Lester Bangs: “What are you; like, the star of your school?”
William: “They hate me.”
Lester Bangs: “Well, you’ll meet them all again on the long journey to the middle.”
– Almost Famous, written by Cameron Crowe
So… yeah. I know it’s been a while since I last updated this column. I’d love to say that it’s because I’ve long-since found full-time employment and thus haven’t had to worry about such a thing (something even more of a concern in a pandemic-stricken world). Sadly, the intervening seven years have done nothing to land me a full-time gig, despite my having kept busy during that time.
This past Sunday, I received the latest in an absurdly long line of e-mails from a company acknowledging my application to a position for which I’m vastly overqualified. The email in question read as follows:
My name is [x] and I am the Talent Acquisition Coordinator for [company]’s Talent Solutions team. It is a pleasure to “meet” you.
Thank you for your interest in our Creative B2B Copywriter opportunity.
I would like to get to know you better; introduce [company], our client, and discuss the project in more detail.
Please select a date/time that works for your schedule: [Calendly link]
Please note that we will be using Google Hangouts for this meeting.
The meeting will be recorded for quality and training purposes.
Looking forward to speaking with you very soon![x] | Coordinator, Talent Acquisition Team
Yes, I found the use of “meet” in quotes annoying, but not nearly as annoying as what happened next: upon clicking the Calendly link, I saw that there were no dates or times even listed for this month. Weird, but – the month of February’s almost over and his appointments may be booked. So, I looked at March. There were three days listed with several 30-minute options… all between 1am – 4am!
I’d love to chat about the job.
It seems that the Calendly link you’ve sent me has no more times for February, and the currently-listed March times are all between 1am – 4am. Will there be other options?
I look forward to chatting with you about the position. Thank you.Charles
His response back:
Thank you for getting back in touch.
I really appreciate your interest in the role. Unfortunately, those are the only available slots for me to take an interview for this role.
Please let me know if there is anything else I can help you with. Thanks![x] | Coordinator, Talent Acquisition Team
Um… is it me or is that condescending and stupid?
Is this one of the dumbest goddamn ways for a company to recruit talent or is it just me? Who the fuck puts times between 1am and 4am as first and only choices for an interview? What kind of potential hire is even up at that hour on a regular basis, let alone able to speak at a normal tone without disturbing everyone else in their house?
And it’s not as if this is some up-and-coming start-up still learning the ropes. I’ve avoided explicitly naming the company for whom the above Talent Acquisition Coordinator works, but let’s just say need to study up on how to better work at improving their interview and hiring practices.
I wish I could say that experience was the only one of its sort in the seven years since my last entry. That would be a lie.
There was the time I replied to a Social Media Manager notice from a legendary local record store. Upon getting the interview with a fella who looked like South Park’s World of Warcraft troll (it wasn’t the cosplayer in that link, I assure you), I realized that the difference that troll and my interviewer is that my interviewer seemed to not really know how the internet worked in the mid-2010s. Despite the notice clearly asking for a social media manager, this guy seemed to want me to set up an entire website that he was oh-so sure would become the go-to destination for all the internet’s music lovers.
He seemed unaware of how official sites, unofficial sites, and, of course, social media had already spent the past 20-plus year monopolizing the very niche he seemed to want me to conquer on my own. That, and he kept emphasizing how he hated the internet. No quite Aaron Sorkin-level pretentiousness, but certainly a level of disdain one would expect from a vegan visiting a slaughter house. And his lack of focus with the whole thing made me wonder if he had some sort of learning disability of which I was unaware, but it’s more likely that my mere presence for this interview was boring him to tears.
There was also the time I interviewed (much more positively) with Pulse QA, only for them to just never get back to me. There was the time I interviewed DoorDash and the interviewer seemed offended that I even answered for the interview which she scheduled. There was the time I got close to working with a company called HyperFlyer, but that interview was also shit and I’m not convinced the entire company was a scam. And I haven’t even mentioned the torture of interviewing at a local bike rental shop, which I’m actively trying to forget.
