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How Dare Unemployed People Seek Jobs!

, , , , , | Working | March 11, 2021

Years ago, I was laid off from my IT job along with about twenty others. It wasn’t personal; the company was experiencing a downturn and simply didn’t have enough work for all of us. One of the nice things the company did was to connect us with an outplacement agency. The idea was that the agency would help us fine-tune our resumes and practice our interviewing skills.

Outplacement Agent: “One question interviewees always get asked is, ‘Tell me about yourself.’ This is an opportunity for you to do a thirty-second ‘commercial’ on how awesome you are. Now, you were all laid off, and even though it was due to no fault of your own, it’s something that your ‘commercial’ should include. Your interviewer will find out about it sooner or later, and it’s better coming from you.”

So, I come up with my “commercial” and I make sure that it mentions the fact that I was involved in a layoff due to my former company downsizing. I get an interview, and this is how it goes.

Interviewer: “Tell me about yourself.”

I think, “Great! Here’s my chance!”

Me: “I worked for [Company] for eight years. Earlier this year, I was part of a mass layoff due to the company having to downsize.”

I continue to speak for about twenty more seconds.

Interviewer: “Mm-hmm. Tell me about your current position.”

Me: “Um… well, my former position at [Company] was—”

Interviewer: “I said your current position.”

Me: “As I mentioned, I was part of a mass layoff earlier this year—”

The interviewer stares at me.

Interviewer: “Oh. So you’re unemployed.”

She says this with the same tone that you’d use to say, “Oh. So you have LEPROSY.”

The rest of the interview stumbles along, but it is clear that she’s lost interest in me. Then, she mentions this gem.

Interviewer: “Our employees work very hard. They never take coffee breaks, and if they take lunch breaks, they always eat at their desks and are back at work in fifteen minutes.”

Me: “…”

I desperately needed a job, and if they’d offered it to me, I would have taken it,but I can’t say that I was heartbroken when that didn’t happen. I got an offer from a different company eventually, and eighteen years later, I’m still there.

Sometimes Karma Is A Little Less Instant

, , , , | Working | February 11, 2021

I apply to work in a call center for a major bank in the USA. I have worked in call centers for years and figure I have a decent shot at it.

During the interview, I have the usual “interview jitters” and am a little nervous, but I do pretty decently. The interviewer tells me that they will let me know in the next few days if I’ve got the job and what the starting date is, so I feel pretty confident leaving. My sister interviews right after me and is given the same parting discussion.

Maybe three days later, she gets a phone call offering her the job and I do not. A few days after that, I call and ask if they have decided to go with another candidate. They apologize that I have not been called and state that since I did not reply to them within twenty-four hours, I am no longer eligible. That’s within twenty-four hours of a call I never got, mind you. 

Fast forward to about two years later. I am working in a super-maximum-security prison with death row and segregated housing populations. Thank you, snarky call center, for rejecting me; I am so much happier now!

My sister calls me up and we talk about our respective jobs. She says she is considering moving to join me and asks what the application process is. In the twists and turns of the conversation, she asks me if I remember my interview for the call center. I say I did and she comments that she ran into our interviewer a few days ago. I am surprised that in two years, she only just now ran into her again, but then again, it is a building that literally takes up four square city blocks with sky paths over the roads.

My sister asks if I want to hear what she found out about why they picked her and not me. Of course, I am curious, given that they pinned the blame on me not calling them at the time, which was clearly a cop-out. Their conversation went like this:

Sister: “Hey, long time no see. How have you been?”

Interviewer: “I’ve been good! Glad to see you’re still with the company. I knew I picked the right sister!”

Sister: “Oh? Well, they told her it was because she didn’t call them back to accept the job offer, even though they never called her.”

Interviewer: “Yeah, that is what we tell the types that just don’t have the confidence and assertiveness to work in such an intense work environment such as this. She was pretty timid and clearly would let a customer just run right over her.”

Sister: “Right. You do realize she isn’t timid at all, right? She was nervous, while I was half-drunk during my interview so I didn’t give a flip. Oh, well. She has a better job now, anyway, so it was a blessing in the end.”

The interviewer completely ignores everything my sister just said.

Interviewer: “Well, I hope she found a good job. Where did she go? [Third-Party Call Center down the street] or [Time-Share Scam Call Center]?”

Sister: *With a huge smile* “Neither. She works at a SuperMax as a guard with their death row and segregation populations. Doesn’t seem that being timid and unassertive is really an issue she has.”

The interviewer loses her fake cheery smile.

Interviewer: “Hmm… Maybe I dropped the ball there. Can you do me a favor and not make that too public? I had to convince a lot of people that she was too timid to work here because she was a guaranteed hire based on her work history alone. I could get in trouble if they found out I was wrong.”

Sister: “As long as I work here, I will never volunteer that information to anyone. Don’t worry.”

About four months later, my sister put in her notice as she got hired on at the prison to be a guard, as well. When she moved in with me, I asked her one night if she kept her promise or if she told them. My sister laughed and told me the interviewer had demanded she do an exit interview. 

