I had a phone interview with someone from a normal small company ('NSC') today. I'm only posting this to contrast with my Wankercon experience (see below.) NSC is a joint venture between two other companies, and is privately held. They're located in the Chicago area.
My friend MKL told me that there was an opening at NSC. She knew someone there so I got her to provide an introduction, and sent in my resume. They told me they were going through the resumes and would get back to me the first week of February. They didn't, so I assumed I didn't make the cut. A few days ago I got an email from the hiring director apologizing for being slow and asking to set up a phone interview.
Today was my phone interview. I lured Rugrat out of the house by turning on the dryer. She gladly went out to the garage to sleep on top of the dryer. She likes to meow when I'm on the phone, and I've learned the hard way that this is not conducive to business conversations unless I am talking to another cat person. I got myself all caffeinated up and ate lunch. I did not follow the suggestion to get dressed up for phone interviews (I guess it's supposed to get you psyched up for it.) I did follow the suggestion to walk around while talking, instead of sitting. Apparently your voice projects better while standing and and walking helps relieve nervous energy.
So anyway, the interview was pretty damned normal. I was asked what I was looking for in a position, what my chemistry strengths were (inorganic chemistry and catalyst development), what I liked least (polymer properties!), did I have a lot of experience with a particular instrument, and of the programs I worked on at my old company, which one was the most rewarding and why. I asked questions about the company, the position, the chemistry, and what the interviewer liked best about NSC. Note that there are no pop-psychology questions in there, as well as no layers of annoying big company bureaucracy. Also note that the interviewer probably learned more about my personality in the 30 minute phone call than Wankercon got from my email, and I certainly got a much more favorable impression of NSC than I got from Wankercon.
I was invited out for a visit to NSC. It will either be next week or the second or third week in March. If I get and accept the Cornell offer before NSC HR calls me to set up the visit, I will withdraw my application before they make plans.
As for Wankercon, I still haven't heard back from them;-)