Preparing to Dance the Job Search Shuffle

Well it’s time to dust off and update the old resume again. I can already sense what might be coming down the pike. Another company is sniffing around and I feel that a purchase of our brand name, manufacturing plants and other assets is inevitable. Since the interested firm is a competitor, the transaction will probably not include our employees or managers. The generals will be afforded parachutes or contracts but we line officers and noncoms will be in free fall to fend for ourselves. I’ve decided to be proactive here and officially reenter the job market now. This is always an interesting experience.

They always say to try networking first. Unfortunately, I don’t have any old college chums nicknamed “Biff”, “Taz” or “Scootsy” who are the CEO’s or VP’s of major corporations. My networking circle seems to consist of other middle-aged veteran career managers like me. We’re usually too tired and stressed out from work to socialize. I never had the time or inclination to play golf anyway. Perhaps my powerful big shot brother-in-law could be of assistance. Oops! I forgot that I don’t even have a brother-in-law. I think that I’ll pass on networking.

I’ll send out a barrage of resumes in reply to online Ads. This usually results in a plethora of phone messages from employment agency recruiters who are absolutely desperate to talk to me. They all love my background and always have the perfect opportunity to match my education and qualifications. They need me to call them back ASAP. Here’s how the calls usually go:

“Hi Bob. This is Jerome Alexander returning your call.”
“Oh yes, Jerome. Eh, Jerome, Oh yes! Thanks for calling me back. I really like your background and might have a great opportunity for you.”
“Super! Tell me more.”
“Well first let me pull your resume. Let’s see, do you have an advanced degree?”
“Yes.”
“That’s good. Are you a CPA?”
“Yes, I thought you already read my resume and liked my background.”
“Sure, well I’d really like you to come into our office and discuss what you’re looking for.”
“I answered a specific Ad. The position in the Ad is what I’m looking for.”
“That’s all well and good but we really need to meet face to face so I can present you to potential employers.”
“What about the position in the Ad that I applied for?”
“Oh that position has already been filled. I really need to learn more about your background and what you’re looking for so we can find a match. Can you come in on the…”
“Bob, call me back when you have a real position with a real company that matches my background and qualifications. Then we’ll talk.”
CLICK! (That’s me hanging up on the schmuck.)

Sometimes I get the strangest of responses to my online applications. Last go around, I received an E-mail reply from the vice president of a legitimate mid-sized service company. According to his message, they had narrowed their search based on the resumes they had received but needed each candidate to complete a “questionnaire” before even entertaining a first go around telephone interview. I decided to bite and requested the form. A questionnaire? This huge document consisted of four incredibly detailed business problems confronting the company and required the candidate to state the specific actions they would take to solve each of them. It also required a rationalization of each action. These were like Harvard Business School cases. I could not believe the arrogance of this company. I replied to the vice president in the biting style of The Corporate Cynic questioning the ethics and morality of seeking free consulting services under the guise of interviewing potential candidates for a position with the firm. Want to test someone’s business acumen in real world situations? Hire them. Don’t play silly games like this. I never received a reply but noticed that the Ad reappeared from time to time over the following twelve months. I still wonder what this company was up to and what idiots had actually invested the hours or even days necessary to provide the free answers to the problems.

I always try to dismiss those “cattle call” responses to my applications. You might know the drill here. The phone call comes in late Friday afternoon from some assistant to the assistant to the assistant at a company you’ve applied to, “Mr. So-and-So will be in town on Monday and can see candidates between 8AM and 2:30PM. Your options are 9AM or 1PM.” My, how important filling the position must be to this company!

Worse yet is when you arrive for the appointment but are stiffed for the interview by some high level official, particularly when you’re well into the process and it’s been scheduled days or even weeks in advance. I’ve had this happen twice and without warning, once by the president of a $75 million manufacturing company. Can you imagine the impression that leaves on a candidate? I can understand last minute emergencies and the like. I’ve been in the business world for a long time. But without even having the courtesy of leaving a message? Neither interview was ever rescheduled by the companies in question. It’s obvious that they either selected another candidate or decided against filling the position at the last minute. The rudeness and unprofessional behavior of these executives will not be forgotten.

The interviewing process is always replete with entertainment as well. Besides trying to remember what kind of tree you’d like to be (if you could be a tree) or what barnyard animal best describes you, it’s always challenging to stare down the twenty something HR novice when they want to delve into your managerial experience:

(Imagine hearing this spewed at hyper speed and without even taking a breath!)

“Please describe a situation you experienced as a manager when a conflict arose between two employees. What was the nature of the conflict? What was each employee’s position? How did they feel about the conflict? How did you learn about the conflict? How did you react to the conflict? What did you do about the conflict? State the specific actions. What did you say to each employee? How did they react? How did you react? How was the conflict resolved? Was there an agreeable outcome? If not agreeable to all was there a compromise? How did the employees feel about the resolution? How did you feel about the resolution? Did the conflict occur again?”

Stop! I’m been successfully managing departments of people for twenty-five years! I’ve seen it all and dealt with it all.

Finally, there’s always the inevitable waiting period when the hiring executive indicates that the choice is down to two or three candidates and “guarantees” that they’ll be touch once the final decision is made. You wait and hold your breath. When you don’t get a call, you contact the executive. “Oh, we hired another candidate. I figured that when you didn’t hear back, that would be understood. ” What a cowardly way to avoid the responsibility for giving bad news. In all my years of interviewing and hiring, I’ve never pulled that stunt.

At any rate, it’s time to leap into the process. I’m sure there will be a lot of new stories in the near future. Sometimes I wish that I knew a “Biff” or had a big shot brother-in-law, but then I’ve always managed to do fine without “connections”. My education, background and accomplishments speak for themselves. Besides, companies always need experienced managers who can actually get the real work done. I hope!

Stay tuned!

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