How a Bad Suit Led to My First Job in Fraud

Thank God for bad suits.  Sometimes they can lead to really incredible things.

Well, that’s how I look at it anyway.  This is a story of how a bad suit led to a bad job interview which caused me to get rejected for a job which eventually helped me realize my dream. –  A job in fraud.

Thank God for bad suits.

My Story Begins in 1991

It was 1991.  I was fresh out of college and had just returned from a year of traveling from the top of Mexico to the bottom of Peru by bus and then back again.  I had done it on a shoestring; spending no more than $2 each day on housing, transportation & food.

And boy was I skinny after that trip. I lost 30 pounds, by eating only tortillas and rice.  You can’t eat or live very well traveling on that tight of a budget.  And I learned that the hard way –  by the end of the trip I only weighed 130 pounds.

And by the end of that trip, I needed something else. I needed a job.  I was almost flat broke. I couldn’t afford an apartment. I had to live out of my car.  Life was rough.

I was desperate.  I needed a job fast.  I was determined I was going to do whatever it takes to get one.

In Peru 1990 – All this money was worth the equivalent of $10.

I Applied for Any Job I Could Find From the NewsPaper and Classified Ads

Back in those days, there was no internet.  So you would look for a job by going to the classified ads and submitting your resume by mail or calling a phone number.

So that’s what I did.  I applied for anything and everything I could find – Claims Adjuster, Mail Room Clerk, Entry Level Analyst, Customer Service Representative, Administrative Assistant.   Any job. You name it, I would send out a letter or make a call and beg for that job.

After a few weeks and hundreds of calls and letters later. One company called me back – Liberty Mutual Insurance Company.   The lady on the other side of the phone said, “we’re interested in interviewing you for a job as a claims adjuster.  Are you interested?”.

My heart was pounding.  I tried to maintain my composure but I only managed to squeak out an answer, “Of course I am mam.”

“Great” she replied, “Please come by our offices next Monday at 10 am for an interview.”

I hung up the phone. I was so excited. I couldn’t believe I was going to get the chance to get a real job.   I was a grown up now, doing grown-up things.

I have never been so excited about a job as I was for that one.  I imagined myself sitting at a desk answering calls and working at a computer.  Since I had never had a real office job, I felt like it was going to be my ticket to happiness and wealth.

What About Your Suit?

I called my brother so excited about the interview.  I asked him how I should prepare.  We talked about what the job would entail and he helped me prepare good answers.  I felt like I was going to be able to nail the interview.  He was a claims adjuster himself so I had the inside scoop.

I was feeling good and was ready to say goodbye and he interrupted me and said, “What about your suit?  Do you have a suit?”.

I stopped. My heart sank.  NO!  I do not have a suit.   I don’t own a suit.  I don’t even know where to get a suit.  The last time I had worn a suit was in 8th grade for graduation.  And it was a pretty ugly suit that would never fit me now.

Me in 8th grade.  The last time I had worn a suit.

My heart sank. I was going to need to get a suit.  And I didn’t have much money.   I was a nervous wreck now.  What was I going to do?

A Horrible Suit Shopping Trip

After a few days, I knew I had to go out and get the suit or I would probably never get the job.

I managed to scrape together $75 and went out to the mall to try to find a suit. I went to every store I could think of.   I looked high and low trying to find something in my budget.

But everything was way, way more than I could afford.  The cheapest suits I could find were $300!  I could never afford that.

I was getting depressed.  I was about ready to call the lady at Liberty Mutual to cancel my interview when I saw a store called “Men’s Warehouse” and it looked like it was chocked full of suits.  I decided to check it out.

I walked in and immediately a sharply dressed guy approached me., “What can I do for you Sir?”

I couldn’t believe he called me “Sir” since I felt like I was still a kid.  I told him I was looking for a suit.  He took me to the rack that had my size and my heart sank as I looked at the prices.  The suits were nice, but they were all hundreds of dollars and I would never be able to pay for them.

I said to him, “What do you have for $75?”  He gave me a bit of a surprised look and took me to a derelict rack in the back of the store with a few drabby suits that looked really dusty.  “This is it buddy.” he said to me.

Great. now I was “buddy”.  Instead of “Sir” I was now “Buddy”.  When he figured out how poor I was he viewed me very differently.

Well, it turns out there was only 1 of those dusty drab suits that fit me.  It was bright blue.  It was made of nylon.  It was extra baggy on me since I weighed practically nothing.  And it was dusty.  I mean it was the ugliest suit I have ever seen.

But I ended up buying that ugly suit because it was all that I could afford.  I couldn’t even afford to tailor it. The suit and I were partners now – partners in trying to get me a job at all cost.   We were going to go to the interview together and try to land the job.

Strange Looks and An Awkward Interview

It was interview day.  I got up way too early and got dressed in that horrible suit. I looked in the mirror and was so ashamed.  “Look how dumb I look in this suit!” I thought to myself.

I drove to Liberty Mutual and arrived way too early and sat in the parking lot for 45 minutes waiting for 10:00 am.   My heart was pounding.  I was a bundle of nerves.  I was sweating so my shirt was getting soaked with sweat.   Things were not shaping up for a good first impression.

When the time came I walked into the building and asked for the HR lady.  About 5 minutes later, I hear the door open and a friendly looking lady comes out and greets me extending her hand.

I extended my sweaty cold hand out to her and said “Hello Mam”.  She immediately looked up and down at me when I stood up and her eyes indicated to me that she was not impressed.  Or maybe I was making it up but I immediately felt awkward.

When we walked through the hallway to get to her office, I noticed all the employees glancing at me and giving me weird looks.  It felt like a walk of shame.

We went into her office and she started asking questions. I  did my best to answer the questions but I was so flustered and self-conscious, I guess I messed the interview up something bad.

She did her best to make it comfortable but it was obvious – my suit was not a good fit and more importantly – I was not a good fit for this company.

Thankfully, she cut the interview short and let me be on my way.  I felt the tears welling up inside as I stepped outside the building. What a failure I was.

I was broke.  I didn’t have a job.  The only thing I had was a bad suit.

I drove home and threw the bad suit in the trash.   It took me a long time to get over that bad interview and regain my confidence to start interviewing again.  I eventually did but I was determined to do it right next time with a GOOD suit – even if it cost me $300.

6 Months Later I was Working in Fraud

Needless to say that ugly suit, that bad interview, eventually lead to my dream job.   6 months after that interview, I got an interview with a bank.  They initially offered me a job in customer service which I took.

Within 3 months of taking that job, they promoted me to a job in the fraud department.  When I got that job in fraud, I knew I had achieved my dream.  I knew that I had the best job ever. And I didn’t even have to wear a suit to get the job.

I think back to myself and in retrospect, I am so glad that I never got that claims adjuster job.

Would I have been happy being a claims adjuster? Probably not.  Was I happy working in fraud?  Absolutely.  Looking back I am so glad I was rejected for that job, because if I was accepted, I may have never got that first job in fraud.  And that makes me very happy.

Maybe the job in fraud didn’t pay as much.  But I tell you what, it was the happiest I have ever been when I was fighting fraud.

So just this week, I was thinking back to that failed interview and back to that horrible suit.  I thought to myself, “Thank God for bad suits, sometimes they lead to really incredible things”.  It brought me here.

And that’s my story.  Thanks for reading.

Frank McKenna is the Chief Fraud Strategist for PointPredictive and a Fraud Consultant based in San Diego California