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Monday, September 22, 2008

interviews obtained by force

A reader writes:

I work for a large corporation. I have been a unionized employee for over 12 years and have had 4 different jobs with in the city, throughout my career there. There was a job posting for cemetery clerk in May, and I applied for it. I learned shortly after that the position had been given to a fellow union sister, with less seniority and no experience in the cemetery field. (Nor do I.) However, the corporation interviewed and hired her. She then started on the job, a few weeks after her interview.

I filed a grievance for this job and the union and I went to 3rd step. This is where I met my prospective boss. Very uncomfortable indeed, but we all remained very professional. I was given a letter from the H.R.dept that they were going to close my grievance, by interviewing me.


I had my interview today, and “crash and burn” is an understatement. I knew the circumstances would be tense, me having filed a grievance on the position, and the corporation knowing they screwed up by not interviewing me from the start, but it was previously decided that we proceed as usual. My interview was at 1:00 pm and the manager for the cemetery didn’t show up until 1:25 with no apology. I went into the interview, and I noticed the seating arrangements were off. I was at the end of the table, and the manager and his assistant to my right and the H.R. recruiter to my left, none of them facing me.

I did my best at staying calm, polite and upbeat. I won’t go into a lot of boring details here, I’m sure you’ve heard it all before. But interviews are my strong point. I’ve always excelled in them.
Today, I couldn’t get my prospective boss to look at me, except to ask me his “questions” and then he would look down…and write his answers. It was impossible to get him to smile, or even be friendly to me. The lady to my right was fairly decent, saying “good answer” a few times threw out the interview. (Why do they say that? To reassure a person who is really failing, or looks to be a nervous wreck?)

Then the plane crashed. It was totally my fault. I was in a rush getting my application in and let a hired professional do my resume up, and she made some very serious date errors on my resume (like when I graduated college). The H.R. recruiter tore me apart. Dates were flying around, I was getting flustered, the boss looked pissed off. Until I saw my resume, I didn’t realize the serious mistake the company had made. It was my bigger mistake of not checking it over. I looked like an utter idiot in the interview. The H.R. recruiter at that moment lost all interest in me and her body language showed it. Her tone of voice changed. At that point, I literally wanted to get up and leave the interview, Out of pure embarrassment. And feeling so flustered. But, after all of the history and my personal character, I saw this interview threw till the bitter end. I went through some other questions with ease and at the end, asked my prospective new boss some typical questions about his management style, my duties, any projects, etc.

I was then asked why my volunteer experience from over 10 years ago wasn’t on my resume…and if I had “read the posting.” (This is the burn part of my crash.) I explained as best as I could, that I did not see the connection between a cemetery clerk and helping grieving people at a retirement home/hospital as equivalent. I was looking at “cemetery clerk experience” as very literal. Not thinking that volunteer experience would be a parallel. I walked out, and had a good cry in my truck, determined to never let the above happen again. I am almost 100% positive; I will not get the job.

My question is, should I let the recruiter call me and let me know I failed the interview, and ask them why (re-live all my mistakes), or call them, thank them for the interview, but say that I’ve decided to not pursue the position any further?
I can see from this interview that there are some bad feelings in my new boss. If this interview is any indication, on my new boss, I’m not sure I want to join their "team." I like the job I’m in now, get along with my colleges and have a terrific new boss. The only reason, I was looking into the cemetery position, is for straight day shifts, an extra $5,000 and it’s a block away from my house, and I generally am interested in the field.

Oh geez. I don't even know where to start.

Of course the interview didn't go well. You forced them to interview you against their will. Had you somehow managed to force them to hire you, the job wouldn't go any better. What do you think the working environment would be like with these people feeling you had battered your way in, against their preferences?

The errors on your resume probably would have been a deal-breaker regardless, but in this case, they were looking for something to nail you on, and you handed it to them. (In case this still needs to be said, you should never let a professional resume writer redo your resume without you scrutinizing it. I have to hold you accountable for this one. You turned in a resume that you hadn't checked over for accuracy -- they were entitled to have a huge problem with it, although they were clearly more jerky with you about it than they would have been with a candidate they didn't already resent.)

I agree with them that your volunteer experience was relevant, although in a normal interview you wouldn't attack the candidate for leaving something off. You wouldn't attack a candidate for anything in a normal interview -- but this was an interview with a group of people who you yourself had already attacked (by filing your grievance and forcing the situation), so it's hard to be surprised that they don't like you very much.

After all this, you are still not sure that you don't want the job? These people have a huge problem with you and would make your life miserable. It doesn't matter if they're right or wrong (although I happen to think that companies should be able to interview and hire who they want, provided they don't violate anti-discrimination laws). The point is that they have a seething resentment against you. Why would you want to force your way into a job where you're not wanted? What sort of professional success do you think you're going to have in that context? And on top of all this, you already have a job that you love.

In answer to your direct question, if you just need to put this behind you, it's fine to call and proactively withdraw (they'd probably appreciate that, in fact, as they're probably stressing over how to reject you without you bringing further grievances against them). And in the future, remember: You don't want an employer who doesn't want you.

(Disclaimer: There are exceptions to this, such as large companies that discriminate against legally protected classes. I don't see this as being one of those.)