During the interview, the Big Boss asked my sister why she was quitting. My sister told them that she was joining me at my job which was better and for the state. They asked her if I was the same sister that had applied to the call center with her, and she told the Big Boss that I was. At that point, the interviewer started trying to end the exit interview, but the Big Boss told her to be quiet as she was the one who had insisted on it after my sister initially refused one.

Big Boss then asked my sister what type of job it was. My sister told him she was to be a guard at a SuperMax one state over, and at his prompting, she told him I work in the segregation unit and with death row on occasion.

Big Boss got a dark look on his face and asked if my sister had anything else to say. When she said no, he told her she could leave but the interviewer must stay. My sister, when leaving after packing her desk up, watched the interviewer getting walked out in tears.

We had a good laugh, toasted her for rejecting me and pushing me to pursue my dreams in corrections, and then moved on with our lives, as I hope the interviewer did.

Honesty Is Emergency Route To Success

, , , , , | Working | January 14, 2021

I am job hunting. A local temp agency has a job listed, so I apply. They call me that afternoon, and I can smell the desperation through the phone. Apparently, I am the only Excel expert who has replied at all.

I interview the next day. Let the parade of facepalms begin!

The large company needs to update their emergency escape maps so that, in the event of a fire, employees and visitors know where to run and where to gather. Doesn’t sound much like an Excel job yet.

They have hand-drawn maps of some sites, architectural drawings from some sites, and pictures from a helicopter of one. And they had one electronic file! Some gifted employee had drawn a map in Paint, put it in an Excel file (for reasons never explained), and sent it in.

The project manager, a brilliant but non-technical guy, looked at all this and decided that Excel must be the tool to use. And they needed an expert, because, well, experts make them look better.

I have a policy to never visibly facepalm during a job interview. I follow my policy but the temptation is so strong.

Me: “Excel, while an awesome tool, is absolutely the wrong tool for the job. You’re trying to drive nails with a CNC lathe. I recommend that you find somebody who is good with MS Visio.”

We shake hands and I leave.

The temp agency calls while I am driving home.

Temp Agency Rep: “Can you please spell ‘Visio’ for us?”

I do. They call me back again later that afternoon. 

Temp Agency Rep: “Do you know how to use Visio?”

Me: “I do; it is really pretty simple.”

Temp Agency Rep: “The boss you interviewed with was impressed enough with your honestly suggesting he hire someone else that he wants to hire you.”

So, I spent six months tracing Google Earth images of worksites and figuring out which escape routes fit our state’s fairly vague rules for emergency escape maps. Easy work, nice people.

The job could have been done in a fraction of that time by a decent graphic designer, but they wanted me, I wanted the paycheck, and the work got done.

This story is part of our Best Of January 2021 roundup!

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Impracticality Straight Out Of The 1950s

, , , , | Working | CREDIT: all_powerful_acorn | December 9, 2020

I am rather new to the IT industry. I have been out of college for about a year and am looking for a more full-time or professional position. I apply for a position at an auction and publishing company. Before I even get the interview lined up, I have to take an hour-long knowledge test and an hour-long programming skills test. After that, I get an in-person interview. I am instructed to arrive an hour early and I had about a two-hour drive to get to the location.

I’m a woman, so I wear nice black pants, a button-up shirt, and a blazer over it, kind of like a relaxed women’s suit. When I finally get into the interview, I am getting strange vibes from the interviewer. We get through some questions, and then she loudly sighs.

Interviewer: “Is this how you usually dress?”

I am visibly shocked because I am dressed professionally.

Me: “What do you mean?

Interviewer: “All women are required to wear dresses, knee-length or a bit longer.”

I laugh, thinking she is joking. She doesn’t react.

Me: “Is that the policy for the sales floor?”

They do a lot of in-person sales, so I could kind of understand this policy for them.

Interviewer: “No. That’s for everyone. If you work here, you must wear a dress every day.”

This is an IT job that includes quite a bit of dirty work, like running wire under raised floors — quite a bit of crawling around.

The interviewer seems offended that I would question this policy.

Interviewer: “To look professional, all women must wear dresses. Pants make women look tall and less feminine.”


I just kind of go along with the rest of the interview and ask the receptionist about it as I am leaving. It isn’t just this interviewer.

Receptionist: “Yes, that is the company policy. We even get lectured if our dresses are too long or too short; they must be around knee-length. And the dresses must be paired with heels. The only exception is if you’re pregnant.”

This was in a midwestern US state, so yes, they had to wear dresses and heels when it was cold and snowy. No exceptions, except for pregnancy.

I was so glad I didn’t get a call back from that place.

In hindsight, I should have raised more of a fuss with the interviewer, but I was young and still had the idea that if I said something wrong, it could ruin my career.

