Paul's Internet Landfill/ lj/ My life is an Alanis Morrissette song

My life is an Alanis Morrissette song

So I got suckered into being on the hiring committee for a summer student position for a local organization. Over the past few days I have been reading resumes, designing rubrics and wording interview questions. Then this afternoon we brought in some summer students and interviewed them.

An hour later I was on the phone to Cleveland, getting interviewed and desperately hoping the person on the other end would want me on staff. (I oughta know better, but the jury is still out.)

This process has been educational. Being on the other side of a hiring committee really helped me understand how the other side lives. The job search process is an elaborate mating dance. I don't like it -- maybe I hate it -- and I don't think it is very effective, but it's always good to know one's enemy. Here are a few things I learned:

Sometimes the number of applications is crazy. Somewhat fortunately, we had a managable number for the position I was involved with. Otherwise I might indeed have started skimming through each one in a minute or two, like the people in the other committee (which had over 60 applications) did. Apparently the Parachute book and all those career counsellors are not lying.

It's stupid how many small factors go into choosing interview candidates. First of all, for these jobs there was something like a 1-week window to apply, which is ridiculous. I guess job-searchers are supposed to check their job-hunting sites daily. (That's strike one against me, if you're keeping score at home.)

Another stupid factor: the job objective. I guess you are supposed to tailor this to every job, and you are supposed to gush enthusiastically about the job and company. It seems a little false to me. Job searchers want jobs. That's why they are in the market. For many of us job-hunters, the organization is less important than the fact that we have an opportunity to get paid -- we can learn to love the company when we are hired. But from an employer's view, it's totally flattering to find candidates who sound enthusastic about working for your organization. One solution to this conundrum is for job searchers to only apply to jobs which they find exciting and are well-qualified for. But then they run the risk of losing a job offer with a suboptimal company. Users write their job objectives because of the dance, I think. You don't want to actually define an objective honestly, because if you do then you get filtered out from many more jobs.

People pad their resumes, apparently. Some people who put down the buzzwords you want don't have good skills when you ask them to use those buzzwords. But if you don't put down the buzzwords then your resume gets put into the "discard" pile. I was pretty disgusted that I started looking for buzzword compliance in the resumes I scanned.

I think the buzzword problem may be tractable, but I am not sure how much to trust a statement that somebody is a "quick learner". I guess the way around the problem is to demonstrate that you have learned quickly in the past.

The buzzword quagmire troubles me in another way. I honestly want to think that most employers are far-sighted enough to hire people that don't have buzzwords but will learn them and make good workers. That logic should apply doubly to summer students, who are in the learning business. But summers are short, so I think employers gravitate to those who satisfy the buzzwords the most, in the hopes that the new hire can contribute quickly and maximize their productivity over the short summer. That's lousy for those who don't have the buzzwords, though -- I guess they are supposed to pick up buzzwords in their own time, but I have ideological problems with that as well.

The entire protocol of dressing up, making sure one's shoes are shined, etc. is kind of distressing -- especially to a natural slob like me. It's protocol, and largely unnecessary protocol (especially in casual-dress code environments). But sure enough, employers do judge based on first impressions, and I guess clothes make up those impressions. Fortunately I managed to avoid that trap this time because all the candidates dressed at a similar level, but I don't like to think what I would have done if one had dressed significantly fancier.

It helps to come to a job interview prepared with questions to ask. Sometimes the employer doesn't know what to ask, and it makes you look good.

It's easy to get smug when you see the quality of applicants for a position, until you realize that a) You have 7-10 years more work experience and b) you're not exactly getting many interview offers either.

There's a big question about honesty that I can't figure out. In my interview I was too frank, and it may have cost me the job. Given the stiff competition for jobs, I understand why I am not supposed to put anything negative in a cover letter or resume (which, as you might guess, is challenging for me). You are supposed to state only positive things. But what are you supposed to do during the interview, especially when you are interviewing your future boss and there are real factors that could make working at a particular organization hell for everybody? Do you lie so you get the job, running the risk that your boss will see right through you? Or do you tell the truth and be unemployed forever?

Most of all, it bothers me that the job-search dance doesn't have much to do with the job itself. The person you end up hiring is the one who does the dance best, which may not correlate to the person who will do the best job for you. Finding a job is a job itself; why is it necessary for a person to be skilled in job-finding when their chosen profession has nothing to do with job-finding? What I really want is a job (or, more precisely, an income), not to gain job-search skills.

I was pretty mad at this but then I realized that capitalism provides the answer: if you are bad at job-finding then you can hire somebody who is better at it to find a job for you. It's expensive and the person you hire doesn't have as much invested in the outcome as you, but it can be done. If my job hunt continues to falter, maybe it's something I should consider.

On the other hand, I just got an email (or maybe a spam?) from a recruiter for a famous Web 2.0 company. Oy.

Livejournal URL:

Mood: uninvited