge” is something he, as a white Republican male, is naturally entitled to. But, as I discovered when a website known for GIF listicles passed me over in a search for a copy editor to write their style guide, the ladder’s not gonna climb itself. With a little luck, Petersen can pivot to a field he’s truly passionate about, like selling exotic reptiles on Craigslist.

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