State of the Unemployed Union

The Best Interview

May 4, 2010
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Last week I had what was the best interviewing experience I have ever had.

I was interviewing for a Receptionist/Financial Associate position with a local brokerage firm. The position had all the components I was looking for – client service, database administration, and serving multiple Financial Advisors. This position even required the occasional travel to other branches, which would have been a first for me, but I really liked the idea of working with multiple branches.

The itinerary for the interview followed the typical formula: meet with the HR Specialist first, then a panel interview with the Branch Manager and Branch Administrator. The HR Specialist, Mandy, was probably the best Human Resources person I have ever met. She was warm, personable, and displayed a great sense of humor. She was comfortable to talk to. I have had the unfortunate experience in the past to meet with Human Resources personnel who did nothing to assuage my nerves and seemed only to want to intimidate the candidate (me). Mandy did none of that – her interview provided a comprehensive view of the company and gave me an insight into its corporate culture. It felt more like an invitation to the company.

After speaking with Mandy, I met with the Branch Manager and the Branch Administrator. These two people, Malcolm (Branch Manager) and Dianne (Branch Administrator), seemed to be an extension of Mandy herself, which in turn was an extension of the company. Both were very personable, comfortable to talk to, and also displayed a great sense of humor. (Note: humor is very important to me as it is how I get through the stress of a workday) We talked about the responsibilities of the Receptionist/Financial Associate position, my past experiences, and my future goals. We talked in-depth about the company, its culture, and how it had managed during the recession. This position also had a great future outlay – the possibility of managing my own small book of business. It would be a challenge, but I love a challenge and haven’t met one yet in the workplace that I couldn’t best. Our meeting lasted about an hour and fifteen minutes with no awkward pauses or discomfort of any sort.

Mandy had said that they had wanted to move very quickly to fill this position as the incumbent was moving out of state and that the second round of interviews with the brokers would be conducted the following week. It was a comfort to me that the position was open only because of the previous Financial Associate’s personal needs and not due to any economic or office/political issues. In fact, this company had managed very well through the recession in comparison to other local companies. That, too, impressed upon me that this was the company I had been looking for all along.

The next Monday came and I had heard nothing from Mandy so I placed a follow-up call. She was out of the office for personal reasons and referred callers to another Human Resources staff member. I left a message with the Director of Human Resources. She said she would email Mandy and that I would hear from her the next day when she returned to the office. And then something happened that I completely did not expect – Mandy called me from home that evening. I was surprised, to say the least. What kind of person would take time out of their personal day to return the call of a candidate? A professional who is dedicated to her company and who fosters positive relationships with her candidates, that’s who.

Mandy began this conversation by explaining their method for narrowing down the candidates for the second interviews. She said that they had chosen three candidates to meet with the brokers. One was an internal candidate and the other two had more years of experience than I had. I did not make it to the second round. I was disappointed and I am sure Mandy could sense it. She emphasized that everything about me was great and that their decision was not an easy one to make. They took it down to the number of years of experience and the other candidates simply had more years of experience than I’d had. I have to respect the company for their decision – they allowed the numbers to be their decision point and not any personal factors. And that makes me feel good.

Mandy ended the conversation by stating that if anything changes with the original three candidates in the second round she would recommend that the brokers meet with me. She also said she would think of me for future positions and she wished me luck in future endeavors. I thanked her for having had the opportunity to meet with them in the first place. But I felt like I hadn’t fully conveyed to Mandy how grateful I was to have had this very positive interviewing experience.

All in all, despite that I wasn’t granted a second interview, this was the best interviewing experience I have ever had. Mandy, Malcolm, and Dianne represented their company very well and each made me feel very comfortable during our meetings. And if this company ever does come calling again, you can bet I will answer.

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Pre-Interview Panic Attack

April 26, 2010
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I have my second interview of this year tomorrow afternoon. Yes, you read that right. Just my second interview of 2010. And I am kinda wigging out.

The telephone interview that I had with the HR Rep for this company on Friday went amazingly well, as far as screening interviews go. We talked about my resume, my recent foray into temping, and what I have been doing for the past one-and-one-half years since my last full time job. We bonded. We laughed. We discovered common ground in that I have actually worked in tandem with this company in past employment. I felt really good after this call.

