In August, the news media was rocked after an email response was shared from the San Diego Padres where one job seeker responded to an employer email for her to attend a job fair at the bargain price of $495 with her own counter-email to "Suck My Dick." Taylor Grey sent the email response out of frustration after having applied for 30 jobs and turned down with the Padres not even receiving an interview. Like millions of Americans she is actively looking for work and frustrated with the hiring and acknowledgement process also known as the candidate experience.
I had the opportunity to talk with Grey in between her busy media schedule for a few minutes specifically about the candidate experience. Since her email response went viral, Grey has been receiving global media attention appearing and being quoted on CNN, Mashable, and the Wall Street Journal to name a few.
Question: Can you give me a brief listing of some of the jobs you had applied for with the Padres previously? What was the most recent one?
Grey: It's a pretty long list. I received notifications every time a new job was posted, and applied for every single one over a span of several years. I know the last two positions were inside sales and ticketing.
Question: You have a pretty eclectic job history having been a Delta flight attendant and now getting your law doctorate. Do you think that your past education is intimidating to hiring managers and employers? What exactly do you think is holding you back?
Grey: There was a time when being a renaissance man or woman was revered. Being well-rounded and knowledgeable in many areas was something people actively cultivated. Now, it is seen as a liability, especially by recruiters and hiring managers. It is an extremely sad and disappointing snapshot of society, when being average and lacking curiosity is rewarded over a broad base of intelligence. I believe the reasoning behind that is companies want the chance to mold employees. But given the state of the economy, the job market is flooded with experienced job seekers who bring a wealth of knowledge from many industries. In order to pay rent and put food on the table, many scramble to take whatever job they can get, which leads to more diversity. Chances are, if a prospective employee brings a lot of different experiences to your company, they are better equipped to come up with innovative campaigns and solutions, which will benefit your business.
If managers are intimidated by an applicant's job history, they need to re-evaluate personal insecurities. In this economy, there is an abundance of extremely educated, intelligent and experienced candidates who are consistently overlooked for positions they are "overqualified" for. The basic rationale, which is as backward as the hiring process itself, is companies' fear an overqualified candidate will leave for greener pastures six months to a year after being hired. The company will then lose their investment while the employee leaves with more experience they can leverage to a better position.
To prevent that, why don't companies consider paying an actual livable wage for all positions? Outside of salary, opportunities to thrive should be offered to willing and capable employees at all levels. This will encourage them to take ownership and engage in something other than waiting for the clock to strike 5 o'clock. Since there's a good chance many employees/applicants are overeducated and underemployed, why not harness some that cerebral power? Company culture will also benefit when everyone from mailroom workers to assistants are encouraged, rewarded and praised for contributions. Feeling like you have an active voice in your work environment is invaluable. It eliminates learned helplessness and using work hours to search for other employment. It may also lessen the strain mid-level managers feel and help the decision-making process. Encourage the free exchange of ideas. In my experience, mid-level managers are scared to make decisions. This leads to an overall stifling of creativity and progress as well as frustration by subordinates. Accordingly, "subordinates" is a terrible word that only leads to adept employees feeling like what they have to offer is somehow less important than others in positions of power -- workplace leaders who may only have their position due to seniority. A more collaborative work environment where titles aren't the end-all be-all in the decision making process will lessen the fear many managers have that someone better qualified and more educated is gunning for their position. After all, doesn't everyone want to feel important?
Question: What type of engagement would you like to see from employers when job seekers are not the right fit for the job? Is a canned email enough?
Grey: Number one, why isn't a job seeker a "right fit" in the first place? That description makes job seekers cringe, mainly because it's the same courtesy given to a pair of shoes. Hiring managers need to examine if their initial summation is even valid by thinking outside of their cubicle.
Telling an applicant they're not the "right fit" is comparable with a longtime lover telling you they only want to be friends. It means nothing. If you're going to turn me down for a job, look me in the eye and tell me why. Don't hide behind an anonymous form rejection letter. It's an insult to our intelligence, which, let's face it, is demoralizing. There are a record number of Ph.D.s and masters degree holders on public assistance and food stamps. We're smart. We're capable of understanding constructive criticism and tailoring our approach. We're just not being given a shot. Tell me the reasons, so I can be a better job candidate.
A canned email is not enough. It comes off as dishonest, like the manager is avoiding telling the truth. If you don't think I'd get along with my boss, or if you didn't like my answer to the question I provided to "What's your dream job description," please tell me. A form rejection isn't an acceptable way of delivering bad news; it's a punch line. It's a joke when HR managers use that line. If you want to know how you can avoid keeping your name out of the news, treat people with a little respect. If you can't tell someone "why" then maybe you should look at your reason -- maybe you're committing an unlawful act of discrimination.
I realize due to the overwhelming number of applications received, HR managers are inundated with resumes. The process needs to change. If companies have one position to fill and the process starts online, there should be a cut-off as to avoid thousands of submissions. Chances are, you'll have more than enough to choose from in a limited posting. It will limit the number and need for canned rejections.
Years ago, the hiring process was done face-to-face. Now you're required to submit a resume and cover letter online. Attaching photos to these are frowned upon. You're just a name and reference number. Even when applying to sling coffee at Starbucks, the process is almost entirely done online. It takes the "personal" out of what is ultimately a very personal process. Applying to give your time and talent to an organization is personal. Feeding your family is personal. It should be treated with respect.
Question: Any other advice for recruiters and hiring managers who wish to avoid a situation like yours? What can they do to keep their names out of the news?
Grey: It's so easy in HR to get caught up in the day to day: filling positions, handling disputes, company morale and processing benefits. It's easy to forget you're dealing with real people, with real bills and real experience they want to offer you. You're the recipient of one of the biggest gifts a person can give; their time and effort. The most important thing is to think before you act. Walk a mile in a job seeker's shoes. Before sending a mass email, think, where did we get this list? If this practice is made public, is it something that could be construed as lacking integrity? Is this something I would offer my child? Would I encourage my best friend to participate in this?
Since the infamous email, Grey's received multiple job offers and is now asking for job seekers to share their own hiring and candidate experience horror stories at www.taylorgreymeyer.com. As overqualified and unemployed, she is extending her 15 minutes of fame with the goal of helping others in similar situations who are frustrated, unemployed, and don't have a voice.
Follow Jessica Miller-Merrell on Twitter: www.twitter.com/jmillermerrell