“A precursor to ghosting is when either party doesn’t feel bought into the process or has that emotional investment. There has to be greater emphasis on approaching people you genuinely think are right for the job. And, if someone takes time out of their day for an interview, virtually or in person, they deserve feedback.”
Craig Freedberg, a regional director at recruitment firm Robert Half
Yesterday I spent an excruciating period of time documenting the past five rejections (or lack there of) after interviewing with a wide range of companies. I wanted to share it with a friend of mine who offered me a promising consulting project to give her some context on both how grateful I am that I currently have a seasonal position with an amazing group of people, but how scared I am to enter the job-seeking world again full-time when this role ends.
I have thought a lot about this. I keep telling myself that I am never going to accept another interview without certain conditions (i.e., a guarantee that I’ll be treated with respect and kindness) or that I won’t become emotionally invested in every potential opportunity.
I’ve even considered including a proper rejection letter as part of my cover letter. One that includes a personal touch which is lacking in nearly every email I’ve received over the past year. “Leah, thanks for taking the time to meet with me. I really enjoyed hearing about your work with the Charlottesville Track Club. If I were a long distance runner I would definitely want to sign up for the Rivanna Greenbelt Marathon. It’s clear you’ve invested a great deal of time and effort into making it a fun community race.”
It doesn’t need to be a competition between which is worse: the generic rejection after you’ve shared a personal story that connects you to the mission of the organization or being ghosted after you’ve made yourself vulnerable by sharing your top two weaknesses. They both suck. They both hurt. Neither should ever happen in my opinion. It’s just bad business and it’s not kind.
Every applicant could some day be a potential client, customer, donor, or volunteer. Why in the world would you want someone to leave with a bad impression when showing some empathy and respect takes just a few minutes. One sentence is all it takes. One sentence that shows you listened and appreciated one unique thing about the person.
I know that it can be awkward to have certain conversations. I know that we’re all very busy and some things slip through the cracks or that it’s just easier to be impersonal and copy and paste.
I’m not perfect either. I have two emails I’ve been meaning to send, but put off far too long. One to someone who asked for feedback on the interviewing process after rejecting me and another about a volunteering opportunity that I haven’t had the energy to invest in properly. Those messages will be sent today. I’ll probably over apologize and over share, but I’ll be honest and even if I never get a response, I’ll know I did what felt was the right thing to do.
My other musings about the job hunt:
I recently interviewed for two positions with job titles and salaries that were not necessarily at the same level as my last full time job, but seemed like the perfect roles for me at this point in my life.
I was eager to join both organizations due to the nature of their businesses and the responsibilities of the positions.
In my follow-up letter to one, I explained that the role was the ideal opportunity for me and I really wanted to work with the team I met. “On paper it might seem that I’m overqualified or perhaps a temporary role isn’t the best career move at my stage in life, but when I first saw the listing I was immediately drawn to it and wanted to apply.”
For the other, I went above and beyond to prepare a presentation before the phone screening with the talent advisor. During the call my presentation was shared with the hiring manager who apparently responded, “OMG get her in for an interview ASAP.” I was thrilled!
That excitement quickly turned to fear as I was incredibly nervous before the second interview. I added 8 more slides to my presentation in hopes of impressing them even more. In my thank you message I wrote:
“I’m looking to join a company where I imagine myself staying until I retire, in whatever role I can do my best work. I’m a loyal and creative person and when I commit to something, I’m in it for the long haul. This is one reason why I’m a marathoner and I spent the majority of my adult life in just two positions.
I prepared a presentation before meeting anyone in your company because I wanted to demonstrate my commitment to the interview process and to show my next-level interest in this specific role. I think it’s crucial to find a candidate who’s willing to efficiently size up your current efforts as well as make recommendations. I began that process, but I have so much more I’d like to share. I’d love the opportunity to discuss my thoughts with your team and to learn more about the decision making process for current initiatives as well as your larger marketing plans for the future.”
Hours later I was rejected, apparently because I was overqualified.
“At this time, our team feels your qualifications are outside of the parameters of the role. We do not feel it is a good long-term strategy to offer you less than you are worth.”
I know my worth. I know what I want. And when I believe I have value to add to a team, I go for it.
I would never invest so much time in an application if I didn’t feel it was an opportunity I wanted to pursue.
I was at Learning Without Tears for over 22 years. When I left I wasn’t a Senior Manager or a Vice President, I was in a mid-level Specialist/Coordinator role. Those upper management and executive titles have never been my career goal.
