Wednesday, April 09, 2008


It's never my intention to let comments go unanswered. I read them and think about what you said and always intend to address it with some thoughtful response. And I now have two posts - one about work and one about faith - with feedback that struck me as important. I'm annoyed that I haven't been faster with thanking you and letting you know what I think in return. So I will. But right now I'm rather busy and distracted.

We have been, if you've noticed, preparing for a House Hunters-esque post about three potential jobs and what I love and hate about each. But to do that, I need to take another interview and it just so happens to be scheduled for Friday. So let's review why I'm wildly irritated with these folks, shall we?

The job was posted in early November. That - to me - means you're interested in receiving application materials and have some vague plan to actually look at the incoming information. Only because I interviewed for this exact position when I was finishing grad school and save emails with fiendish skill was I able to actually talk to a person rather than being kept behind the wall of online applications and no contact information. Now I was less than impressive at my very first interview - which happened to be for this job - and wasn't surprised that the powers that be found me a bit too timid and inexperienced to handle the demands of industry.

Well, I thought when I pounced on the application and wrote an email to the man who used to manage the team, this post-doc has given me experience and made me rather mean. So, as my friend SpongeBob SquarePants would say, I'm ready! To prove that point, I stalked the new team leader with what can only be called exquisite skill. I emailed and I called and then I would wait, allowing him time to forget all about me before I popped up in his inbox or on voicemail again with gently yet insistently nudging emails demanding he pay attention to me.

"I don't mean to pressure you into meeting me," I once wrote. "But as I keep track of potential jobs, I wondered if you'd already found someone perfect (in which case, congratulations!) or if you were still reviewing applications (then, good luck!). An update would help me prioritize my interview schedule and offer a better idea of where I stand."

So we did that until March. I'd nudge, he'd apologize and then I would wait and he would ignore me. But I finally wore him down and we had a good conversation on the phone. And I was invited to interview.

"I don't know that I want to work for someone who won't answer email and can't be pinned down to make a decision in any kind of reasonable time frame," I mused to Friend. But this was a point of honor now - if I could finagle it, he would meet me and then make a decision as to whether I'd fit in on the team. So I picked a date, we arranged some details and the information was handed over to HR and admins. Delightful.

Except they sucked too! I played phone tag for a week to confirm the date I picked with HR so she could hand over my information to someone else in her department. I barely restrained myself from saying, "Wait, are you kidding? Could not have handled this over email?" Then, another week later, I left a voice mail indicating I should probably make travel arrangements and wondered if she could check in with the person to whom I'd been assigned.

I got email - addressing me by the wrong name (Kathleen rather than Kathryn, which is close, I guess. At least she didn't call me Bob.) - with application materials that duplicate the information I already gave them online (Why? Why are we wasting so much time to duplicate crap in a Word document that you already have in some database?! Is that why things move so slowly? Do you finish something in Word and start over in Acrobat? Then again in a Text Editor? Do we not know copy and paste?) and information to arrange travel.

Here comes the next problem. I mentioned a flight time to, um, let's call him Steve, the Stalkee - the one in charge of the team. And he said we'd start at 9 and easily finish by 2. Lovely. I mentioned it again - that I had a specific flight in mind, that it left around 6PM and that I wanted to talk to their travel agents to get on it - when I was speaking to HR. So I talked to a wonderful guy who took care of flights (direct!), hotel and rental car. I looked up directions, started to move abstracts and papers into a single folder so I could have them all ready for any questions that might come up and waited to get my schedule.

Yesterday, concerned that nobody would know I was coming when I showed up in the lobby, I wrote to ask if anything had been arranged and offered assistance if that was helpful. I also reminded HR and an admin that my flight was at 6. A few hours later, I got a nice Word document that had me wrapping up at 4PM.

"Huh," I said out loud. Then I thought about the hour drive to the airport from the interview site, returning my car, checking in, clearing security and how my nervous-flyer nature demands I sit at the gate and mentally prepare to be hurled into the sky. So I wrote a polite email back, reminding yet another person that my plane was leaving rather soon after I'd depart their building, noted that I was concerned about timing and left it to her to decide what to do.

"We were under the impression your flight was later," she noted when she said they'd try to shuffle the schedule a bit.

"Really?" I wanted to say, but didn't. "And why would you think that? I've said 6 from the very beginning and to various people. I did this because I wanted someone to say, 'oops - too early!' if that was the case. But everyone seemed cool and I thought it'd be great to get home relatively early on Friday night and to have one more flight leaving that night should I miss my scheduled departure. So when were you confused? When I noted the flight time to Steve? Or his admin? Or you, the HR director, or one of your people? Was it when I forwarded my travel plans as requested? Or do you just make things up and assume they're true?"

Instead, I made a face and sighed heavily and apologized for the confusion and inconvenience. And they did scoot some people around and have me wrapping up at 3 now. Which is great and I probably shouldn't have complained, but, well, come on. Isn't part of working for industry supposed to be how smoothly and efficiently things run? Away from the academic bureaucracy and funding rules and understaffed office positions? But, good gracious, this is so much worse than any academic visit I've ever taken. I have four copies of some documents and have to beg for others. Communication is nonexistent - not just with me but with each other, apparently.

Nonetheless, I'm looking forward to the experience. I'm better now than I was when I first interviewed. Far more confident in myself, far less impressed with them. And I'll probably have to bite my tongue to stop from saying, "You desperately need me for my organizational skills if nothing else."

So. I feel better now. I need to take care of a few chores then fly out tomorrow morning. Then, just maybe, I'll be back late Friday evening. The hotel promises wireless internet so I should be able to update you on further ranting tomorrow night. And, after I return and life is calm again, I'll stop being annoying myself and write follow-up posts. I appreciate your patience and cooperation in this matter.


PhysioProf said...

Isn't part of working for industry supposed to be how smoothly and efficiently things run? Away from the academic bureaucracy and funding rules and understaffed office positions?


Bureaucratic administrative functionaries are totally assertively clueless everywhere. They behave this way because the nature of bureacracy powerfully incentivizes it. Bureaucratic functionaries who do not behave this way are actually being irrational, and acting against their own immediate self-interest, perhaps because their own sense of honor about doing a good job is too powerful to ignore.

CAE said...

I second that laughter... and I'd just copied that same phrase with the intention of pasting it in to bust this myth! Every company is different, but just being private sector gives no guarantee of efficiency or, indeed, sanity.

(Disclaimer: I only worked for one company before scuttling back to the safety of academia).

Best of luck on Friday. Hopefully it's just HR that's flaky!

Brigindo said...

Good luck. I'm sure they'll love you but you loving them sounds pretty iffy at this point.

The bean-mom said...

Damn. There go my illusions about the efficiency of industry.

Good luck on your interview!

Jane said...

What Physioprof and CAE said. But geez, your interview experience so far does sound frustrating! Good luck---hope things go smoothly!

Psychgrad said...

This whole process sounds pretty trying. I can just imagine myself getting all of these e-mails and needing to take several deep breaths (in through the nose...out through the mouth) before wording a respond.

I'm interested to hear how things go. Good luck!

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