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

I appreciate the reader including the fact that they're unionized, as I'm guessing that's why these issues seem so surreal.

I don't mean to disparage the original submitter, but how did the company 'screw up' by not interviewing everyone who applied? In the non-union business world, no one is 'entitled' to an interview just for applying - in fact, being asked to interview is often the biggest hurdle in the job-hunting process. What does it matter if the person hired doesn't have as much seniority? More seniority (or experience) doesn't automatically equal better fit, and besides, since when has the job market been "fair"?

On top of all that, what's the point of filing a 'grievance'? Even if the submitter had years of experience and aced the interview, is the hiring company supposed to terminate the person they originally hired?

Also, I completely agree with AAM's disclaimer on exceptions for discrimination, but to be clear, that applies regardless of whether or not a company is unionized...

The Engineer said...

And I still don't understand why the "unionized" believe this sort of system is better. Even if the resume had been perfect and you performed great in the interview, they don't want you for the job.
Why would forcing them to hire you make a good situation?

Anonymous said...

After working in a beaurocracy, where the management feared the unions, I feel I'm in a great position to answer the questions (of both the submitter and those staring in astonishment at the situation).

I'm going on the collective bargaining agreements I memorized forward and backward during my time with the union workers.

The recruiter screwed up by not interviewing the internal candidate. Generally speaking, unless someone is completely missing a major requirement, you have to interview them (this is why I no longer work in a union environment - it's a lot of bull honkey). It's an insane and annoying - painfully long hiring process, but it's generally a rule. Their mistake.

This person filed a grievance, which is their right and is every recruiter's nightmare (who works in a unionized environment). Why? Now, I need a bullet proof excuse for not hiring this person. Well, dearie, you handed them that on a silver platter. (I'm not even going to touch some of the glaring grammatical mistakes in the submission - the suspect resume was more than enough). I would have stayed professional throughout the interview though - I'm surprised they became aggressive...that's the pits.

Note usage of the word "seniority" - in a union environment, this is the sole reason some long-term employees continue to be promoted, even though they aren't necessarily superior in skillset. Half the time they're mediocre, but have lazy managers, so they never get written up, and just continue to skid on by. They learn the system and in the end, win. I'm digressing though - I don't know that this person is guilty of mediocrity or of working the system.

In the end, it doesn't matter how she handles this because she's protected. If she reapplies to another position, they'll still interview her and if she has seniority, probably promote her. If you want to look like (somewhat) of a professional, I'd withdrawal, although I guarentee the recruiters will talk about it behind your back..."OMG - after all that, Mary withdrew. What a waste of time."

I'd lay low for a while, appreciate having a job they can't take away from you (without jumping through hoops), and probably not file a greivance again unless your positive you were being discriminated against.

jane said...

Well, getting this job was a non-starter, since it was already taken, rightfully or not.

But the reader has no reason to proactively withdraw. The best bet is to relax, tell herself that this job wasn't hers to get, and move one. Talking to the recruiter to get their view on the interview seems like a reasonable thing to do.

Besides 'crash and burn' with the resume mistakes, there might be something in there that the reader is not aware of, but should be. She will do well to get a learning opportunity out of it.

The reader should also be sympathetic with the recruiter, acknowledge that she created an all-around unpleasant situation for everybody, and thank the recruiter for any useful insight she might give.

Anonymous said...

Jane: my only disagreement is that given the recruiter's seemingly annoyed behavior toward the end of the interview, the reader is not going to get any real, unbiased feedback. I'd let this pass and lay low for a few months.

Anonymous said...

Erm... guess people (including AAM) don't know much about unionized environments - except the 3rd commenter. I'm in a union and I agree that the rules are nuts - but guess what? They're the rules.

The submitter SHOULD have been interviewed and SHOULD have gotten the job because she had seniority. Only some major job requirement can disqualify her. Treating her like crap in the interview only makes things worse. Unfortunately for the submitter, she let the hiring body off the hook by screwing up on her resume.

I realize it seems nuts but that is how it works in a unionized environment. It's not what you know, it's how long you've been there. Try to avoid it if you can.

Kelly O said...

I am so glad I don't work in a unionized environment. I realize the rules are different in those situations, but I would hate to know I was being interviewed because I had filed grievances and forced them to interview me for a position for which they had already chosen a candidate that fit their need.

I've worked in environments where we had to document in excruciating detail why we did not choose minority candidates and fill out tons of paperwork to prove we were truly hiring the most qualified, best fit for our department. That was uncomfortable enough from a hiring perspective, I guess we were fortunate in being able to choose from a list of prospective employees those we wanted to interview.

I've been in a situation where a third party recruiter/agency made changes to my resume before sending it on to an employer, and it's embarrassing enough. I can't imagine paying for a resume and not getting my hands on it first. I guess that's my advice to the OP - you are responsible for that resume, no matter what. You have to know it like the back of your hand and be ready to discuss any and everything listed. That's a lesson I think we all learn at some point in our careers.

Rachel - I Hate HR said...

This is why I don't really want to work in a union environment.

Wally Bock said...

I think a more general point is that grievances, well-founded or not, are usually taken as attacks. That means that folks get defensive and hostile which sets things up for all manner of messy outcomes.

Curb Alert said...

Why does this union business sound like affirmative action? Why would you force someone to interview you? Good lord.