I want to do something I’m good at, that I enjoy, and with people whom I like. I’m a “rockstar” not a “superstar” (as described in “Radical Candor”.) I’ve never found it desireable or necessary to climb the corporate ladder. All I want is a role where I can be productive and creative, where I work with people who accept, value, and compliment my true self to achieve a greater good as a team. To me, that is true success.
I never thought that putting so much care and consideration into an initial interview might disqualify me, but that’s who I am and it’s important for me to share what I have to offer. I am intense. Maybe in a way that not everyone sees as a positive, but it’s who I am.
After this latest rejection I searched “overqualified” and found this relevant article:
“What Employers Really Mean When They Say You’re Overqualified (And What You Can Do About It)”
Of course it terrified me to see this explanation of what employers are thinking when they say you’re overqualified:
You’re too old
“Yep… this is the ugly one. Some employers maintain negative stereotypes about older candidates. The law prevents them from discriminating based on age, so “overqualified” is a useful proxy to avoid explicitly addressing the age issue in hiring.“
I’m a runner and race results live forever. I will never be able to hide my age and I wouldn’t want to because I’m proud to be 51.
Luckily, without even knowing it, I followed their advice to address being “overqualified”:
1. Explain your situation
2. Show your enthusiasm for the job
3. Be clear (and reasonable) about your salary expectations
4. Explain how your extra skills will help the employer
5. Network, network, network
I’ll never know if they really thought I was overqualified or if it was an acceptable excuse for some other reason. If I bombed the interview and said something that turned them off, I’d really like to know, but I’ve learned after 100 interviews that no one will really give you the feedback you need even if you ask for it.
Rejection stings no matter what. It’s especially painful when you make an extra effort and expose your own vulnerabilities by being honest.
I know my worth and it’s not dependent on being hired although sometimes it’s hard to believe that.
I’ve only cried a few times during my job search. There have been just a handful of jobs that I felt absolutely perfect for and was extra eager to make a good impression.
It’s terrifying to to be brave enough to communicate what you want with the founder of a business or to share extremely personal details about the difficulties of the unemployment process and what lead to it to human resources.
Being vulnerable is risky, but it’s in my nature. I’d much rather overshare and leave everything on the table than have regrets that I didn’t do everything I could to get the outcome I wanted.
I was inconsolable with tears when I received the email rejecting me for being overqualified, telling me it wasn’t a good long-term strategy to offer me less than I’m worth.
When I applied for the position I was required to put a salary expectation. The amount I shared was actually less than the starting salary given in the initial phone screening. How then could they offer me less than I decided I’m worth?
My desires and expectations about what role I need and the compensation I want have become clearer over the past two years. I’ve learned that money isn’t everything and that I must believe in what I’m doing. Titles have never mattered to me, but success does. There’s no one direct road to accomplishing your goals. It’s the journey and the relationships that matter.
I think I’m an amazing person with so much to offer no matter the position or the company. I honestly believe the next manager who hires me will have no regrets because I will only accept a role that feels right for me and will lead to success for everyone involved.
I will be filing my final weekly claim for unemployment benefits on Sunday. I won’t be able to answer YES to the question regarding having a start date for full-time employment, but I am optimistic about the future.
For the past 25 weeks I’ve poured myself into the work of finding full-time employment and it’s been quite the journey: exciting and arduous, invigorating and demoralizing.
Since February 2021, I’ve had 100 interviews with over 70 companies. I consider that an accomplishment even though all of my efforts resulted in a total of 17 weeks paid work with two different companies and three volunteer roles.
I have wanted to “quit” this job of looking for a job so many times this year, but I persevered and in the process I’ve learned a lot about myself. I’ve reassessed what I want, need, and desire in an employer and reexamined all my strengths and weaknesses.
I’ve also identified key problems in the hiring process that have left me frustrated, yet inspired to create a better and more equitable system.
One personality trait that has led to many achievements in my life is my inability to see a problem without wanting and trying to fix it. I’m determined to take all the lessons I’ve learned to help others navigate long-term unemployment without losing hope and their core identity. Stay tuned for more information on how I plan to do this.
In the meantime, I’d like to make a huge plug for davidolenick.com whose illustrations and designs speak to me every day! THANK YOU for making me smile during difficult times.
Here’s my new mantra to calm some of the anxiety I experience before interviews:
“I have no one to please and nothing to prove. I don’t even know if I want this job yet!”
I found this quote after googling “I hate interviews will i ever get a job”. Seriously.
The article, which includes tips on overcoming interview anxiety, stated the obvious:
“A job interview is a very artificial situation.“
Perhaps the key to improving the interviewing process is taking steps to encourage a more authentic conversation rather than to have a static test.
Having endured nearly 100 interviews over the past year, I know that the best ones happen when the script is ditched and real personalities are revealed.
I strongly believe that if you have a set list of questions you want to ask prospective employees during an interview then include that as part of the application process.
Requiring applicants to answer specific questions when submitting a resume helps both you and the applicant by weeding out those who are blinding submitting generic cover letters to dozens of employers (full disclosure, I’ve been guilty of this!).
It’s immeasurably helpful for me to understand exactly what a company wants when they put the extra effort into creating a more equitable process for hiring. I’ve written about this before, but it bears repeating.
I plan to examine more lessons learned from my own experiences, but in the meantime, here are some useful resources I’ve found online.
Just tell candidates what you’re going to ask ahead of time.
It's time to make transparent interviews the new normal.
TIPS ON OVERCOMING INTERVIEW ANXIETY
INTERVIEW QUESTIONS TO ASK EMPLOYERS
I think I’ve applied for at least 500 jobs (more than half of those via LinkedIn’s Easy Apply feature which makes it super quick and simple).
Although I don’t keep a record of every single job application, I do have an extensive spreadsheet with data on all of my interviews, including the rejection letters.
Since I’ve turned 50, I’ve had conversations with over 50 companies and the vast majority have sent me generic and impersonal rejection letters, often only after I followed-up asking for an update.
The more templated form letters I receive after interviews, the more I find this to be completely unacceptable and unnecessarily demoralizing.
I’m not a HR expert, but I’m a human being and I know that I share a lot about myself and my experiences in every interview. It would mean so much to me if I would receive a message referencing something positive and unique about our interaction rather than an impersonal template letter.
I strongly believe that if you meet with someone for an hour, especially if it’s more than once, there’s absolutely no excuse for a generic rejection.
I’ve actually received better rejection letters from companies that I never spoke with than I have from places I met on 2-3 separate occasions. In retrospect, I’m grateful that things didn’t work out with companies that aren’t kind in the interviewing process. It’s usually a sign of bigger human resources issues.
I believe the best systems for responding to applicants is to have an automatic email reply to all submissions that explains that they’ll only be contacted again if they are selected for an interview. It never feels good to get a rejection letter weeks or months later from a position. you never interviewed for and you almost forgot you applied.
Dear [first name],
Thank you for your interest in career opportunities with [company]. We are pleased that you have considered our organization as a potential for your future career endeavors.
Our team is currently reviewing your credentials for the [job title] opportunity and will contact you should there be an interest in discussing your qualifications further. Otherwise, your information will be kept on file for future consideration.
Again, we appreciate your interest in [company]. We wish you much success in your job search.
After my most recent rejection, I searched for resources on rejection letters to find that there are plenty of professionals who agree with me on the importance of being personal in a letter to someone you’ve met for an interview.
Here are some highlights:
Offer some positive aspects about their qualifications or interview
To leave a good impression with the candidate, choose one or two qualities that you liked about them. Describing these positive aspects can also help them better understand the strengths that they can highlight more moving forward.
Personalise the rejection letter
Too often, generic templates are sent to unsuccessful candidates where they not only sound robotic, stiff and dishonest but display a negative and poor representation of the company and recruiter.
When sending rejection letters, personalise it by mentioning something positive you noted during the interview, and make sure their name is spelled correctly; attention to detail shows you made an effort. Of course, it’s understandable that recruiters may be dealing with 50 job openings at any given time and managing hundreds of candidates waiting for a response. But try and see it like this: your candidate could one day be your client, consumer or employer.
Source: Job Adder
The Effect of Different Rejection Letters on Applicants’ Reactions
Organisations appear to pay little attention to rejection letters, considered a special form of organisational communication, despite a growing body of literature that shows they play an important role in terms of employer branding. This study aims to empirically test how applicants’ perceptions are affected by differently manipulated rejection letters. In detail, a sample of 138 rejected candidates filled in an ad hoc questionnaire on perceived selection procedure fairness and satisfaction, after receiving a rejection letter where we had manipulated time latency, the politeness formula and customisation. Results suggest that providing a timely, customised and informal notification is something agreeable, which is able to affect, above all, fairness perceptions and intention to re-apply. In detail, the time latency in giving feedback appears to affect the relationship between fairness perception and organisational recommendation and acts more as a mediator rather than an antecedent variable. Considering that providing feedback is a relatively low-cost activity that at the same time has a big impact on job applicants, our results show that organisations should be sensitive to negative feedback communication, especially in relation to response time, in order to support their employer branding.
