Employment · Job Search

Postcard Rejections Go the Way of the Dinosaur

Gang(ly) Interview

A few weeks ago, I was stalking the classifieds on Craig’s List looking for a job, something I used to do nearly every single day–it’s almost a job to find a job.  For a long time, I was searching every day until I realized the majority of the hiring companies on Craig’s List were paying $10 per hour for a Master’s degree.  After this rude wake-up call where I smelled the coffee and began thinking outside of the box (and other triteisms I can’t stand), I reduced the amount of time spent on what appeared to be a useless endeavor.  After finding Indeed.com and setting up a search specific to my needs, I found the Craig’s List ads to be even more offensive.  So imagine my surprise when I found the perfect job for me.  There it was sitting on Craig’s List server, daring me to respond.

Anyone who has been on Craig’s List looking for a job knows that within the first 10 minutes an ad is posted, the employer gets 300 resumes.  That is just what is going on in the job market these days in San Diego.  Maybe it’s that way everywhere, I don’t know.  I wanted to make a good impression, though, and did not want to send in the standard resume and cover letter, so I sat and tweaked what I had for about an hour.  I wrote a cover letter that I have used again and again to send to other companies.  After making sure every last word was correct, I attached my resume to the e-mail, wrote a short introductory paragraph, added some writing samples, and clicked submit.  I had very low expectations for that resume because I have submitted resumes before in the recent past, and let’s just say that I have never heard from anyone.  Expecting any response while knowing that the company receives 352 resumes is unrealistic.  I am nothing but realistic.

Imagine my surprise when, within 24 hours of submitting my “masterpiece,” I received a “congratulations, you’ve made it through the first hurdle.”  Holy smokes, the Internet does actually work.  My resume didn’t go off into a black hole in cyberspace after all, somebody had actually read what I sent.  The e-mail outlined the salary and asked if I was still interested.  In addition to disclosing the salary range, the woman asked me to share with her what attracted me to their website.  Because I knew the salary to be well above average, something someone could live on in California, I looked the website over very carefully before responding.  I literally wrote a college level response because although it was never stated explicitly, I knew it was a test.  Sure, e-mail is informal, but I chose to write a more formal reply just in case.

I read and reread my reply, and then sent it back into cyberspace, hoping I didn’t offend and/or bore anyone.  Within 24 hours again, I had a response saying that I had passed, and would I please answer the following 10 questions.  Uh-oh.  I read through the questions expecting, “If you were an elephant in a circus, who would you want riding on your back and why:  a small but inexperienced girl, an old man, or a clown,” but the questions were relevant and not weird.  Phew.  The questions were tricky, though, because one could easily mold oneself to what one thought the business was seeking, but I opted to tell the truth.  One of the questions was, “What kinds of people do you not like to work with?”  Well, once I got started, the list was long because I have met a lot of people in my life who have done terrible things to me and others — they all made the initial list, but in the final version of my response, I edited out all but the worst.

The answers I wrote to all questions took at least 3 hours of thinking, writing, and careful editing.  Honestly, it was fun to think strategically, and when I found out the next day that I had been selected for an in-person interview, I was ecstatic because I have never not gotten a job when I have met the employer face-to-face.  In person interviews are where I do my best work because the future boss can see that I am friendly, personable, caring, responsible, well groomed, and can communicate with most people.

Flash forward to my interview day.  I am nervous and am rehearsing my responses to all kinds of questions even while showering and applying a tasteful amount of make-up.  My clothes are clean, pressed, and I smell good but not overpowering.  My hair, by some miracle, has decided to cooperate and I look presentable which gives me more confidence.  I leave early because I’d rather be early and waiting in the parking lot than stressing in unexpected traffic.

When I arrive, I park my car and sit for a minute or two, taking deep breaths.  I finally decide to just go in and get the first date over with.  Interviewing in person is a lot like dating.  Each party looks the other up and down, either liking what they see or wondering how to get out of it and onto the next candidate.  The secretary greets me and then lets me know that they’ll all be with me in a few moments.  All?  How many will be sitting in on the interview?  I can feel myself getting more nervous because interviewing with one person is hard enough without adding more.  Deep, cleansing breaths.  Well, if I’m being honest, it was more like rapid, shallow breaths.

Finally, the secretary called my name and she took me to another building where she told me to sit down anywhere (is this another test??) after introducing me to the Director (D), the Principal (P), and the computer guy (IT).  I shake everyone’s hand and introduce myself.  We all make small talk before the actual interview begins.