This morning I received a call from a staffing agency that I recently temped for about a sure-fire permanent position with a decent hourly wage. The hiring company wanted someone who would immediately commit to a permanent position. I told her about the interview that I had already scheduled for tomorrow. The staffing agency rep decided not to pitch me for this sure-fire job because I am not really ready to commit to a company whose industry I am not familiar with. I have nine years of experience in the industry of the company that I am to meet with. And at this point I want the freedom to interview.

I received an email from the HR Rep of The Company this afternoon containing the itinerary for the interview and the job application that I will bring completed to the interview. I will be meeting with three different people tomorrow. The Branch Manager, the Branch Administrator, and the HR Rep. This meeting could take up to two hours.

I am in full panic mode right now. I have done, survived, and even secured employment after panel interviews. This concept is not new to me. But I am all manner of hyped up about this meeting. Am I good enough to work for this company? Competition is tight right now. I will be up against candidates who have college degrees, more years of experience, and securities licensing. I could also be up against candidates who happen to have friends within the organization. How do I have any chance against that? Add to that – did I just pass up the perfect opportunity from the staffing agency? Have I set myself up for failure? I am going to hate myself if The Company doesn’t hire me and I had lost another opportunity for a job that I would certainly get.

My mind has been racing since opening that email. It has been on auto-pilot cruising through my past experiences, my skills, my strengths, my weaknesses, my personality, etc. It has been rehearsing my end of the interview that has not even happened yet over and over and over again. And it will not stop. I will definitely require a sleep aid tonight.

One thing I can do at this moment is remind myself to breathe. In through the nose. Out through the mouth. Another thing I can do is to remind myself that I am good at what I do. I am an Assistant Extraordinnaire. I have built solid relationships with past managers and they each have agreed to serve as references. I have built great rapport with clients in past jobs. In fact, I have never had a complaint lodged by a client. Not once in ten years. That’s a pretty tasty treat for my mind to munch on.

I have also taken on greater responsibility with each position I have held. I have stretched myself to learn things that I didn’t think I could learn. I have helped bring a company back into legal compliance after someone did something illegal. I helped close that company, too. I have a keen understanding of business. I think like a business owner and use those thought processes in order to anticipate the needs of the owner/manager.

I have even written a business plan for a teen nightclub for my local area. I couldn’t get the money together to make the club a reality, but I did do all of the research necessary to put a complete business plan together. I researched property, vendors, costs, employment law. And I did it on my own.

I have been working on a novel for the past two years. It is a fantasy based on my deceased sister. It is not nearly finished because I want it to be the perfect tribute to her. But I am confident that it will be wildly popular when it is finished.

I am talented. I am self-educated. I have confidence in my abilities. I know with every fiber of my being that I would be a successful addition to The Company that I am meeting with tomorrow. And I know that this interview will be perfect.


The End of a Brief Era – Adventures in Temping

April 22, 2010
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Well, I had avoided this blog for many weeks while I was working a temporary assignment so that I would not say too much that might be taken the wrong way should the right people read it, i.e., the company I was temping with. But, since the assignment ended one week ago, I am free to write as I please.

This last assignment was a good re-introduction into the workplace. It lasted six months and I can confidently say that I did a good job. But there were issues, as there are with any company.

I learned much about the trucking industry while working as a temporary assistant at this local depot. Truckers may be a little rough around the edges, but they are very nice people. The guys were always polite whether on the phone or in person and always behaved respectably. I had been warned by the temp agency that there could be rough behavior at this job because I would be dealing with truckers. I am proud to say that the truckers were not the problem.

No, management was the problem. My direct supervisor, a lovely older lady who really liked me, tried hard to convince upper management to take me on as a permanent employee. The pay would have been lower than what I am accustomed to, but this office was literally five minutes from my house, so I would have sufficed with whatever I was offered. Supervisor needed the assistance as she had grown weary of having to take work home every night. She looked forward to having a permanent assistant. I had succeeded six other temps in the same position, Supervisor told me, and had taken on more responsibility than any of the others.She told me of her long-term personal plans and wanted to have someone ready to take her place. I had hoped that person would be myself.