Source: behavioral sciences
The candidate took time out of her week to prepare for your interview process, so if you were impressed by her during the interview, it could make a huge difference to let her know. Simply include one strength of hers you remembered from the interview process, like "Our team was particularly impressed with your writing skills."
To truly add value, however, you'll also want to include constructive feedback to help your candidate understand areas she can focus on improving. Take detailed notes during the interview, and when you reject your applicant, provide one or two areas of improvement. Your feedback could help her career success in the future.
Personalize your rejection
Templates make things much more manageable and assure that you address everything that you need to in each rejection. Leave sections in your templates for personalization. Mention the candidate’s name in the opening and sign the message with your own. Take ownership over the rejection, rather than just hiding behind your company’s name. If you’ve spoken with them or they’ve gone through the process, mention something from your conversation if you can. Providing personal details helps the candidate feel like they are more than just a number to you and can soften the rejection blow.
Give them feedback
A lot of companies don’t give feedback as a policy to prevent themselves from possible lawsuits. However, a little goes a long way, and you don’t have to be incredibly specific to give the candidate something of value. However, if you want to go the extra mile, tell them why you chose someone else and why they were not a good fit for the role. Good candidates will appreciate the opportunity to better themselves professionally. Plus, reading an “it’s not you, it’s us” type rejection letter can help soothe the ego hit of getting rejection after rejection. You never know, it could be the very thing that pushes them in a totally new career direction!
Spending a little time reflecting on a candidate's experience can make the jobseeker feel your decision is considered and fair. A rejection with no explanation can lead to confusion, frustration, and upset.
I can’t stop ruminating about the job hunt. So much of it makes absolutely no sense and it preys on all of my insecurities and anxieties making the recent weeks of unpaid unemployment seem like a never ending mind***k. I really do hate to use vulgar slang so early in a post (hey, at least I didn't use "Mind***k" as the title!), but that’s the most accurate word to describe my current perceptions. Yes, I've developed amazing connections and clarity about my life goals as I navigate this process, but at its worst, interviewing has become “a disturbing and extremely confusing experience caused by deliberate psychological manipulation”. Of course my logical self knows that no one is actually consciously going out of their way to make this the most painful process possible, it’s just the way I’m experiencing this flawed system when I feel at my most vulnerable (which sadly is more often lately).
My dad told me that he could tell within three minutes of meeting a potential client whether or not they’d actually implement his strategic marketing plans if he were to consult. He walked away from a number of lucrative opportunities because he had a gut feeling that his talents and time would ultimately be wasted.
I don’t quite have the radar fine-tuned for immediately detecting a lack of integrity or a solidly good fit. At times I’ve been disappointed at unanswered emails late in the search process by people who initially seemed smart and kind. I’ve also been surprised at my ability to connect with people in positions I wasn’t initially that excited about.
I’m learning how important it is for me to be upfront about my need for honest communications with clear expectations and a timeline. I’ve had interviews that lasted only 20 minutes, but I was immediately asked to come back for the next round. Other times I’ve made it through 2 or 3 hour long interviews yet have to send multiple emails to finally get a rejection letter days or weeks later. (Sidenote: I’m still waiting on that rejection from an interview before Thanksgiving. Ugh.)
There seems to be something inherently wrong with the way most companies go about hiring and I’m still trying to determine the best way forward for me. I’ve had friends ask if I’ve thought about using a headhunter. It would be appealing to feel like a potential employer is recruiting me rather than me being at their mercy for an opportunity. The imbalance I’ve consistently sensed in many interviews has taken its toll on me. Yes, it’s true that I’ve taken both jobs that were offered to me immediately without any negotiation, but that doesn’t mean I’m desperate. Employers have to know that everyone you interview probably has submitted resumes to dozens of other companies. The competition is real for both sides. Employers need talent. Jobseekers need offers. In the end, everyone is playing the game, but we don’t all get to know the rules or see the scoreboard.
I love research and gathering data to make decisions. I can get easily frustrated when someone spends 10 minutes telling me stuff about their company that anyone who spent 10 minutes on their website could figure out - I want to learn something that is not common knowledge. That being said, sometimes I don’t want to hear about how great it is to work somewhere if I’m not even going to make it past the first screening. I also don’t like it when it feels as if I’m the only one who needs to give the elevator pitch. Why shouldn’t a potential supervisor feel compelled to share with me why they are an ideal manager/director? In other words, I’d like to flip the switch: Why should I choose them rather than why should I convince them to choose me?
