The new economy is dying for qualified workers, right?
Wrong. It's a complete lie from start to finish, and my example, while merely one of many, is the one that's burning me up this week.
The Microsoft Network seemed to want me for a job.
The first meeting, with a recruitrix, had significant hiccups, all of which were seemingly overcome. To my surprise, I was bruited for one of the senior or managerial positions of the six being filled. (The story did not quite add up. Two "offer letters" had already been presented, one of them to a fellow who was also groomed for management.) I was told a meeting would be set up with the manager of the department.
I made it quite clear that I had a day job and their schedule would have to accommodate mine: After work, or, under battle conditions, before. Nearly two weeks passed. The recruitrix was apologetic: She could not get the manager's attention long enough to secure a timeslot.
A Friday-afternoon meeting went by the wayside, as did its backup plan of the following Monday. However, the recruitrix did secure a "commitment" to "meet with" me.
More days passed. I rang the recruitrix. Her voxmail message had changed, ominously. Employment questions were directed to some man at head office. Quite concerned at this point, I phoned the man. Pegging where he was from instantly, and also mistrusting him instantly, he explained that the recruitrix's "contract has ended" and that the manager had not met with me for one of two "logical" reasons:
I was upset that this man was emphasizing Door Number Two and told him so. He promised to get an answer for me that day, but also asked me to start the entire application process from scratch again, which I was not keen to do.
I rang the recruitrix. She was surprised to hear her contract had ended, a claim she denied; she was merely off the recruiting beat, or something. At that moment she was composing a snatchmail to the manager and the man explaining that her job was to pre-screen candidates, I had been pre-screened, and I was to meet the manager. Period.
She does well by me, this recruitrix.
The next day a functionary calls to set up the meeting. The only available time is 0830 Monday, July 17. I reluctantly agree. I have no choice. I am not interested in engaging in a year-long interview process merely because the manager, whose employer is famed for working its underlings hard, refuses to have double espresso with me after work.
I arrive at the swanky downtown office, in an old, inaccessible building, at 0820. The receptionist arrives, checks the database, confirms that the boardroom is booked, offers me OJ, and escorts me into a tiny room packed to the walls with a table and six chairs, all of whose 30 feet trip up my own as I wander back and forth between the window and the chair, waiting.
At 0850 I decide that I will walk out of the place at 0915. I also tell myself I should have done so already, or at least should have the guts to do it at the stroke of nine. At 0910, a mousy excuse for a functionary enters and explains, in a vaguely accusatory way common to low-level secretaries ensnared in the web of guilt for fucking up, that I was in the manager's schedule for Tuesday at 0830.
Just a second, I say. The previous functionary had specifically said Monday, July 17, at 8:30. I've been here since twenty after eight. When was someone going to tell me this?
Well, Miss Rodentia told me, the manager was available that afternoon – at 4:00. You know I'm not available then. I have a day job, I tell her. She tries to be all apologetic, but is about as convincing and trustworthy as the man at headquarters pushing Door Number Two. And the best part? The manager is leaving on vacation on Wednesday for a week.
She extracts my phone number. I write "Not tomorrow morning." En route out, I ask the receptionist why she ushered me to the boardroom when I wasn't in the schedule. (I wasn't: The schedule mentions only the manager's name, and it had been set aside for "interviews.") I am already pushing the door open as she apologizes for my inconvenience. (I actually believe her.)
I rang the recruitrix.
I posed a question. If Microsoft is in such a hurry to fill these positions, and if she's getting grief for all the time it's taking, why was I stood up at the altar?
A message is received later. It's the recruitrix, apologetic. She notes that, however hurried Microsoft may be to fill the jobs, if a vacation makes the manager a better one, it is time well spent. Certainly I am willing to agree that the manager could use improvement. The next message on the voxmail is from the manager himself, apologizing. He actually provides his phone number.
I receive an apology call from the first functionary, promising that I have been placed at the top of their priority list. I relent, again, and arrange time off the next morning. I call the manager and say I can make the Tuesday 0830 meeting if he wishes.
Surprise, surprise: He booked a 9:00 meeting after being told I was unavailable for 0830. Um, at the time, I was unavailable. I cleared my schedule. He can't clear his? I am, however, offered a telephone interview.
The manager seems to hold to a first-in-first-out policy: String the applicant out for two whole weeks. Then set up a meeting for Monday, pretend it's on Tuesday, stand up the applicant on the Monday, and double-book him for Tuesday, bumping him once more.
I ring back. I tell him I won't show up for the Tuesday meeting, since he booked someone else. I say "I hope this represents a trough in my dealings with Microsoft and that things will go uphill from here." I wish I'd come up with a better word than trough, but I stand by the sentiment. I also ask why we couldn't have arranged a phoner at any time in the previous two weeks.
The next day, another apologetic, very surprised, and somewhat embarrassed message from the recruitrix. Evidently the manager is going away on business, and his admin mouse is empowered to set up a phoner. I ring the mouse. She seems to think 1730 hours today will work. Uh, no. It takes me longer than that to ride my bike home. 6:00? She tells me she'll ring the manager's shoephone to confirm.
Later, a message from the man himself. No, he cannot make the "5:00 conference call." Well, neither could I have, honey. (How does that mouse keep her job?)
Also, from your message yesterday asking me if this is kind of indicative of the way that Microsoft does business, um, you know, I did miss a meeting and I did apologize for that, but it sounds that it would be very difficult for us to kind of take this forward as I think, uh, we might not be getting off on the right foot and therefore it tells me it might not work out with you and me and Microsoft. Anyway, with that said, I'm going to sit on this for a week and we can be in contact when I get back[...]. [GARBLED] to take this forward any further. Anyways, thanks for your time and we'll see what happens. Thanks. Bye, now.
Incredibly, his shoephone broke up just at the point where he was or was not saying "I don't want to 'take this forward.'" The other signs in the message are ambiguous, aren't they?
I rang his voxmail. Um, you got that wrong. I didn't ask if this was how I'd be treated. I said I hoped the worst was over. And at any rate, you're meting out the gravest possible punishment – telling me I won't get the job without even meeting me. That sounds like hiring according to non-objective criteria. I suggested waiting till he got back and setting up a meeting we could both make and taking it from the top without prejudice.
As if. With a when-did-you-stop-beating-your-wife accusation hanging in the air, my goose is cooked.
It's entirely their fault, and there's next to nothing I can do about it.
How do you think I feel today?
Update of 2000.08.03: Not a peep from anyone. Like many high-tech employers, I am expected to take the drawn-out absence of a yes as a no.
Why in the world did I think for an instant that the biggest software company in the world would have the best hiring practices rather than taking the worst habits to the absolute max?