Another interview leads to disappointment

[Ben thought he had a new job this time… until he didn’t. His latest experience got him wondering just how his fate can depend on someone who has less experience than he does.]

Ben Breier, 23, was a reporter and web producer for the New York Observer’s, a political news network that suffered massive cutbacks last December. Prior to working in New York City, Ben covered climate change and energy-related issues at the federal policy level for Inside Washington Publishers, a trade publication network in Washington, DC. A graduate of Kent State University’s journalism program in 2007, Ben lives in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.

Ben can be reached at ben.breier[at]gmail[dot]com. His resume can be found here.

A few months ago I landed a contract job as a web producer at a cable television station. The position seemed to have the potential to go full-time. But things took a turn for the worse when the company cut my hourly rate in half, to less than I made on unemployment. It was time to resume my search.

I landed an interview for a web producing job in the textbook department at a book publisher. The position looked exciting, and the company reputable. My first interview went swimmingly. There were two web producer openings in two different departments. And the woman who administered the first interview was so excited about my skill-set that she got me in to talk with the other department head. That meeting took place the next day – a Thursday. He had aggressively Googled me, and read my pieces on Jobless and Less. He said that applying for this job would be different than my other experiences. He even promised a quick decision on my hiring. By Friday, I would know the status of the job. The more I interviewed, the better I felt about my chances.

I celebrated my birthday that weekend. My girlfriend had given me a three-day pass to the All Points West Music & Arts Festival. But I spent Friday glued to my cell phone waiting for a response. No answer. Saturday came and went. No answer. Finally, on Sunday night I received an email. He apologized for giving me incorrect information. He went on to inform me that the job decision was in HR’s hands and he couldn’t comment any further. He hoped that I had a good time at the festival (something he discovered by looking at my Twitter feed, which I’ve since locked.)

I had been a nervous wreck all weekend long, and a 9:00 pm email on Sunday didn’t help things. But it gave me a sense of hope. I showed his email to an older co-worker at my job, and she interpreted the subtext as “he wants to hire you, but he can’t because of HR restrictions.” That seemed reasonable. The man went out of his way to apologize to me. He likely would’ve ignored me if I weren’t a viable candidate. One week went by. I heard nothing, save for an email from my human resources contact saying that the search was still ongoing. Another week went by. And then I received the automated email denying me the job. It was almost too predictable.

I typically criticize HR in my posts for what they did wrong and suggest improvements. I’m not a human resources professional, and I don’t claim to be an expert. But I do have some experience as a job search candidate. And that puts me in the position to have an informed opinion. There’s a fatal flaw in the system when the gatekeepers to entry-level professional jobs have roughly the same amount of work experience as the people applying for them. I Googled my HR contact to get her email address and happened upon her page. She is just 25 years old.

The interview process for one position at Company Z went well. The process for the other dragged on for weeks. The mature, experienced 30-something professional got back to me in a timely fashion. The girl who was my age didn’t treat me with the same level of respect. I realize that everybody has to start somewhere. But giving those just starting out in HR the incredible power to determine who lands a job seems like a huge misstep. Don’t they need to go through a learning process? When I picture an HR professional, I see a seasoned working professional who is an authority on what makes a great employee. It’s hard to be an authority on much of anything at 25.

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One Comment

  1. Sabrina wrote:

    Was she an “HR Professional” or an HR Assistant or similar position that just gets the unfortunate duty of calling candidates/setting up interviews/sending automated decline emails. The person you have contact with might not actually be the HR recruiter.

    Wednesday, August 26, 2009 at 11:35 am | Permalink

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