I’ve made so many mistakes in interviews, especially when I’m caught off guard and triggered by a particular question, comment, or reaction. It usually results in me nervously oversharing to the point where I probably come across as being too intense, emotional, and quirky. Despite having had at least 50+ interviews, I’ve only withdrawn myself from one application process. The short version of the story is that someone who wasn’t from Charlottesville and had never lived here referred to the place I consider to be my home as one of the most racist cities in the country. I thought it was an inappropriate thing to declare as fact in an interview (most significantly because it’s just not verifiably true) and I couldn’t see myself working with a person who’d say something that seemed so inflammatory for no useful purpose when we didn’t even know each other yet.
This week I had four wildly different experiences in my job search. I only wish I could have compiled the best of each into one perfect interview.
The first was for a part-time social media specialist position with a local nonprofit. I immediately cliqued with the person interviewing me and it was an authentic and intimate conversation. The only real drawbacks were that it’s only part-time and it’ll take at least a week to find out about next steps. I can’t stand the waiting! I do believe I could make a substantial impact in this role because it’s so similar to other work I’ve already excelled in.
The second call was a screening for a volunteer position with a nonprofit I contacted back in November via Instagram message. I stumbled across their page during my research on early literacy and was amazed at their product and team. It’s important for me to find a worthy place to implement all the ideas I developed during my research on the literacy crisis over the past year. Money isn’t my only motivation or measure of success. I’ve volunteered time for causes that matter to me for most of my adult life and I want to continue that even though I’m also looking to pay the bills. ;) The call went so well I immediately scheduled another with the founder. We spoke for nearly an hour and it was the most refreshing and inspiring conversation I’ve had in weeks. I’m so excited about this opportunity and can’t wait to learn more when I meet with them again this week.
The third call was for another nonprofit education related position. The call was only 30 minutes and it felt like a third of that was taken up with an overview of the company which I already knew about because I was familiar with it. There was a hard stop so I didn’t have the opportunity to ask more than my top priority question on what are next steps and the timeline. It didn’t help that I rambled, so the whole experience felt like a waste of everyone’s time.
My fourth meeting was a group interview for a running-related position that seemed like a dream come true opportunity. Sadly, I failed the most in this particular interview by making critical errors that, in retrospect, I whole-heartedly regret. If I could do it over, I would. After talking it over with my sister, who overheard most of the call (thanks to thin walls in a small townhouse!), I now realize I was actually self-sabotaging the interview by having absolutely no filter and being way too honest. Maybe I was hoping that my experience, resume, portfolio, and personality would carry me into the next round or maybe I was so afraid of getting to the next round only to be rejected that I gave them an easy out. Could it be both? All I know is that for the first time ever I received both a prompt response and a detailed explanation for why I would not be receiving an invitation to a second interview. I really respect that because it’s been nearly impossible to get the same from other potential employers, even those who I’ve met multiple times and provided assignments for review that took hours to complete. It’s possible that this role really isn’t the right fit for me now and I saved myself future disappointment by not investing myself too much into the process. I do know that I appreciated the candor and responsiveness.
So all this is to say: I need a break. Actually I need two breaks — I need a break from interviewing and I need someone to give me a break by offering me a position. I’ve had multiple interviews every week since my part time job ended in early January and it’s emotionally draining. I need to hit Control-ALT-Delete to reboot. Taking a week without scheduling any interviews will give me time to reassess and energize. I also would love to be able to have some assurances made with my next offer, however long it takes to get one. I am looking to start working in a place where I see myself staying for 10+ years. I’ve never had the desire to jump from job to job to advance my career. Loyalty and dedication are important to me and I feel like onboarding takes time. No one can ever fully realize their potential if they aren’t given a solid amount of time to adjust to a new role and grow.
Interviewer: "Tell me about the most important accomplishment of your career."
Me: “Success doesn’t interest me anymore…anyone can do that. But failure…that’s a secret. As much failure as possible, as fast as possible.”
(originally written April 2021, to be updated asap!)
The job search process is new for me. I spent nearly 20 years in my position at AcademyHealth and 22 years working with Handwriting Without Tears. The last time I applied for a job I printed a cover letter and resume and mailed it at the United States Post Office. When I was asked to schedule an interview, I received a call on a land line. Yes, it really was dark times, those 90s
In a recent interview, I told the HR Manager that I’m a runner so I can’t hide my age, it’s right there in the race results. I’m proud to tell potential employers that I’m about to turn 50.
A visit to my website or social media will quickly show that I’m happily celebrating this milestone birthday with my identical twin.
For another position, the HR Coordinator asked me to give her 5 adjectives to describe myself. So I submitted:
All those are absolutely true to my core identity as a person and employee, but if I had to add five more that might not be as flattering, I’d probably include:
This weekend, I had an amazing conversation with an old friend, from the 90s, who gave me the best advice for pursuing my next position. Now I’m inspired again with a list of proactive things to do including requesting informational interviews with people who are in what I’d consider “dream jobs” to find out their stories and learn about their journeys into their current roles. And, I am committed to keep applying for even more positions in fields and companies I might not have initially considered.
I don’t know what the next chapter in my life will be, but I’m excited to start writing it.
Do you have any job hunt “lessons learned” you’d like to share? I’d love feedback and tips. Leave a comment or send me an email. Snail mail is also accepted. 🙂
Having survived dozens of interviews, I’m finally beginning to understand the best way for potential employers to get to know me as a person and a prospective team member and the conventional interview is NOT the way.
A friend once told me something about hiring that I’m not recalling quite right, but basically it’s this: You can likely teach anyone to do anything in terms of the job, but you can’t change their personality. Finding the person who is the right fit is more important than finding the one who looks perfect on paper with all the requirements checked off.
Unless the position you’re trying to fill requires spontaneously answering questions in front of complete strangers, how is an interview the best way to evaluate someone’s potential? If a role requires certain skills shouldn’t those be assessed in a real world scenario applicable to your company rather than completely based on prior experience?
Whenever I have doubts about my marketing abilities, I remind myself that I’ve gotten a lot of interviews and that’s because I know how to market myself, on paper at least. When I think of the ratio of resumes submitted to phone screens to second or third interviews, I think I am doing pretty good considering the current climate. However, I can’t help but think that my aversion to the standard interview and my inability to play the game of first impressions has been the reason for only two offers. I know that I’m not going to change who I am and I’d rather show my true self from the get go, but part of me wishes I could have the perfect interview - one that is a real conversation, an open dialogue, an exchange with honesty and authenticity.
ATTENTION HR MANAGERS: Please share the majority of questions you may ask in an interview beforehand. Have candidates record a short video or submit written answers prior to meeting so that the interview can be more like a conversation. If you’re following a script, asking the same questions in the same order to all candidates, why keep it a secret? Wouldn’t you rather see who prepares and who doesn’t? Don’t you want to find out right away who cares enough about the process to research your company and think about what they have to offer and how they see themselves fitting in to your work culture?
I really love the section on Interview Questions in "The Ideal Team Player." (see sample questions below) I've decided to compose answers for these sample questions because I know it will help me learn more about what I have to offer and what I need to thrive in my next position.
* Tell me about the most important accomplishment of your career.
* What was the most embarrassing moment in your career? Or the biggest failure? How did you handle that embarrassment or failure?
* What is your greatest weakness?
* How do you handle apologies, either giving or accepting them?
* Tell me about someone who is better than you in an area that really matters to you.
* What is the hardest you've ever worked on something in your life?
* How would you describe your personality?
* What do you do that others in your personal life might find annoying?
* What kind of people annoy you the most, and how do you deal with them?
* Would your former colleagues describe you as an empathic person? Can you give an example of how you've demonstrated empathy to a teammate?
In the middle of writing this I had another great conversation with my Dad about my frustrations with the job hunt. I’ve been really struggling lately with what feels like a broken system in terms of the standard hiring process.
I can’t help but find comparisons between scrolling LinkedIn and Match.com. It’s a tedious endeavor filled with hope and despair. I’m quite grateful that I have been married for almost 22 years to someone I’ve known since 1994! Looking for a new job feels like searching for future husband on a dating app that has resulted in nothing but a lot of awkward first dates.
Sometimes I feel optimistic and determined. Other times I feel powerless, ignored, and desperate. I know that I’m one of a kind. I know that I have high standards of myself and others. I know that I throw myself 100% into everything I do. I love learning and growing. I thrive on being creative and responsive. I’m honest and I’m intense, but I’m also empathetic and supportive.
I want to be evaluated not only on my resume and personality, but on what I can do for the organization I’m trying to join. My greatest strengths are best demonstrated in my work and that’s why I’ve appreciated the opportunity to submit a specific writing sample, social content, or presentation tailored to the particular role. I’ve only been required to do this a handful of times, and I didn’t always get an offer, but I knew that I did my best and that’s all that mattered to me.
I completely missed out on the “West Elm Caleb” witch hunt in real time. I saw some references on twitter, had no idea what it was about, but kept scrolling. Today I finally read a piece in The Washington Post about what happened.
