I have been looking for a full-time job in my area for about four years, with no luck. I seem to be overqualified to do anything but teach, and full-time faculty positions are hard to come by. A few weeks before graduation, I decided to open up my job search to a slightly larger geographic area to see what would happen. Within two weeks I was offered what sounded like the perfect job for me. I began to make arrangements to transition to this job, and things were finally looking up. After several weeks of preparation, I arrived at my destination. Then my dream job quickly deteriorated into a nightmare.
I arrived at work at 10:00 am yesterday, as scheduled, and met with Grace* (names changed to protect identities.) Grace asked me to tell her a little bit about myself and asked about my experience and comfort level with InDesign and pagination. I’ve dabbled in InDesign and have no experience with pagination, and I told her as much. Keep in mind that she is the first person at this company to ask me about my experience with these particular items.
After speaking with Grace for a few minutes, I went off with another employee for a tour of their messy facility, which was apparently in the midst of some sort of major transition that no one had thought to inform me of (I would soon learn that the majority of their staff had recently walked off the job.) He showed me my new office, introduced me to a couple of my new coworkers, and sat me down in a conference room to fill out the standard new hire paperwork. Then he suggested I head out for a long lunch and return around 1:00 when Cathy* from corporate would be in to begin walking me through the process of doing my new job.
Around 11:30, I received a call from Grace asking that I stop back by the office for a quick minute. I headed back to the office where Grace led me into her office and shut the door. She then proceeded to tell me that she had decided I was not qualified for the position after all, and that she hoped it wouldn’t be too much of an inconvenience for me to leave now. I was stunned. I could not think of a single intelligent response and honestly do not remember leaving the building.
I’ve had a night to sleep on it, and a morning to think things through a bit. In hindsight, I can see that there were several signs that this might not be such a great situation I was getting myself into. So, I decided to create a list of the warning signs you should look for when conducting a job search so maybe you will not make the same mistake I did.
- Do not apply for generic job postings that fail to reveal the company’s identity. This is one rule I typically follow but overlooked just this once because it was one of those rare situations where I could submit my resume with one click without having to also fill out a complete online application, do three summersaults, and offer up my firstborn child in a sacrifice to the gods of human resources. The job posting was very generic, stating only that a small town newspaper in the Midwest was seeking an editor. What could it hurt to shoot my resume over and find out where the job was?
- Proceed with caution when working with an interviewer who is incapable of setting up her voicemail box. I played phone tag with the person who called me to request an interview for this position for two days. Every time I reached her voicemail box, I was told that her mailbox was full. At one point, I called her office and began to explain to her assistant (or whoever it was that answered the office phone) that I had tried to leave Annie* a message but—“Let me guess, her mailbox was full,” the girl told me. Obviously this is a regular occurrence. Now, this rule may vary by the industry. But in my industry, I think it’s fairly important that someone who is high enough in the company to have hiring responsibilities should also be capable of setting up her voicemail box so she can receive messages.
- Do not engage in a job interview with a person who is admittedly under the influence of prescription narcotics. When Annie finally called me back to interview me, she told me that she had just had surgery that morning and was on a lot of drugs for the pain. So, could I please excuse her if she slurs her words a bit? We then proceeded with what I thought at the time was either the best interview ever or the worst interview ever. At any rate, it was definitely the strangest. I thought Annie had provided me with information that she might regret disclosing later. But at the same time, given the outcome, I guess she forgot to discuss some of the more important elements of the job or even ask if I had the experience to do them.
- Do not accept a job interview sight unseen without ensuring you have been thoroughly interviewed. You know what they say. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. After my strange interview with Annie, she told me someone would be calling me to initiate the next step of the interview process. A few days later, Cathy called and offered me the job. There was no second interview. Cathy called me from her car and basically said, “We want you. How soon can you be here?” The interview process felt like it hadn’t been completed. And apparently, it hadn’t.
I just wasted over a month of my life preparing to take a job that evaporated within two hours of me starting the position. This entire situation could have been avoided if only… if only one of about fifty different things would have happened. If only someone had asked me about my InDesign and pagination experience during the interview process. If only the one and only person who had interviewed me hadn’t been high on pain killers during our interview. If only they had invited me to come in for a face-to-face interview before offering me the position.
I’m sure this, like most things, has happened for a reason. I am glad I found out what type of company I was dealing with before I got any deeper into the position. But I also wish I would have noticed the warning signs along the way and turned back before I had wasted so much time and money on this job. On the bright side, I guess I’ll have lots of time to write while I’m unemployed this summer.
What’s your worst new-hire experience? What signs do you think a person should look for that there’s something not quite right about a job? Please share in the comments below.
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