On the Job

July 22, 2000

Revenge of the Interviewer
   by stacy <>

For several years, Amy worked in the HR department of a software company. She was a recruiter, and her responsibilities included finding new people to work for the company. When she found promising resumes, she called or emailed the people they belonged to and asked them to come in for an interview. At that company, there were usually three: a technical interview (depending on the job, of course), an interview with the person's prospective manager, and an interview with the HR recruiter in charge.

Amy's degree was actually in computer science, but after just one year developing software, she was burned out. She wanted a change, and she didn't care what kind of pay cut she would get. Her health was degrading, and she was losing too much weight. Her boyfriend told her she looked terrible - that's when she knew she had to make a change. She switched to HR then, but she stayed working for the same company because she had been working on some key developments and she wanted to stay close just in case they needed her help. As it turned out, the software team was just fine without her.

The new job was pretty good. She got a real office, the kind with solid walls instead of cube walls, all to herself. The only times she had to leave it were when she took breaks or had to meet an interviewer in the lobby. She enjoyed the solitary nature of searching the web for resumes and using primarily email to correspond with recruits. After about a year, she even decided to write a couple of small programs that helped her sort through the resumes and cover sheets she got, and those were the first programs she'd written since she left the software team.

When the head of her old department left for greener pastures, Amy was one of the recruiters who was told to spend all their time looking for a replacement. Finding people for other jobs suddenly became a very low priority. That was fine with her, and she looked forward to the challenge of finding someone really qualified for such a demanding position. She checked all the usual job boards, but she knew the answer probably wasn't there. She made phone calls to friends she had in other companies in the city, hoping that maybe one of them could tell her about a discontented higher-up who could use a change. One of those produced a good lead for her, a fellow named John Kells, who worked for a struggling startup on the other side of town. The rumor was that he didn't see the company lasting much longer, and he wanted out as soon as possible. Amy hoped she could do him a favor.

She didn't want to waste time with email, so she gave John a call. He wasn't in, but she left a message and decided to try email after all. In it, she said she'd heard he was looking for a new spot, and she had just the thing for him. After two days, he called her. He intimated that he might be interested, but she already knew he was perfect. She told her boss that she'd found someone who would work wonderfully for her company. He agreed that John sounded good, and told her to ask him to come in for a round of interviews. This was a serious job, so it wouldn't be according to the normal routine, and all of the interviewees for this position would have to be approved by the board of directors. Amy was not the least bit concerned.

Amy couldn't get involved in the hiring status of John Kells because the position he wanted was so high in the company, so she had to sit and wait until she heard something from her superiors. After John's last interview was over, her boss came into her office and told her that although there was nothing technically wrong with his credentials, and in fact, it looked like he knew a lot about software development, the board had decided he would not be hired. Amy couldn't believe it. She asked why, and her boss said, off the record, it was because the CFO's daughter-in-law wanted the job. Amy hadn't heard of such blatant nepotism in the company before, and she didn't want to believe it then. She waited to see who got the position, and sure enough, it was the CFO's daughter-in-law, a woman who had an MBA and absolutely no experience in coding in anything besides Cobol (from 20 years ago, at that).

Deciding what else she'd missed in her time in HR, she looked around to see what else was going on. She saw signs of favor-mandering, politics, and nepotism all around her. They were usually subtle, but now that she knew what she was looking for, they were all around. She couldn't stand it, and she decided to go back to programming to take her mind off how outraged she was with her inability to prove a worthy candidate for an important job while she was working in HR. She quit and started looking for a job elsewhere.

While there were no end to the jobs available that paid considerably higher than she made as a recruiter, many of the people she talked to expressed concern that she'd been unable to handle a development job before, and it had been so long since she'd worked as a professional programmer. Amy knew that wouldn't make a difference in her performance, and the reason she'd needed a break earlier had as much to do with adjusting from college life to the real world as anything else. She knew she was ready to return to the geek's life, she just had to persuade one of her fellow recruiters.

One day, she was at an interview that she thought was going well. She had completed the technical interview (with flying colors, she was sure), and now she was going to be interviewed by a panel of managers, including the head of the department. She was surprised when she saw John Kells sitting in the room where she was instructed to sit down. He looked at her and smiled. She smiled back. The interview started normally, with the managers asking her typical questions like what did she think were her strengths and weaknesses, and did she have any hobbies outside of work. This wasn't the tough interview, she knew, and she'd passed that one already. She relaxed and answered their questions truthfully.

The next day, Amy received a phone call. The recruiter thanked her for her time, but said they didn't have a position for her at that time. Amy was again outraged. This had been the best interview she'd had so far, and nobody had expressed any concern at all over her absense in the technical field. She thought she didn't have anything to lose, so she asked for John Kells' email address. The man gave it to her, and she emailed him. She asked why she hadn't been offered the job, and if she had done anything wrong. Two days later, she received his emailed reply: "Payback's a bitch."

Amy stared at the email for a long moment before she deleted it and laughed. If John was so stupid as to think that she had deliberately set him up as a fake candidate for the position with her previous employer, she knew she'd been completely wrong about him from the start, and she was actually glad he hadn't hired her. She thought, briefly, "Pfft!" then submitted her resume to a few more companies on their websites. The right job would come along.

Published: July 22, 2000
Editor: stacy

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