The result is a chain of memeification, where the person becomes a metaphor for something larger.Why people choose to partake in this phenomenon often lies in the gray area between wanting to fit in and wanting to hold people accountable, Richards said. With West Elm Caleb being a “stand-in for sucky men,” it made it easier for women to go after a figure “that society doesn’t generally hold responsible” — those, she said, are “very legitimate emotions.”
I’ve spent a lot of time over the past week thinking about injustice and accountability, human decency and protocols, laws versus morals, right and wrong.
This Caleb situation felt strangely familiar to me although I’ve been happily married for 21 years. I haven’t been scrolling hinge or bumble, but I have been methodically checking LinkedIn, Idealist, and a few nonprofit and running related job boards. I haven’t gone on dozens of first dates, but I’ve had 50+ interviews over the past two years. The emotions involved in looking for true love and trying to find a new job are quite similar and it ain’t easy.
In the midst of pandemic-related layoffs and the great resignation, many job-seekers are spending hours writing tailored cover letters, preparing for zoom interviews, and waiting. And, for many, the waiting is the hardest part. Especially for someone eager for a new opportunity and suffering from an anxiety disorder.
So many of the emotions I’ve experienced in the job hunt are ones absent in my life for more than 20 years. It’s true that I haven’t had an interview since the 1990s, but I also haven’t had a date. The feelings involved in searching for the one - the one perfect love or the one perfect career - are quite similar and it’s exhausting. It’s emotionally draining to go from excitement to hopelessness, from anticipation to desperation, from confidence to rejection.
I joke that I could probably go into Human Resources now because I’ve learned so much about the hiring process and how to make it fair, inclusive, and compassionate. I plan to explore everything I’ve learned and all my recommendations in future posts, but I feel compelled to get something written about this today because I’m feeling quite raw and writing helps me heal.
1. Do not post a job without including the salary range.
My favorite local job board is the Center for Nonprofit Excellence because of this:
“Effective January 2020, CNE will review all submissions before going live to ensure salary ranges are listed as part of our commitment to equity and transparency.”
I really don’t like to play guessing games. Posting a job announcement without including a salary range is like listing a house for sale without an asking price. It makes no sense and it’s wasting everybody’s time.
Yes, there should be room for negotiation and salary is not the only thing that determines whether or not a position is the right fit, but if an organization or company is not willing to be transparent about salaries then it’s not somewhere I want to work. One of my first employers, AcademyHealth, would give all positions a level with an accompanying salary range and that information was available to everyone including potential applicants. That compensation visibility spoiled me for future positions where everything was a secret.
2. Utilize auto reply.
If you have applicants send an email to apply for a position, then set up an auto reply. Keep it simple and honest. “We’ve received your resume. If your qualifications match our needs, we will contact you.”
3. Schedule interviews with Calendly, Doodle, or similar software.
Nothing feels like a bigger waste of time than sending multiple emails back and forth to schedule an interview when there is scheduling software available to make it easier for everyone.
4. Give an overview of the hiring process with firm dates on when decisions will be made and honor those.
I’ve seen position announcements that include all the stages of the interviewing process with dates and I’ve found that to be quite useful.
Target Date to Hire:
As expected, I’ve had many more phone screens and virtual interviews than final interviews. I’ve learned to ask specifics about when decisions will be made regarding next steps and I appreciate when these deadlines are honored.
5. Interviews should only be one part of the hiring process.
One of my greatest strengths (and weakness) is my honesty. I really hate interviews and sometimes I am really not very good at them. Often I’ll admit that to a prospective employer even though I know I probably shouldn’t, but it’s the truth. I have an anxiety disorder and sometimes it gets in the way of me making a good first impression. I’d much rather complete an assignment or project to demonstrate my ability to perform the tasks necessary for the role. Yet I’ve only been asked to do something like this a handful of times. I might not always be great at interviews, but I know that the depth of my experience and the quality of my resume and portfolio showcases my creativity, enthusiasm, and strong work ethic. I would take any opportunity to work on a project tailored to a particular position to see if I would make a good fit.
Consider requesting videos or sharing interview questions in advance.
Preparation is a crucial part to my success. One of the reasons I hate interviews is because I never know what I’m going to be asked so I feel unprepared at the onset which causes anxiety. If I ever had the chance to review the questions before an interview, I know I would be more succinct. If a job doesn’t involve public speaking without having prepared remarks, then why do we ask that of applicants? Asking candidates to submit a video with their answers to a few complex questions beforehand is a great way to even the playing field.
Require an assignment.
