A sentimental look at networking odds, the lost art of immediate feedback and hiring manager etiquette
Do you remember your first real job interview? I’m not talking babysitting or lawn mowing gigs, but a legitimate sit down, fill out an awkward application that had spaces for teeny tiny penmanship and then talk about your next five years type of adventure?
Well I clearly remember mine. It was way, way, way back in 1982. I was a high school sophomore attending an all-girls college-prep high school in Woodland Hills, CA. To non-Californians, it is simply “LA” but back then, it was the San Fernando Valley enjoying the newfound celebrity with the “Valley Girl” song and then subsequent self-titled movie.
Networking was alive and well in high school. My classmate Carol already landed a spectacular job at Chuck Burger On the Square and she referred me. It was a sweet afternoon job at a corner burger spot in the food court at the Topanga Mall. The menu wasn’t that expansive, but there were many perks – most of them included cute boys, cash in our pocket and a deep discount on the food.
I landed a job interview within days of turning in my application. I was poised to nail it. The owner’s son sat me down in one of the food court tables, amidst the hustle of the mall and briefly highlighted the menu of burgers, cheeseburgers and French fries. I figured how hard can this be? I was already a referral. This job was mine! Then the seasoned nepotistic son pulled out a few dollar bills and an assortment of coins.
The next phase of the interview involved delivering change back to the all-knowing hiring manager. I was way over my head at this point despite being enrolled in Geometry (that really came in handy that day) and unfamiliar with role playing without a calculator.
Needless to say, I bombed the cash back exercise. I had already been daydreaming about future purchases at my favorite clothing store, Contempo Casuals and break time Orange Julius splurges…now my passion project was a complete bust.
What I still remember to this day is that the owner’s son was honest with his feedback and let me know that I would not be hired based on my miserable lack of mathematical skills. My thoughts and self-criticism – not his words. He encouraged me to practice at home and re-apply when I was ready.
Today, I wish there was more Chuck Burger On the Square goodwill and communication. Am I alone in this sentiment? Why can’t managers give candidates real feedback? What are we afraid of? Lawsuits? Reputation? Or is it simply too much in a typical work day to spend a few minutes and let job seekers know their fate?
Here are two recent examples regarding job positions that I was vying for:
The first was an interview on Dec. 21st. The hiring manager asked my availability during the holiday break which I confirmed. She said she was poised to have me come in and observe and then get me on the schedule before New Year’s. After the interview, I immediately emailed her a thank you. Her response: “This is terrific, thanks for sending the info.”
I never heard back.
Hiring managers should not let their exuberance mislead the candidate. It may be terrific, but if you use that word, it gives a false sense of hope.
Just this month, another hiring manager interviewed me on a Friday. She advised there were four final candidates vying for the job. She promised a call the following Tuesday to advise of next steps and where I stood with the competition. I handwrote a thank you note and placed it in the mail. This was a dream job syncing with all of my interests.
Well, on Tuesday there was no call. No email.
Maybe short term memory loss? Why the specific promise but no delivery?
I miss Chuck Burger On the Square honesty. I’ve been practicing cash back skills for 37 years now. I’m ready to re-apply.