The first horror story of this job search

OK, so today ended my first foray back into the job market ... and it ended with almost insane "come here, go away" behavior on the part of the interviewing company!

I got a call in early April from one of the country's most highly regarded headhunters in my line of work. (Yes, it's now late June, and yes, it normally takes months for many companies to hire a candidate. My all-time "wait for an offer or final rejection" record was with my previous employer; it took them seven months to decide to hire me.)

The headhunter is seeking a VP for his Las Vegas-based client company. The job sounds demanding, but rewarding, and maybe even fun, and the $$$ was definitely right, so, "Let's roll 'em!" I tell the headhunter.

Challenge #1, the requisite telephone screen(s) by the chief headhunter's assistant headhunter. If a job candidate sounds competent, has worked for a decent company or two and doesn't confess to embezzling from his or her last employer or cheating on the mandatory drug test, he or she often graduates to challenge #2, the video conference interview.

I always joke about this obligatory step. The person conducting it - in this case, the chief headhunter's assistant headhunter - has generally already spent several hours on the phone with you, exploring every hiccup in your career, and usually a few in your personal life, too. Of course, the video conference's sole purpose is to assure the headhunter/hiring company that you're not 400 pounds with bad skin and green hair. No one, and I mean NO ONE, will ever admit that this is the only purpose for the vide conference, but this is, in fact, what's going on.

So, I trek to the neighborhood FedEx Kinko's (which now offers videoconferencing, but rarely employs anyone who knows the first freakin' thing about said videoconferencing equipment) to make small talk with the chief headhunter's assistant hunter. It was a hot early June day and on the way to FedEx Kinko's, my hair began wilting and I didn't feel that I had that sharp, I'm-in-charge-of-my-destiny executive candidate look. Luckily, the conference room was unoccupied, the A/C was blasting, and being the ever-resourceful interviewee, I pulled my curling iron and make-up bag out of my understated-yet-high-quality Coach briefcase and went to work. All to prove that I didn't weigh 400 pounds, have bad skin and green hair.

Next was challenge #3: the headhunter presented my credentials to the company. The CEO liked what he saw, and assuming I passed challenges 4-6 (still to come), that he looked forward to meeting me.

Challenge #4: work samples. I supply the chief headhunter with what I think are samples of a nice variety of work I've done. But, they're the WRONG kind of work samples. Turns out the client company wants to see press releases I've written. And not just any press releases, but earnings' press releases (those dull-as-dirt tomes companies have to write every quarter, per SEC requirements). Not to diminish the importance of earnings' press releases, I've been a working professional for more years than today's college sophomore has been on this planet, and I've been in charge of far more complicated projects than press releases ... But the hiring company is ALWAYS right, so I dig out a bunch of press releases - including a couple of earnings' releases - and send them along.

A few days later, I hear that they loved, absolutely LOVED 'em. (Maybe that should have been my first red flag, that they LOVED press releases.) Challenge #5 accomplished.

Challenge #6: a teleconference with a former-executive-turned-trusted-company consultant whom the headhunter warned me may ask very strange, perhaps even inappropriate, questions and would pause for uncomfortably long periods, usually after saying "I see" in one of those tones that make you feel the same way you did when your ex-idiot boss of only a few weeks ago told you that the company would no longer be needing your services. And, the headhunter added, I should plan on being on the phone for at least 2, maybe 3, hours.

Well, I made it through the phone call (which actually took 2 1/2 hours) and didn't find any of the questions any more bizarre than those I've fielded in past interviews.

The former-executive-turned-trusted-consultant loved, absolutely LOVED, me. She told me even before hanging up that she was going to recommend to the CEO that he fly me to Vegas as soon as possible. So, more than two months after beginning this process, I am in line to not only talk to - but, hold your breath - actually MEET someone from the company.

A few days later, the phone rings and I see the headhunter's cell number on my Caller ID screen. I was psyching myself up to fly the friendly skies to Vegas for my final challenge ... or so I thought. Turns out the CEO had changed his mind and would not be meeting anyone who had not yet achieved the title of VP in his or her illustrious career. (I had been one step below a VP title at my last position, and had performed many of the tasks usually assigned to a VP.)

Now, I won't name the guilty, even to make the innocent feel better, but let it suffice to say that this was not an MGM, or a Harrah's or any of Las Vegas' other gaming glitterati. This was a company you - and your friends, family, neighbors and co-workers - had likely never heard of. But alas, there was apparently no talking the CEO out of it ... his company wasn't gonna settle for no stinkin' director!

So after investing countless hours in interviews and preparations, and two months, 15 days and four hours waiting and hoping, I learn I won't be flying the friendly skies to Vegas after all ... at least not on this CEO's nickel.