Just not that into you

As I’m wading back into hiring hell, something Tiff said to me yesterday made all the sense in the world. A good interview isn’t necessarily one that results in a job, but in both parties reaching the same conclusion — that both parties either see the fit, or they agree that it’s not a fit. Either way, it’s still win-win.

Now that I’m not the one job-hunting as though my life depended on it (because it did), I’m in familiar territory — a busy hiring manager with a pile of resumes that are great for ANY JOB BUT THE ONE THEY APPLIED FOR.

I don’t want to see writing samples because any good editor can fix up crappy copy, and thus the applicant has good clips. (I’ve run into that before, with people who actually can’t write a declarative sentence when you give them an on-site test. *shudder*) I don’t even care so much about the resume itself — junior-level staffers don’t always have the “right” experience yet.

Personally, I was lucky to fall into jobs that, while they may have sucked, they gave me a few interesting things to write on a resume, so that’s important but I’m happy to be the one to provide that good experience. There’s something about finding someone unjaded and untainted by the world that holds magic — I have a great opportunity to train them correctly and not spend half my time breaking their bad habits.

But damn, people, put some fucking THOUGHT into cover letters. It’s my first “conversation” with you. And as of today, it’s our last if I can’t remember you.

I think the reason I love Simon Cowell is that he’s able to tell people, “I can’t remember your name.” It’s like when you have a crush on someone at school and they see right through you, when you walk down the hall. You don’t have to give up on the dream — you just have to figure out how to be noticed.

The last person I hired stood out above everyone because her application package contained no bullshit whatsoever. She wrote a clean, direct letter, her resume was easy to read, and she gave me URLs of her writing samples. All in two pages.

Hell, when I last found myself looking for jobs, I did that. I put my clips online in PDF and Word format, and all anyone had to do was do a lil clickey-clickey, and there I was. Saves people the hassle of asking me for the stuff I already knew they were going to want. Thus, I could present myself as an efficient, planful person who was already thinking about how I could help them.

But really, it would help if people SHOWED that they took the time to read the ad. It’s pretty easy to see when someone’s just doing a mass mailing. And I can’t fault them for it — we all did it at one point or another. And while you won’t see my name on the ad and you don’t know who I am personally or what exactly I need you for, I try to give a good enough description of who I need for YOU to be.

I KNOW you don’t have the technical knowledge you will eventually acquire with me. But I really wonder how people seem to think that writing about sweeping floors and lifeguarding taught them how to be deadline-oriented. Hey, I’m not ruling out the possibility that it can happen, but show me, don’t tell me.

One resume had me banging my head off the wall. Don’t tell me you’re fluent in Spanish and have a “general working knowledge of English” when you’re appling to be a copyeditor. I applaud your skills, really I do, but I asked for proficiency/fluency in grammatical and stylistic nuances. Others need not apply. *bonk*

They’re not all bad, though. Again, you might not be an exact match, but there are other positions in the can that you don’t know about, and I’m happy to keep you on file when they become available.

The thing with “kids today,” and everyone in general, really, is they’re title-happy. I always was, too, so I can make peace with my snobbery. 😉 I wouldn’t have applied for the job I had immediately prior to this one based on title alone. But desperation kicked in and I learned about the expectations (and the salary), and hey, call me Purple People Eater for all I care — if I’m learning a new skill and paying my bills, it really doesn’t matter.

I made the fabulous transition from non-profit sector to corporate whore. And while it damaged my credit score more than I’ll ever be able to repair, I got scads of good experience and got good titles because people don’t last in that realm, and charitable organizations may not be able to pay you but they WILL call you an impressive name. Jazzed up my resume enough to be impressive enough for the for-profit world. I’d recommend that career path to anyone just looking to establish themselves.

I also look at work history periods. I do expect people to put in a year at every place. One resume, the girl just started her job in January and is now applying for a new one (in March). I’ve HATED jobs but always resolved to put in that year. There’s a certain “I don’t give a fuck” spirit that helps to get you through it — that, “Oh, thanks for the shitty review. It’ll be the last time you get to degrade me on paper. Eat me!” moment that gives you some inner triumph when the world is stomping on your spirit. (I take exception if it’s an internship, of course, but their last job was a “real” one, so I’m left to wonder whether you’ll do the same to me.)

But see, in that last note, I go back to the earlier point that if it ain’t a fit, it ain’t a fit. And I’m thrilled to celebrate the employer and employee who say, “You know what? I’m just not that into you.” That’s why we do 90-day probationary periods — it’s our legal and ethical “get out of jail free” card.

The hard part of it is the attitude I have, which is that you need to put in your year. And a hell of a lot of training goes on in those initial three months, so it’s hard to lose someone after all that time. A warm body is still a body, but is it better than an outright void?

My team is legendary for exhaustive interviews. It’s like we interview senior V.P.s and departmental assistants equally thoroughly. But it’s because each is so thoroughly integral to all of our processes, and it’s not a title thing; it’s a compatibility issue. I think so many (other) companies hire just for the sake of filling an open position, especially one that was open for awhile or one that pops up for a new project — it’s easy to someone’s qualifying characteristic to be “has a heartbeat.”

We do the same in interpersonal relationships, but it always turns out to be a disaster if we date someone just because we’re lonely and not because the person has the potential to be a solid life partner.

But I don’t. I don’t want someone in my life just for the sake of being there, and I’m trying to maintain my highest standards of excellence when it comes to the person who will be helping me to meet all the goals that are contingent upon us all getting a nice bonus next year. 🙂 Primadonnas and putzes need not apply — I can help you to achieve your dream career, I can help you to get the experience it will take you to get a better job (even if it’s not with me) or I can help you now to realize just what your career path should instead be.

My boss said something interesting to me during my performance review, that he sees me more as a leader/visionary than a manager, and he looks forward to seeing me develop the people I’m going to bring on board. So, that’s not something I’m going to take lightly — we work our asses off, and we all grow together.

My only fear is that there’s so much work that the opportunities for creativity sometimes fall by the wayside, under the pressures of juggling deadlines. But a huge part of our long hours is the relationship-building. We don’t pass up chances to bond and really, truly get to know each other. We drop everything to help someone who needs direction. We collectively pitch in when the “to do” pile is growing faster than the outbox. We CAN put in the hours and expend the effort that we do because circumstance has made us into a family … but one we choose, over and over again, to be part of.

So, if my standards for an incoming person are high, it’s because I’m going to need for them to meet the expectations that were in place long before they got here, and will remain in place whether they’re on the journey for the long haul or not.

This is an interesting time in my life and career. I’m no longer interested in the opportunities I might be missing somewhere else. I’m in a terrific position to create my own, and to be a big part of everything else that’s going on. And what will help me as a leader is that whomever I decide to hire, is someone I’m going to mentor so that they can know what it’s like to actually love getting up every morning and being part of something huge. They just don’t know it yet. But I do. 😉

So, while I’m not looking for that perfect pair of jeans that fits beautifully right off the rack, I’m looking for the ones that you wash a few times and when they get nice and soft, they’re the pair you go back to, time and again, when you want to make a hell of an impression on everyone around you. Accordingly, when I meet the person who makes me want to cut off the tags and keep them in heavy rotation, I’ll know them when I see them.

But first, I’ve got to see them. So, O Potential Hire(s), show me why you’re the one I should be investing in, and believe me, I will. …

Comments closed.