Since then, I’ve gotten a Master’s in cybersecurity and I now have a job that I love. It was so refreshing to go into a field where employers are excited to hire me and treat it as an opportunity for both of us instead of just a “privilege for me to work for them.”

This story is part of our International Women’s Day roundup!

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She’s Old Enough To Know Better

, , , , , , , | Working | December 4, 2020

I didn’t go to university at eighteen. There were a lot of courses I liked the sound of, and I had good enough grades, but I just didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life, so I took a year to travel and then settled into a job as a bank teller.

After taking some courses on media, marketing, and publicity, I discovered that I really enjoyed the work, and I found that the university where I lived did a course on it. I applied as a mature student. I graduated three years later, just after I turned thirty.

I applied for various graduate positions and got interviews with all of them. Most interviews went well. Except one.

It starts with a phone interview. The interviewer seems to be impressed with my extra-curricular activities. During university, I was very involved with various projects and events and did various summer internships. I am asked to come in for an in-person interview.

I have a good feeling about it… until I get into the interview room. The interviewer is smiling and reviewing what I assume is my CV, but when she looks up at me, her smile falls.

Interviewer: “Oh, no, sorry, I called in [My Name].”

Me: “I am [My Name]. I think we spoke over the phone?”

The interviewer looks me up and down.

Interviewer: “Oh. Okay. Well, please sit down.”

I do so, and there is a long pause while I wait for her to ask her questions.

Interview: “Okay, well… I feel I should be honest. This position is probably not suitable for you.”

Me: “I don’t understand. I have all the experience necessary and you asked me to come in for an interview.”

Interviewer: “Yes, well, this position is for… well, it’s meant for people who… who are, well…”

Me: “Younger…?”

The interviewer goes a little red and shakes her head.

Interviewer: “Oh, no, no. It’s just… the position is for people who haven’t had the same opportunities you’ve had.”

Me: “What opportunities?”

Interviewer: “Well… ah, you see they’re for people with no experience.”

Me: “I don’t have any experience in this industry.”

Interviewer: “Ah, no, I mean… Well, look here; it says you worked for [Organisation] and you also worked on [Project].”

Me: “Those were all opportunities through the university. All students have access to them.”

Interviewer: “Oh, but… well, here it says you worked at [Bank] for five years.”

Me: “What does that have to do with anything?”

Interviewer: “Well, that’s experience other applicants haven’t had.”

Me: “Any student could go and work in a bank. Plus, my teller experience has nothing to do with this position. It’s not the same industry.”

Interviewer: “Well, the thing is, honestly, I think you’d be… Well, don’t you think this job is beneath you? Wouldn’t you prefer a more senior role?”

Me: “If I thought the job was ‘beneath’ me, I wouldn’t have applied. Also, how can I get a senior role if I don’t have the experience?”

Interviewer: “Well, it’s just… Well, this job is designed for students who have just graduated and are looking for a place to start.”

Me: “I have just graduated and I’m looking for a place to start.”

Interviewer: “Yes, but… well…”

Me: “Are you sure this has nothing to do with the fact that I am older than most graduates?”

The interviewer frantically waves her hands, shaking her head.

Interviewer: “No, no, no. It’s nothing to do with your age. You’re just not the type of candidate this role is intended for.”

Me: “Then why did you ask me to come in for this interview?”

The interviewer continues to insist it has nothing to do with my age, that I’m just not suitable for the position. I eventually give up, thank her for her time, and leave.

The next day, I go to my university’s career centre; the interview was arranged through them and the company has a relationship with the university. I report what happened. The career advisor is shocked. She tells me she will deal with it immediately and she will call me to let me know the outcome.

A few days go by, and I get a call from another company I interviewed with offering me a job, which I accept.

A short while later, I get a call from the manager of the career centre. He informs me that he had a long discussion with the company and reprimanded them for their behaviour, stating that if they did it again, the university would cut all ties.

He says the company was extremely apologetic and offered me the position. I tell him I have already accepted a job offer elsewhere, and anyway, I don’t want a job just because they messed up. That would be unfair to the other applicants. The manager tells me he understands and will call them back.

A few hours later, I have a missed call from the company. They left a voicemail. I think it was them offering an apology just to ensure the matter is resolved. I am wrong. It was the interviewer.

Interviewer: “How dare you lie to get me in trouble just because I didn’t hire you?! If you want to be petty and immature, fine. I’m going to call every hiring manager in the area and have you blacklisted. You’ll never work in this industry!”

Shocked and a little scared, I rushed back to the career centre and played the message for one of the career advisors who rushed to get the manager. He listened to it and told me to wait while he called the company.

After a while, he came back and explained that the company was going to check whether the interviewer had called any companies to blacklist me, and if she had, they would rectify the situation immediately. Luckily, it turned out that she hadn’t yet contacted anyone.

I started my job a few weeks later without any hassle, and I continue to work there years later. I did not receive any more threatening voicemails. I don’t know what happened to the woman who interviewed me. I can only hope she learned her lesson.

This story is part of our Best Of December 2020 roundup!

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