09/25/2013 07:15 pm ET Updated Nov 25, 2013

Interviewing Advice for a Former United Airlines Employee

The United Airlines ticket snafu is history but I still haven't stopped feeling sorry for myself. I continue to curse my inability to be in the right place at the right time, specifically on United's website for 15 minutes on September 12 when fares for most domestic United flights dropped to zero, save for a few paltry taxes and fees.

For the record, I was on Facebook, watching video of a toddler cavort with a puppy while I simultaneously uploaded photos of the chorizo enchiladas I was making for dinner. You know, IMPORTANT stuff.

But then my thoughts turned to the hapless individual from United's web reservations department who committed the error. Surely that person has since been handed a pink slip; those types of mistakes don't usually come with a "let's not let that happen again" reprimand from the VP of Human Resources.

They also don't come with a generous severance package, meaning the former employee is most likely in job-seeking mode -- and faced with the arduous task of explaining the blunder to a headhunter or potential employer. A tall order, yes, but isn't the resume and the accompanying job interview a chance to turn negatives into positives? Politicians do it all the time. Former New York governor Eliot Spitzer ably convinced CNN executives that his dalliances with pricey prostitutes qualified him to be a talk show host.

"I consider myself a people person."

"Fantastic. You're hired!"

So if you are reading this, ex-United employee who graciously allowed travelers to journey round trip to Hawaii for the price of a Mai Tai, have faith. Just Google "most commonly asked job interview questions" and prepare your answers accordingly.

"So I see you are looking for a position in our IT department?"


"Your resume says you worked for many years in the -- wait a minute, here it is -- the 'travel industry.' Why did you leave your last job?"

"It was just a difference of opinion over web bookings. I thought the online ticket buying process should be a joyful experience. Upper management disagreed."

"Do you have references?"

"Of course. Dozens of individuals praised my work. I will get you their names as soon as they return from Oahu."

"What do you feel was your biggest accomplishment in your last job?"

"I was definitely responsible for an increase in web traffic. I was told that, on one day in particular, it spiked by about 500 percent!"

"Very impressive. What new ideas could you bring to the IT department?"

"I've been working on a new keyboard design. Today's keyboards need larger keys to reduce typing errors. And maybe some specially labeled keys like, 'DO NOT TOUCH THIS,' 'HANDS OFF,' that sort of thing."

"What's the one thing you do better than anybody else?"

"I'm calm in the face of chaos. For example, suppose there was a bug in the system that was costing the company money. Instead of freaking out, I'd ask, 'Is this oversight benefiting consumers?' If the answer is 'yes,' I'd encourage our company to reach out to those consumers and say 'See what happens when you do business with us? Why would you even consider our competitors?"'

"And did you ever have reason to do that at your last job?"

"Yes, particularly on my last day. But again, management wouldn't bite on the idea."

"You make an interesting point, simply because the job you are interviewing for comes with a very high level of responsibility. You would be overseeing a global computer system. The slightest hiccup -- even for a second -- could plunge entire countries into chaos, result in emergency meetings of the world's political leaders and even alter history. Can you handle that?"


"I believe you can. Welcome to the New York Stock Exchange."