Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The Man on the Flying Trapeze

Hello, Gentle Reader.

Please forgive the following ego indulgence.

Back in April of 1994 I wrote the following which I suppose was my idea of "poetry" at the time. Be gentle:


The Man on the Flying Trapeze

There is a certain isolation when you are surrounded.
When safety nets fray and the dive is inevitable.
To rely on strangers.
To meet in tribunal.
To pass a secret motion,
and grant you a future.


I think the way we apply for jobs in this day and age is hilarious. Basically the applicant is a stranger to the prospective company and the prospective candidate is a complete stranger to the company. It's completely absurd.

I was in "Uncommon Grounds" the other day ("Fog Burner": best coffee in the city, respec'!)reading "Pillars of the Earth". I like reading in coffee shops since most of the inane babble around me functions as so much white noise and I'm able to focus on whatever I'm reading, regardless of how dry it is. Now Ken Follett's masterpiece is nothing but dull, but just as he's going into a particularly Machiavellian sidebar about the death of a monarch, likely successors and what potential pretenders of the throne may offer contest, I'm actually distracted by a conversation at a nearby table.

Sitting there is a smartly attired dude about my age who is joined by either a long- time confidant or a retained consultant I'm not sure which. They greet each other like old friends and start to chat.

Smart-Attired Dude: "So, thanks for meeting with me on such short notice. I appreciate it."

Confultant: "No worries, man, my pleasure. So how've you been?"

Smart-Attired Dude: "Alright I guess. I guess I'm still in shock."

Confultant: "Yeah, that's natural."

Smart-Attired Dude: "I still can't believe that(insert name of notoriously greedy regional grocery store conglomerate here)fired me after eight years."

Confultant: "Hey! Don't look at it as being fired, okay. Cripes, I've been fired more times than I've had hot meals. Things is, with me, most times the company didn't let me go but just shuffled me into some other crappy position."

Smart-Attired Dude: "Yeah, well, I guess that just wasn't an option for me."

Confultant: "So how's the job search going?"

Smart-Attired Dude: "Terrible. I had an interview with a shipping company in Liverpool which I really thought would be perfect for me. I'm originally from down around there, so y'know, I figured I'd have a bit of an 'inside track'. Anyway the job ad said that they were looking for a Shipping/Receiving guy, which is exactly what my resume shows..."

Confultant: "Right."

Smart-Attired Dude: "So the interview's going well but all of a sudden the guy starts asking me if I have any experience with box manufacturing."

Confultant: "Uh...huh, okay. So,what did you tell him?"

Smart-Attired Dude: "Well, the truth, unfortunately. I've never worked in a place that actually makes packaging but I told him, c'mon, it's just a BOX. Who cares?"

Confultant: "Jesus..."

Smart-Attired Dude: "Yeah, well, I guess it was important to them. They called me a few days later told me I didn't get the job. I asked for some feedback and they told me I didn't have any experience with box manufacturing. I just had to laugh because if the guy they hired has no experience with day to day shipping and receiving logistics, it's just gonna be a disaster."

Confultant: "Frankly I wouldn't worry too much about it. I think it's good you didn't get the job with an outfit like that."

Smart-Attired Dude: "Yeah, probably."

Confultant: "Look, let me tell you something right now: the whole concept of hiring people based on a resume and an interview is completely pointless."

Smart-Attired Dude: "What do you mean?"

Confultant: "Just think about it. What does a resume tell a potential employer about really important things?"

Smart-Attired Dude: "Like what?"

Confultant: "Like what kind of work ethic does this person have? What type of management style does he best react to? How adaptable is this person? How good are they with multitasking?"

Smart-Attired Dude: "Man, that's so true. Usually I just fire a resume out as kind of a generic thing..."

Confultant: "Exactly! It's like throwing darts blindfolded. And don't even get me started on interviews. These behavioral things now are a friggin' farce. All you have to do now in an interview is memorize some pat answers and hope yours reek less of bulls#!^ than the next guy's..."

Smart-Attired Dude: "Well, what's the alternative?"

Confultant: "The company I'm with right now is doing something brilliant. They don't even ask for a resume or do an interview at first. There's an informal questionnaire that you fill out right on our website that's designed to profile all those things I mentioned before we even call you."

And that's where I had to take my leave, regretting that I would never get to hear the name of the innovative company in question.

I put this in here because I can only rant about the state of the union from a potential employee's position and this dimly-lit street is definitely a two-wayer. I once knew a very capable person who interviewed for a dream job with a non-profit organization. This person went into the interview knowing they were going to have to do a lot of road trips, accept a lower-tier health package and take a pay cut but they hated their current job and wanted to do something more karmic-ally rewarding.

So get this now, after making this poor applicant jump through hoops of fire, in the final stage interview the company representative tells our hero:

Has this ever happened to you before? Have you ever gone through an interview process so complicated you'd think you were applying to CSIS, gotten your hopes up, ready to accept an offer and make a positive change in your life? Then some person who doesn't know you at all decides that either they didn't like your box-assembly-deficient-resume or decides to trowel on a couple of hitherto unmentioned crap duties to see if you'll still bite as if the "sucker" sign on your back is crooked?

I don't know about you but I'm sick of surprise and disappointment. Employers, please consider adopting something similar to what the previously mentioned phantom company has set in place. From the perspective of smart, diligent and honest employees we need to pledge the following completely reasonable vows:

* I will not blindly apply for jobs through temp agencies acting for a front for companies with reputations so poor that you would never have applied for them in the first place.

* I will tell any potential employer to "cram it with walnuts" if they mention in the 11'th hour of an interview that you will be paid not in cash after all but with bits of wool, twigs and dead budgerigars.

* I will also tell any potential employer to "go pound sand" if, during the moment they shake hands with you after accepting the job, they suddenly produce a laundry hamper filled with the v.p.'s sweat socks which they promptly describe as "your first action item".

* I will no longer toil away for people markedly stupider than I am. And trust me, this is a modest proposal since I'm not exactly the sharpest knife in the drawer.

* I will not slave away at a McJob where process and procedure is so homogenized that either you or a syphilitic brain-damaged rhesus monkey could do with equal proficiency.

* I will not pimp my priceless time to a company that, instead of hiring more staff to replace attrition losses, just trowel their extra duties on top of some other economically ransomed, borderline-suicidal serf.

* I will never sell my soul to an employer who's idea of training and investing in their employees is a thumb absently jabbed in the direction of your battleship gray cubicle prison.

* I will not pledge my allegiance to an employer that regards it's staff's merely as asses warming seats.

Even as I look at this through the eyes of a potential employer all I see are ways to make their lives easier as well. After all it's gotta be expensive, frustrating and a poor reflection on your operation if it's hemorrhaging veteran staff and new hires alike. Especially if they try and act surprised when they can't find suitable candidates to interview.

So, what say you, fellow Trapeze Artists? Let me hear from you! If we have solidarity here, I promise we'll spark a revolution that Jamie Oliver would be proud of.

EPIC: The Pillars of the Earth


No comments: