My mother sent me an ad in the local newspaper (Tuscaloosa, Alabama) asking for applicants for computer programmers at the local steel mill (Tuscaloosa Steel). Without much hope, I applied. Mostly to placate her, truth be told.
I went to the interview dressed in my best suit and brand new, shiny, black shoes. I was met by a youngish looking guy (only two years older than me, it turned out) dressed way less nice than I am who introduced himself as Phil. He took me to a trailer in the middle of the parking lot, apologized for the "gypsy" look (they're all moving buildings), and then gave me what amounted to a "computer knowledge" test. It covered everything from hardware to software, logic problems...the whole gamut. It was harder than some of the final exams I took in my undergraduate courses.
It took what felt like hours to complete the test, and when I was done, Phil came in and went over the test while I was sitting there. Any time there was a question about what I'd written down, he asked me for clarification, and I thought I did a pretty good job of explaining myself verbally where I didn't on the "final exam."
I got something like a 92 on the test. Which is pretty good, I thought, but I had nothing to gauge this opinion by: mine could be the low score.
He then asked me about myself, and the question of "hobbies" came up. Now, I'd been told many things to expect from an interview, and this question almost never came up, and is mostly there just to see what you'll say and how articulate you are. :)
To this day, I have no clue what prompted me to say it, but I mentioned that I liked Dungeons and Dragons (D&D). As of the time of the interview, I hadn't played it in about seven years, but it popped out before I could shut myself up.
"Really?" Phil asked. "Do you have a regular group you play with?"
I said I didn't. And I really hoped he'd just drop it, because I felt like I'd just committed Interview Suicide.
Phil asked, "I have a group that plays every week. Would you like to join us?"
Stunned. That's what I was. I mumbled that, yes, I'd be interested in joining a group, and he gave me directions on how to get there. It was...surreal.
Keep in mind that at this point, I was still interviewing. I had not gotten the job.
We went from the trailer up to one of the offices and he introduced me to his boss and the other guy they hired a few months before me, whose name was Geoff. They asked me some half-hearted questions, which I answered. Everyone I met was in jeans and dirty work shoes. "Well, it is a steel mill," I told myself.
Once the introductions were over, I thought they'd finally let me leave. My right foot was starting to itch quite badly, and the new shoes were killing my feet. The last thing I wanted to do was stay longer.
"So, would you like a tour of the mill?"
Well, how many times in your life do you get to go on a tour of a working steel mill? Of course I said yes.
They gave me a hard hat and safety goggles that fit over my glasses, but there was nothing to be done about the shoes. I should have had steel-toed work boots.
They led me out into the steel mill in a semi-expensive "Interview Suit," ugly goggles, and a hard hat. And somewhat-less-shiny-than-before dress shoes. I watched them take 30-ton steel slabs out of the furnace. They were glowing bright red and I could feel the heat from 30 feet away. They'd descale the slabs with high-pressure water right out of the furnace, and sparks, steam, and little bits of red-hot iron oxide would fly all around. They led me to each step in the process of making their final product, which was steel coils. I went to the furnace, the machine room, out to the muddy slab yard where they kept the raw materials...we did it all. It must have taken another couple of hours, at least. I peppered them with questions the whole time. The only scary parts were the rickety catwalk over the line (no hot steel underneath at the time), then the 18"-wide passage to the furnace control room.
My shoes and suit were basically destroyed, and I could no longer feel my right foot.
They finally let me leave, and the HR guy told me they'll call me "in a week or two" to let me know something.
I went directly from the interview to a medical clinic, where I discovered that in the course of one hours-long interview, I had manifested a case of athlete's foot worse than anything the doctor had ever seen, or so she said. It covered almost my entire right foot, and took weeks to heal.
Oddly, I didn't feel like ever wearing those shoes again.
Two weeks went by. Nothing. Not a peep.
Meanwhile, I went to D&D at the apartment of one of the other members of the gaming group. I met another two or three guys in the group, and Geoff was also there. I had a lot of fun, and I remembered a lot more than I thought I did.
Another week went by. Still nothing. I just assumed I washed out. My mother harangued me into calling them anyway, which I did, around the end of the third or fourth week.
"Oh, we've been meaning to call you!" the HR guy said. "But we've been so busy moving to our new building that it slipped through the cracks."
To make a long story slightly less long, I got the job.
I found out later that Phil decided to hire me while he was going over my test. He filled out the paperwork when he left me alone briefly after we talked. I had one of only three scores above a 20 on the test. He attempted to hire both of the other two, as well. Geoff accepted, but the other guy basically fled screaming into the night after the mill tour.
Phil had invited me to gaming sure in the knowledge that I would be working for him at the time of the next session, but HR delayed calling me for weeks.
I worked at that company for close to nine years, and Phil, Geoff, and one of the other guys at gaming are still close friends of mine.
And we still game together, 19 years later. In a different city.