The first time I was asked to create a presentation before an interview I felt liberated. I thought, wow, they’ll get to see my creativity, skills, and work ethic before they even meet me. This is awesome! It was a great learning experience even though I didn’t get the job. When I didn’t make it to the next round, I was offered the option to receive feedback on my interview from the hiring company. The analysis I received ended with the opportunity to pay for Coaching Services. ?!?!?! That seemed rather shady and perhaps unethical, but luckily it was the nudge I needed to talk with my dad, a retired successful strategic marketing consultant, as a free resource for career advice. He’s been a lifesaver!
6. Personalize correspondence with applicants you’ve interviewed and who have completed tasks.
People who are interviewed deserve a prompt response and more than a form letter.
I’ve been ghosted by so many potential employers and even though everyone tells me not to take it personally and that’s just the way it is, I cannot accept that. If you create a connection with another human being by having a conversation with them, albeit a staged professional one, they deserve to be treated with respect and honesty.
I never say I’m going to do something and then not do it. Not in my personal life and not in any of my professional or volunteer roles. Responsiveness and communication are top priority for me and my expectations of others are based on what I give and provide.
“No news is bad news” when you’re in the job hunt, but when I receive a response from a company that never even interviewed me, I feel even more hurt and angry at the individuals who met me, spent time with me, and still never gave me an authentic response and official rejection letter.
True story: I had an interview with someone on the evening before Thanksgiving and although I sent a thank you to multiple emails immediately after and then followed up a week later, the final email I received from the person who scheduled the interview was: “Thank you so much for sharing this information. We will be in touch with next steps.” That was 11/30/21. It’s 1/23/22. Yeah, I know I didn’t get the job, but it would have been nice if someone confirmed that.
I recently had a conversation with my sister about this “pet peeve” of ours - when someone doesn’t follow through on a promise. That’s how I came across this amazing organization: “because I said I would.”
“because I said I would is a social movement and nonprofit dedicated to the betterment of humanity through promises made and kept. We are changing lives through character development programs and volunteer projects in partnership with schools, juvenile detention centers, prisons and communities.”
This seems like a movement I could have started! I’m excited to learn more and volunteer to help.
People who submit an assignment and/or go through multiple rounds of interviews deserve a personal note.
The reason I’m writing this today is because I just endured a torturous week. On Monday, January 10, I had a second interview for a position at an organization where I felt I would thrive. I completed two group interviews and an assignment and was told a final decision would be made the following week. I honestly thought I was perfect for the role and would get an offer on Monday or Tuesday. When that didn’t happen, I couldn’t take the anxiety of waiting anymore so I sent an email asking “when” a final would be made. Four hours later I received a message with the five most frustrating words in the hiring process: “We will be in touch soon.”
For someone with anxiety, the word “soon” is akin to ghosting. I know there are studies out there documenting how people who know they have to wait x number of hours for something can handle the waiting better than people who are repeatedly given a vague delay without any clear end in sight. It’s why those upcoming train boards on the DC metro almost made commuting less stressful. When interviewing feels like a delayed train with no ETA it zaps the energy out of you and it makes it harder to prepare for other interviews. In a word, it sucks.
I’ve gotten to the point where I can start compiling the pros/cons of any potential offer so that if it never comes I can console myself… to a degree. I’ve been seeing a lot of articles and cartoons lately about imposter syndrome and the pains of unemployment. In a society that asks, “So what do you do for a living?” it can feel quite demoralizing to be unemployed whether or not it’s by choice.
Identity and Acts of Kindness
When I was unable to sleep on Friday night I caught an episode of “Back On The Record with Bob Costas” with Lindsey Vonn talking about how skiing is something she loves to do, but it’s “not who I am. It doesn’t define me as a person.”
And I was like whoa!!!! I had an epiphany. Here I was feeling like a complete loser because I didn’t get offered a job that I really wanted, but that decision didn’t actually change who I am. It doesn’t define me as a person. It’s their loss and maybe it will eventually be my gain because I’ll be available for an even better opportunity. Either way, there are so many things that make me proud of the person I am and what I do for money is not at the top of the list anymore.
When you interview someone and they are honest and raw about their strengths and weaknesses, please treat them with compassion when you decide to pursue another candidate. Including just one reference to something unique to their application and interview would mean a world of difference to someone who’s put themselves out there to be rated and judged.
Sure, it might be easier for you to send out a generic rejection letter regardless of the personal efforts someone made to join your company, but receiving a response full of standard “we regret to inform you” cliches, one that has been cut and pasted and could have been sent to someone you never even met negates any positive connections that were made during the interview. Please take the time to be kind, empathic, and sincere.