Wednesday, January 24, 2007

File Under: Knowing When to Fold 'Em, Walk Away, Etc.

A while back, one of the After-Dark Ill-Suit's gigs was writing music reviews.

One day, I received a CD and a sheaf of accompanying materials. I mean, generally bands would include a little press blurb or something, but this band included nearly everything positive that had ever been committed to paper about themselves.

I listened to the CD and I did not like it. I didn't hate it, but it just wasn't all that great. So I had to write a not-great review.

(Aside: This might come as a shock to you, Reader, but I didn't really enjoy doing that. It's one thing to critique candidates when a) it's unlikely they will ever read this unless my regular Readers - AKA parents - both apply for a job with a company I recruit for AND make some embarrassing gaffe and b) I leave the candidates as anonymous as possible and change identifying details. But I don't actually want to make someone feel personally bad. In general, I was a bad reviewer because I was like a kindergarten teacher: "I'm sure they did the very best they could!" So for me to write a negative review...let's just say it took a lot.)

Anyway, I made the band verrrreeeee unhappy. And so they posted a rebuttal to my review on their website AND e-mailed me and my editor a link to their post.

At first, I was freaked out because they were hating on me - with first and last name - on their website and that's a little weird. I am a Good Girl People Pleaser and want everyone to like me. So at first, I felt a little bunched up about it, but the more I thought about it, the stupider it seemed that this band was so insecure that my one bad review on that one teeny website got them so worked up. (I also found it appropriate that - as my main criticism was they were too cerebral and wordy - their response was to WRITE an ESSAY. Like, aren't you rockers? Shouldn't you be too busy banging groupies and - I don't know - writing actual rock songs to compose counterpoint arguments with critics?)

What is my point and what does this have to do with looking for a job?

Well, a few candidates I've encountered in the past year have illuminated for me that what I experienced with the band - from the initial press kit through the denouement - is actually a kind of personality tic that comes up in recruiting.

The candidate who responds to my initial "Hey can I phone screen you?" with an e-mail that has forty-five attachments of, again, every positive thing that has been committed to paper about them, up to and including their second grade report card scanned into a PDF, will then inevitably be incapable of answering Yes/No questions with a Yes/No answer during the phone screen. Even simple questions like, "Have you ever worked for this company before?" will be met with a paragraph for an answer.

And then, if I have to reject the candidate, the INEVITABLE answer to my rejection note is: an argument of our assessment, frequently with a veiled criticism of me or the company.

If your time on the playground and/or in romantic relationships hasn't taught you this, I know that my attempt is probably futile, but generally, you cannot argue people into liking you better. You can present all the facts and figures you want, you can point out how flawed the other person is for Not Getting You (always a head-scratcher), but generally, at the point at which you either receive a bad review or an interview rejection letter is generally the point at which you have to let it go.

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