In 2014, I received this letter. I get more mail than I can answer, and this one didn’t end up getting published. But read on, because there’s a twist coming.

After following your cover letter and resume advice, I landed an interview for a position I would love to have. It is similar to my current work but would allow me to be more proactive and have greater ownership over the work.

My issue is with the prospective company’s hiring practices. I would like to question them in the interview to gain some insight in their company culture and structure, but I don’t want to come across as overly critical. After two in-person interviews, one phone interview and one skype interview, the company is flying me out to their headquarters in California to interview with an unnamed “panel” (the actual job is in Arizona.) The scheduler keeps moving my interview date every few days and it’s been pushed back 6 times now, including 3 plane tickets. I’m also concerned that they don’t trust their Arizona team with this hire, when it seems from the conversations I’ve had, I would have little interaction with the California team. How do I approach the question of the constant rescheduling and the trust issues? Or do you think that both are non-issues?

Back to 2021. The writer of this letter recently emailed me about something else and included this note:

I noticed a question I submitted back in 2014 about some warning signs from an interview process I was embedded with at the time — and it was for a position at THERANOS! It was the craziest, most disorganized, lengthy hiring process I’ve ever experienced. I’m really thankful I didn’t pass the final interview.

I asked the letter-writer if she’d share more details and she obliged:

I had completely forgotten that I reached out for advice, and reading it over now with SO much hindsight, I should have said “no thank you” based on their constant rescheduling! It was an incredibly stressful process because I would schedule a day off from work to fly to California, and then have to reach back out to my supervisor and change the request- six times. A total red flag for my current job, but they didn’t seem to notice. At the time, Theranos had JUST emerged to the national scene and were in Walgreens test stores in Arizona, with a full board of directors including several high-profile military leaders, so I thought it would be a good opportunity and there was only glowing, credible press about their mission and future. They provided a voucher to go through the nanotainer collection process at a local Walgreens, but I didn’t have a chance — and I’m glad now since it’s been revealed that false positives were abundant in their testing.

On the interview day, I flew to Palo Alto into the last step of a three-month process (my fifth interview), and they had this weird stipulation that if you took a taxi, you wouldn’t be reimbursed for travel, only if you took public transportation or rental car/shuttle service — but with the timing of landing to interview time (they determined both), there was no time for any of the reimbursable options. The building was super secure and I had to wait in a stark lobby behind multiple security doors for at least an hour, but that was actually the fun part of the day, chatting about the Chicago Bulls with the security guards. When someone finally arrived, I was led to a smaller lobby, where, after another half hour (now 1.5 hours later than originally scheduled), I had an extremely abrupt, short, cold interview with one person from HR. We didn’t vibe at all, so I wasn’t shocked that I didn’t get the job, but I WAS surprised that after all of the effort on both of our sides, I received a generic email form letter signed “Kind Regards, Theranos Human Resources.”

Another part of the interview process that I’ll never forget was the Skype interview with Sunny Balwani. He looked absolutely miserable, stressed, and rushed. Like he had been sleeping at his desk for weeks and was just absolutely hating that he had to talk with me. I’ve heard in the meantime that Elizabeth Holmes’ defense was going to portray him as a conniving Svengali, which didn’t match at all what I saw back then!

My lesson learned from this experience was that red flags are called red for a reason, and I just kept ignoring them. Rescheduling an out-of-state interview six times to meet with one person should have clued me in that this would not be a great place to work! I think we all make excuses because we’re so wrapped up in the process and start imagining ourselves out of our current situation without detecting dysfunction in the future opportunity. I’m glad I was spared that job, because a year and a half later, the Wall Street Journal started exposing the company, ultimately leading to them liquidating. But boy, that year and a half would be full of stories I’d never forget, probably!!

I want to just give 2014 me a hug that she was trying SO HARD to impress people at this incredibly dysfunctional, toxic workplace.

But three companies later, I am happy and well-adjusted. Thanks again for all your great advice over the years!

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