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Why I don’t like Job Headhunters November 13, 2009

Posted by General Zod in Storytime.
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I’m sure that there are some job headhunters who try to make a good effort to find work for the unemployed, but that has never been my experience.  I like to think of myself as a fairly intelligent and talented Systems Engineer with experience in many other aspects of the IT world (network administration, desktop support, project management… the whole gambit), so I tend to consider myself to be a good catch.  I would never presume to call myself “great” or an “expert”… but I like to think of myself as being “worth the money”.  Over the span of the last 20 years (yup… I’m nearing that mid-life crisis with the speed of Barry Allen), I’ve only had two periods in my life where I was unemployed long enough to consider resorting to a headhunter.

The first time was when I was 19.  I only had 2 years of experience in IT, and both of those were from working at the community college that I attended.  I didn’t exactly have a wealth of experience under my belt at the time, so when a local headhunter had contacted me and asked me to come in to talk, I considered myself lucky.  (Ah… was I ever that young?)  So I went in to fill out forms, give a copy of my resume, and chat with the headhunter.  The entire process took about 45 minutes.  What I didn’t know was that the headhunter wasn’t interested in keeping my resume on-file… he was only looking to fill a specific position.  After the chat, we shook hands and I exited his office.  I had paused just outside his door for a moment to dig for my car keys when I noticed through his window that he had picked up my paperwork and dropped it neatly into File 13 (the trash can).  I caught his gaze just after he’d done so, and he looked rather embarrassed.  I returned into his office… which seemed to surprise him as he started to roll his chair backwards from the door.  However, I simply advised him that if he was only going to trash my resume, then he should be considerate enough to let me get out to the parking lot before doing so.  He should consider himself lucky that I’m the one who was there to teach him that lesson (as I think of myself as a calm, peaceful man).  Others may not have been as forgiving as I am.

The second time I used a headhunter was a longer ordeal… and a much worse experience.

At this time in my life, I was about 23.  I’d just left a job over differences of opinion, and had just spent my last few dollars on my first date with the woman that I would one day call my bride.  (Insert Aww’s here.)  So I was job hunting… hard.  And my unemployment lasted a few weeks.  I have rent and a car insurance bill coming due, so I needed to find work ASAP.  Not wanting to ignore any possibility, I reached out to a couple headhunter agencies, and put my name in.

I was surprised when I got a call from Richard Headhunter just a few days later.  He apparently liked what he saw on my resume, and he had a few possible jobs lined up that I might be suited for.  We talked to discuss them, and he setup interviews for me.  I was thrilled!… but I only did 2 interviews through him.  Here’s why…

The first interview was scheduled for a Tuesday morning.  It was with a corporation that was located almost an hour north of my location, so I’d made sure to leave extra early.  I met with two IT guys who were hunting for a 3rd to share the burden with them.  I liked the look of the place, so I was really hoping I would be a fit.  Unfortunately, the first thing that they said to me was… “Richard says you have a ton of Unix experience.  Tell us about that so we can gauge how much you know.”  Well this took me back a bit, because the word “Unix” didn’t appear on my resume anywhere as my experiences at the time had focused around Microsoft’s MS-DOS, OS/2, and Windows.  I informed them that Richard was mistaken and may have gotten me confused with someone else.  They were gracious about it, thanked me for my time… and I returned home to call Richard to set him straight.  His only response was “What do you mean you told them you didn’t know Unix?  Did you want the job or not?!”  Apparently the concept of honestly may have been a bit alien to him.

However, I was still unemployed, so I gladly accepted when Richard called about a 2nd interview.  He told me about the job in great detail, and I honestly believed that I would be suited for the position.  My only real concern was that the job was well over a 2-hour commute to the north, so if I took it I’d have to relocate.  Regardless, I needed the work and was prepared to do what needed doing.  The interview was scheduled for the following afternoon at 3pm.  I donned my suit and left around 11:30am to make sure I got there with plenty of time to spare.  At 2:40pm, I approached the receptionist and asked that I be announced to the woman I had an appointment with.  Fifteen minutes later, I was ushered into a small conference room where she informed me that the position had already been filled.  I told her that I understood, and asked when that had happened.  She said… “We picked someone last night.  That’s why I was surprised to see you here.  We’d called Richard first thing this morning to tell him to cancel any further interviews.”  I further asked what time that was… and she said “Around 8am.”  I thanked her kindly for her time and exited the company calmly.  Then, I spent the next two hours cursing Richard at the top of my lungs while driving.  My anger was doubled by the fact that my car broke down, and I had to arrange for a tow to get it to a garage… and a taxi to return home.  (I don’t like spending on credit… but sometimes you just don’t have a choice.)  By the time I got home, it was 7pm… and I vowed to call Richard the next morning.

So when I called him, this is how our last conversation went:

Richard:  So how did your interview go yesterday?
Zod:  My interview was cancelled.  They had already filled the position.
Richard:  Oh, that’s right.
Zod:  Why didn’t you call me to let me know?
Richard:  You had already left.
Zod:  No.  You knew by 8am.  I hadn’t left my house until 11:30am.
Richard:  I guess I had other things going on at that time.
Zod:  You should have called.  I wasted my entire day for nothing, and the trip put my car into the garage.
Richard:  Well, no matter.  I scheduled another interview for you today.
Zod:  When?
Richard:  10am at ABC Company.  You’ll be meeting with…
Zod (interrupting):  Wait.  This is the first I’m hearing of this, and you’re telling me that I have an interview in 1 hour?!
Richard:  That’s correct.
Zod:  I called you.  When exactly were you planning to call me to let me know?!
Richard: You just beat me to it.
Zod:  Well, I can’t make that interview.  As I already said, my car is in the garage so I can’t get there.  Can you reschedule it in a couple days?
Richard:  No.  You have to go today.
Zod:  I can’t go today.  Reschedule the interview.
Richard:  You’re not being very cooperative.  I think you need to consider…

This went on for a few more minutes with Richard being unbending and inconsiderate, and I was becoming more and more irritated with the situation.  Finally, the gamma radiation lit up and I went a little Bill Bixby on him…

Richard:  I’m not rescheduling the interview.  If you want this job, then you need to get moving now!  You’ll thank me for…
Zod:  LISTEN, you @*$#, &*#$%, tiny pencil-&$*% of a man.  I’m not being difficult.  I just can’t make the interview!  Had you bothered to contact me in advance, we could have worked something out; but that time has passed.  You seem to think that I actually need YOU and that I’ll bend to your whim because I’m job hunting.  Well you are mistaken.  I’ve decided that I don’t need your help.  Throw away my resume.  Don’t call me again.

I put the phone down with a very satisfying slam.  Normally I would never consider going off on someone like that.  He probably thought that my “rudeness” showed a serious lack of professionalism; but far from it.  When I’m on-the-job, I’m there 100% and dedicated.  It is I who considered Richard to be rather unprofessional.  If he had any sense, then he would have felt some level of shame or embarrassment for not communicating with me properly.  However, I’ve learned that there are some people in this world who just consider themselves always in the right… and no manner of discussion will change their minds on this point.  I owed him absolutely nothing (except maybe a swift kick in the pants), so I simply resigned myself to dismiss him.  I have no room in my life to accommodate individuals of self-importance.

After I calmed down, I spent the rest of the day reconsidering my job hunt strategy, tweaking my resume, making phone calls, and searching the help wanted ads.  I found myself gainfully employed just 3 short days later.

Looking to the teachings of Aesop, I think we can associate 2 morals with today’s story:

  1. Evil companions bring more hurt than profit.
  2. Self help is the best help.

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