One that really pissed me off is when a colleague of mine pushed my resume forward at a local video company at which she worked. They were looking for writers and I was happy to offer my skills. It all went to shit when the recruiter refused to take me seriously because, and I quote, “You’re overqualified for this job.” I told her that wasn’t a problem. She still refused to hire me.
That’s one of the things which inspired me to resurrect this column: as I’ve said in previous entries, I know damn well that I’m overqualified. That doesn’t change the fact that I need a fucking job! If I sat around waiting for my dream job to appear, I’d be even broker than I already am. Y’know what helps one avoid insolvency? A salary. Y’know how one gets a salary? Employment – even employment for which one is vastly overqualified.
Telling me I’m overqualified doesn’t help; hiring me does.
Oh, but it could still be worse.
How about doing a freelance job so well that they extend your contract, but when you apply for that same position years later, they don’t even consider bringing you on? Seriously, it was the same work I’d done a year-or-so prior and I replied to the notice saying so, but they wouldn’t take me on. They kept reposting the notice on Indeed and other places, saying that they urgently needed someone to get started right away, yet they refused the services of a guy whom they know for a fact can do the job and is already familiar with the freelance agency’s policies? Someone tell me how that makes even a remote bit of sense?
It’s tough enough trying to build a copywriter/copy editing portfolio when so much of it is done freelance with clients who make me sign NDAs.
Still, two good things have happened recently.
The first has been the proliferation of my journalism work (see the left side of the screen). As much as I wish it would leave to a permanent position – which it may still yet – the fact that I’ve done it so much that people are recommending me and coming to me for pitches is a helluva boost for my self-esteem.
This led to the second good thing: a job that I didn’t get. Hear me out…
I applied for a position writing with Quartz. I obviously didn’t get it, but what I did get was something I haven’t gotten in the entire 12 years I’ve been unemployed: feedback.
Thank you for taking the time to put an application together and apply for the Things Reporter job at Quartz. I’m writing to let you know that we have now hired someone else for the job.
The posting was very popular, we received about 80 applications. Unfortunately, we could only hire one person.
In the end, what set all of our finalists apart was their multiple years of experience showing advanced levels of design, development, and data-analysis merged with a traditional journalistic practice. If you still aspire to join the Things team in the future, my advice would be to work on creating journalism that synthesizes the technical with the traditional.
I’m sorry to not have better news for you this time and hope that when we have a future opening, you’ll find yourself to be a strong candidate.[x], things editor
That third paragraph so took me by surprise that I had to reply back to the editor thanking him for telling me something of substance, something crucial, something that will actually help me in my seemingly-endless job hunt. I’m so used to bot messages telling me some variation of “Sorry, but good luck to you!” that an actual human response damn-near made me teary-eyed.
When I replied back thanking him, he said:
My pleasure Charles. The least we can do in the crummy process of job seeking is be humane.
Best of luck!
That’s all I needed. That’s all anyone needs: to have their humanity acknowledged and their problems not dismissed out-of-hand. If a fraction of past would-be employers responded to my applications with that sort of simple gesture, I’d have spent a lot more years optimistic about my job prospects.
Hell, I probably could have taken their advice on where to improve and gotten a great job a long-ass time ago.
When I first started outlining this new entry, it was originally going be about how COVID has affected to working world. Suddenly 2/3 of the people on the entire planet know my frustration because their businesses went on lockdown, some of them closing permanently. So many people I know filed for unemployment insurance (which I’ve still never done) and don’t know what their working future looks like, in spite of them all having years of experience and a number of degrees.
I decided not to go with that direction because no one needs to be reminded of what they already know, especially not during a worldwide pandemic. No, I decided to finally to write a new entry because although the exchange on top from the (with the company that needs to get up on how to talk to potential workers) made me want to punch the wall, the exchange with the Quartz editor gave me something my job hunt hasn’t had for a while: hope.
I’ve been foolishly optimistic before and we see where that’s gotten me, but both that exchange and the increased demand for my work hits my brain the same way knowledge of COVID vaccines does. It lets me know that this long, terrible ordeal may be finally coming to an end.
That’s no time to get complacent, but it’s a perfect time to start thinking ahead.
Categories: Long-Form Essays