Rant: Enduring Job Interviews

Subject: Rant: Enduring Job Interviews
From: benadam -at- cyberdude -dot- com
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com
Date: Fri, 1 Sep 2000 10:54:18 -0400 (EDT)

Members of the list:

Before I start, let me state clearly: I report only my own experiences. If others have similar experiences to report, the list is the place for them. I am not seeking to start a flame war, and if anybody decides to attack me -- as I have experienced in the past -- I will regard it as harassment and will deal with it as such.

Since returning to the United States in February 1998, I have had interviews literally across the country. The experience has been rather shocking, to say the least. With all the whining I hear from IT companies about how they find it difficult to find quality people, I can easily see why that is the case. Somehow most of them still have the mentality that an employee is a slave without rights, that a candidate must spent his/her time trying to say the "right" things that line up with company policies, that a happy employee is somehow exploiting the employer... in short, a no-win situation.

One of the strangest situations I have encountered was with a company in the Midwest that wrote to me after an initial phone screen:

>We unfortunatley (sic) are still holding. We have had
>an offer out. Originally the guy did not accept, but
>we talked him into reconsidering. The position was the
>one I was thinking of you for (sic). I will keep you

A few weeks later, I got word how this candidate "dragged them out forever and then refused again," so they were back looking to fill the position. I cannot say that I felt very enthusiastic at this point! (For the record, the screening process is still going on, but I'm not exactly clearing out my desk at present.)

Another company that interviewed me -- one that approached me out of the blue, I might add -- told me after an interview, "We're continuing to interview other candidates. If we don't find someone else and you're still available, we may call you back." Am I the only one who finds such a response extremely tactless?

The outcome of an interview should be Boolean: yes or no. I don't see why a candidate needs to be made privy to all the backroom chatter that takes place, nor do I find it endearing to hear that I'm their "safe candidate" if all else fails!

After experiences such as these, I am reminded of the song in the movie version of Showboat:

>"After I have searched around the world for a mate,
>Then perhaps I might fall back on you.
>When I am convinced that there is no better fate,
>Then I might decide that you will do."
>"I am just an average lad,
>No great gift to womanhood.
>Some girls say I'm not so bad..."
>"Others say you're not so good...
>But if you are patient and are willing to wait,
>There's a chance I might fall back on you."

Obviously a candidate with any self-respect would be less than thrilled to be brought into a job knowing that he/she was the one the company HAD to take instead of the one that the company WANTED to take. Yet apparently IT companies feel that lessening the candidate's sense of self worth is something that ensures the candidate's longevity in the company. The only problem is that the trends in the market show that candidates aren't staying put very long any more. I don't find it surprising in the least, given such behavior in interviewing potential employees.

Lest any of you see this as my problem only, I must report what my wife, an immigrant with professional qualifications in a field completely out of the IT arena, said to me this morning after conducting her own job search for the past month:

"In the United States, you have to be a low-profile jerk for an employer to want you."

I've always found her views particularly caustic, but I'm persuaded to accept her comment in this case. As much as I hear of respecting differences and accepting diversity, I still see a tendency among hiring companies to look for cookie-cutter consistency. In a profession such as ours, one that involves creativity in most cases, I can easily see how a problem could arise. In such a case, I don't really think that the complaint that "we can't find good people" is very valid today; they may be available, but the things that make them special may ultimately be used to turn them away.

- Maury

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