And then it begins with a vengeance.  I answer questions from the left, from the right, from above, and from below.  No stone has been unturned in the river of my life.  I start to feel more confident and begin to relax; my voice seems less strained and high pitched.  You know that scared voice you have where it seems like you’re trying to talk through someone choking you?  The S asks me a question and then the P.  The P’s question is more difficult, so I take a second to think through, and then start to respond.  The D interrupts me mid-sentence and says, “Okay, that’s all the time we have for today.”  I stop talking and think, “Wow, he must be really busy and a real stickler to schedules.”   We all get up, shake hands, and I ask when will a decision be made.  The P responds with Friday or Monday.

I drive home, smiling all the way.  I think I’ve wowed them with my wit and convinced them with my candor to hire me.  I’m mentally redoing their Facebook page (it’s so beyond dull that I am not sure why anyone would visit), I’m writing tweets to generate interest in the private school, and I’m already planning their first event before I’ve even made it to Encinitas Boulevard.  When I get home, I retell the interview story to my husband who wants me to get a job as badly as I want to get a job, although his reason is for the “free” benefits because we have recently begun paying for our own health insurance and the cost is insane!

Flash forward again to Friday.  I  check my BlackBerry about 800 times, looking for the e-mail offer.   When Friday comes and goes with no word, I don’t panic because the S and P said Friday or Monday.  On Monday, I check my BlackBerry 1000 times.  I turn it off, pull off the back, remove the battery, and start it up again thinking that the piece of junk is not working properly.  It couldn’t be, otherwise I would have an offer in my inbox!

At 4:00 p.m., I e-mail the S because when her school was interested in me, she replied promptly.  On Tuesday, I heard nothing from the school nor the S.  On Wednesday, I e-mailed the P because she seemed friendly and helpful.  I asked her politely if a decision had been made.  I apologized for bothering her with such a trivial matter as a person’s future, but informed her I had attempted to contact the S but had not gotten a response.  At this point, I was certain I had not gotten the job, but because I had interviewed with them in person, I felt like I deserved to know the outcome.  I wanted closure.

Within an hour, I received a terse response from the S informing me that someone else had been chosen and good luck to me.  An hour after that, I received a message from the Principal.  She was very nice and I appreciated her tact.  She stated that they were fortunate to have a large pool of experienced candidates from which to choose.  The key word is experienced.  I agree I am inexperienced at putting together an event from start to finish.  I have participated in various parts of event planning but I have never done one completely by myself.

What is my point in this 2000+ word post about a recent interview?  My point in this overly wordy rant is  I want to know when it became normal, regular, commonplace, and expected to not hear a peep from a company after an in-person interview has been conducted?  I managed to get past the 351 other candidates and made it to face-to-face.  I spent hours getting ready for the interview.  I was there on time.  I brought documentation of my social media stamina, and I am a human being with hopes, dreams, disappointments and feelings.  I spent time thinking about this school and gave it my best shot.  Do I not deserve, at the very least, a copy/paste “thank you for coming in; however, we have chosen someone else” e-mail?  It’s an e-mail, for Pete’s sake — they had my address already in their system.  It is not as if they even had to go to a file and type my address in, it was there.  And then when I e-mailed the S, I made it even easier on them to simply send a quick thank you to me.  Heck, a text would have been fine!

I explained my point-of-view to my husband who told me that one never hears from a company if one is not a fit.  Hunh?

When did it become customary to not let people know whether they have a future with a company?  When did it become okay for people NOT to communicate with all this technology?  There really is no excuse.  When did it become normal to not treat people with respect and kindness?  Why does someone have to lose dignity just for an opportunity to interview?

Back in the “old” days, a pre-printed postcard was sent informing the candidate the job was given to someone else.  The postcard was almost a joke to get but I must admit I miss that dinosaur way of communicating.  At least it was something.  And along with the postcard came a wee bit of hope even though everyone knew nothing would come of it.  The postcard promised to keep a resume in the event another position became available.  The company gave hope and allowed one to keep dignity despite rejection.  They were essentially saying, “we didn’t pick you this time, but maybe next.” I think that’s just good public relations.  Why would I speak ill of a potential future employer?  I wouldn’t in the event something else opens up.  Hope.

Using that same logic, how often do you think I will speak kindly of this school or recommend it to friends, family, and neighbors? The answer is obvious in this rather lengthy critique of the school’s communications inabilities.  Inside this bit of insight into interviewing may be a nugget of wisdom.  Keep the cost of a postcard or a quick e-mail in the PR budget.  In the age of communication, not communicating with a candidate speaks volumes.  I will never forget how I was treated by this school when it came time to give me the bad news.  Make sure your job candidates never forget your company either, but for all the right reasons.

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