But the company had greater issues with which to deal at this time. Gas prices were rising. Business was slowing. Their secondary branch out of state had been burglarized for the umpteenth time. They had raised the prices they were charging to customers and had lowered the prices they were paying to owner-operatoring truckers. This caused outrage amongst the driving ranks and several of them made their concerns vocal in loud meetings at the office. As this was a very small office with no private meeting quarters everyone could hear everything that happened within its walls. One trucker was fired and three others quit and I can only assume that the lowered pay was the reason.

There also was a struggle between Supervisor and the Vice President (VP). If any mistakes were made within a particular department, VP would deflect those mistakes onto Supervisor’s department, which included me. Now, I am a fallable human being and did make mistakes during this assignment, but the mistakes I am discussing right now actually had little or nothing to do with me, personally. They affected other members of Supervisor’s department. Supervisor, naturally, would defend her staff, but to no avail. They would take the blame for actions over which they had no control. This caused a great deal of stress on nearly a daily basis.

Supervisor had grown to confide in me. She admitted to me that while I had correctly guessed that VP did not like me, it was another employee that VP was after. This poor girl was under constant scrutiny and regularly berated by the Controller of the company. She kept on doing her job to the best of her ability. I honestly don’t know how she did it.

Anyway, due to hearing about these issues more and more as time went on, I contacted the temp agency and asked them to begin seeking a new assignment for me. I told them everything I had learned and that, if offered a permanent role, I would not accept under any circumstances. I would have to fight a losing battle daily. Why would I tie myself into a situation like that rather than free myself to seek a better situation? I promised to maintain my obligation to the temporary assignment until another job came along. The temp agency agreed.

Some weeks after that conversation with my representative at the temp agency, the assignment came to an abrupt end. I had finished my duties early in the day and was allowed to go home around noon. At 4:30 p.m. I received a call from the temp agency. The representative had just ended a call with Supervisor informing her that she had just left an emergency meeting that had been called that afternoon. The company was closing its secondary branch and making other changes to its business. I was relieved of my temporary assignment and no temp was going to be used at all. The representative asked me how I felt. Relieved. I had seen it coming for a few months, piecing together the conversations that I’d heard within the office. I told her that I had closed a company before and all the rhetoric was the same with this company. It was inevitable.

Now, one week later, I have had one interview with another agency, but for a permanent position. I have updated my resume to include this temporary assignment and Supervisor has agreed to be a reference for me. The job market is still tight but I am optimistic.


On Hold

January 10, 2010
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Before Thanksgiving I interviewed with a company for the Perfect Position. This position encompassed the best parts of my last two jobs plus the opportunity for advancement. And the money is exactly at the level that I need to be earning. Perfect! The interviewer had said that they were looking to fill the position within three weeks and that I should follow up with her two weeks after this meeting. I left feeling invigorated. This interview had gone incredibly well.

So, I made the requested follow up call exactly two weeks after the interview only to find out that the Perfect Position had been placed on hold. The company had decided to hire a Chief Operating Officer first and then the Perfect Position second. I was surprised because this company had originally wanted to fill this position very quickly but their priorities changed. It was not a “no”. It was a “not now”. I was told to follow up at the end of the month of January, when the company anticipates filling the COO position.

While I did not enjoy this development it did not send me into a depressive spiral. I had begun a temporary assignment and at least have occupation during the waiting period. At the end of this month I will place another follow up call with an optimistic attitude. I know that I am the right candidate to fill this Perfect Position. I have the skill necessary to not only meet the expectations of the position but to exceed them. My personality and level of professionalism are the right fit for the company. I know these things with absolute conviction.

But I have to wonder how often position delays are happening under the current job market conditions. Is my experience unique? Or are thousands of other job applicants hearing the same thing – “not now”? Certainly employers have to watch the bottom line and many are streamlining their processes in order to strengthen their ability to weather this economy. But getting people back to work could only help the economy, so aren’t these employers who advertise open positions and then place those positions on hold only maintaining this awful status quo?

I know that there are many factors involved when a company considers hiring and any reason could cause a company to freeze hiring. It is just frustrating to have been interviewed, given a brief timeframe for the filling of the position, and then being placed on hold. How long should a candidate wait for a company to make a decision, especially when they are working a temporary job that could end any day and no one else is calling?