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Natalie Thomas

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Attention Employers: Please Look Past the Pedigree

Posted: 08/22/2012 3:58 pm

Up until several months ago, I could count on two hands the number of interviews I've had in my life. Every few years, there'd be something: college visits, a new job but, thankfully, I usually passed the proverbial test the first round to avoid additional probing. That all changed when I recently left my job of seven years.

I've been out of the mix for a while but, apparently, it's a bit like dating. I'm back in the pool with thousands of others, forced to up my outdated and rusty game. A once confident, self-assured, "I've got this" woman reduced to a second-guessing, over-analyzing, fidgeting fool. "Will I be liked?," "How do I stack up to the others?," "What should I wear?" and "How much of my true self do I reveal?"

And that's before walking in the door. Then there's the butterflies, the nausea, the "Do I have any food in my teeth?," "What's my hair doing?," "Am I appearing too eager?" and "Why did I just say that?" It's exhausting. Not to mention, time-consuming.

Looking for a new job is a full-time job. And, for those with a current gig, who has time for that?

It's also much more complicated than it seems. While you smell less like desperation than those couch-surfing and praying for a paycheck -- and have office tools at your ready, there's the need to be secretive (making up "doctor's appts," perhaps even going so far as to elaborate on your fake, TMI ailment, printing resumes on the sly and ducking out to take calls on your cell), creating an additional level of stress.

And those are the best case scenarios because, more often than not, you hear crickets. No need to print or pass off anything, no phone calls to negotiate because, most likely, you've sent off your resumes to the great, wide, corporate abyss never to hear back. What happened to the days of correspondence? To a real, live person letting you know they received your application and it is or is not being considered? I can handle rejection, what I cannot take is endless wondering. Even a nice form letter would do, anything to let me know that my information has been received, read and passed on, something to indicate that I should stop following up (there's a fine line between persistence and stalking). Really it's in the employers' best interest to get me off their case!

The lack of communication is not the only thing that's changed. Much like dating all of the rules have.

For starters, seven years ago, I didn't have to worry about a social media presence. And, now, many companies are adopting the theory of the more interviews, the better. I had nine with one particular company. Nine. In three different cities. The last six were one-on-one, back-to-back in rapid fire succession. I didn't have time to use the restroom or get some water let alone think!

Before gearing up for said interviews, my brother-in-law sent me a Wall Street Journal article about the new trend in interviewing. Apparently, the popular line of questioning with forward-thinking companies is puzzling. Literally. Puzzles. Now, instead of asking about experience or testing you on skills, interviewers are doling out wacky word problems.

"You are shrunk to the height of a nickel and thrown into a blender. Your mass is reduced so that your density is the same as usual. The blades start moving in 60 seconds. What do you do?"

Um, WHAT?? I failed Physics, which is why I didn't go into math or science and why I am not interviewing for a position where I would ever even remotely need to answer this kind of thing. It's supposed to show creative reasoning. I think the only reason(able thing) would be telling the interviewer to take his nickel, his blender and shove it.

Another company requested both my high school and college GPA's. Now, I'm no Fulbright Scholar but I held my own in school. But the idea that a company wouldn't even consider an applicant before really getting to know them based on a number that they earned -- or didn't -- in my case 15 years ago is absurd to me. It may be an impressive place to work, but it's not for me. At this stage in my life, I don't want to give my all to a company that I can't believe in or get behind.

While commiserating with a friend about how elitist it's gotten, she told me about a prestigious entertainment agency that hires only Ivy League students and pays their entry-level so minimally that the only ones who apply, certainly survive, are trust fund babies. This furthered my fury.

There are plenty of kids who struggled in school and are now doing amazing things in this world and, conversely, others that managed to maintain a perfect score and, yet, have amounted to nothing. Does being able to test well, have the money for a tutor or cheat the system really speak to character and work ethic? Does a less than stellar record seal your fate or bar you from achieving greatness? Who says who we were, or who we tested to be, decades ago determines who we are today? Who says Ivy League equals quality and community school -- or lack of higher education altogether -- signals failure? In my experience, some of the best, hardest-working, biggest-achieving, finest people came from nothing, struggled through life and now, not only have something to prove, but also have compassion and appreciation for others, instilling in them a strong sense of decency and philanthropy.

Technology, progress and the modern world aren't always advantageous. By upping the ante, we're missing the mark. What gets lost in scores and achievements is personality and humanity. As candidates, we're obsessed with having the "perfect" answer. As employers, we're concerned with what's on paper and how tough the interview makes us appear. As a result, the true essence of a person -- their passion, character, decency and individuality -- is often overlooked. And, I'm afraid, if we're not careful, we'll create a Stepford society of workers, a clone-like corporate atmosphere devoid of diversity.

So, employers, next time, you're surveying the prospective field, please don't forget to widen your selective scope. There just might be an amazing applicant or two who didn't earn a Harvard degree but has more heart than your current roster combined and one hell of a backstory. I'd take that over a perfect GPA any day.

 

Follow Natalie Thomas on Twitter: www.twitter.com/nlt25

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