Stories From My Latest Job Search

I have been unemployed more times than I would care to admit since I earned my bachelor’s degree almost five years ago. Sometimes it has been by choice, but just as often it hasn’t. Each time I’ve left a job it has resulted in a gap of months appearing on my résumé.

Employers, and people who have been working one job for a long time or who have a lot of experience and are sought by everyone, have no idea what searching for a job is like nowadays. Companies take weeks, even months, to respond, even if it’s just an automatic rejection email. In fact, in many cases you’re lucky if a person reads your application at all before a computer has decided to filter it out. Important details like application deadlines are missing from job descriptions. Once in a blue moon (or even less frequently) you receive feedback on your application or interview. I’ve applied for quite literally hundreds of jobs since the end of 2013 and I can tell you: it’s a mess out there.

At the beginning of December last year, my employers let me know they wouldn’t be renewing my one-year contract once it expired at the end of January. Finding out you’re on the brink of unemployment isn’t exactly the best Christmas present, but they wanted to give me enough notice so I would have time to find a job.

I was outwardly understanding and grateful, but inside I was laughing. They had no idea. I put my chances of finding a job in those seven weeks, including the holiday season, at about 5%.

Things started off surprisingly well and I had a few interviews lined up before my contract expired. However, they weren’t jobs I was particularly interested in once I’d learned more in the interviews, and I wasn’t offered any of them. They’ve since become part of my collection of stories of ridiculous things that have happened to me during this job search, which I am now documenting here. Keep in mind, this is only from one job search that has been going on for less than four months. This doesn’t even include all of the weird stuff I’ve been a part of during any of my other unemployment stints.

I know I’m taking a risk posting all of this on my public blog, especially since I have shared the link in several of my job applications. But I welcome hiring managers here – read the plight of the other side! Employers have the power to change this situation and need to be aware of what a mess they’re involved in. (In any case, I have tried to make the details as vague as possible to avoid calling out any company or person, but in some cases more detail was necessary to explain the situation.)

Without further ado, and in no particular order, Stories From My Latest Job Search:

I was offered a job that was then given to someone else when I didn’t contact the company in time due to technical reasons.

I had an interview with a big company. This was the kind of big company you learn about in business school, so I went into the interview feeling prepared and dressed smartly. I came out feeling a bit iffy – it certainly had its positives, but some of the things the three interviewers mentioned really rattled me, and I didn’t feel like I had made a good impression. Later that day I got a phone call from the department manager, offering me the job. I was surprised, considering he had mentioned that they still had other interviews for the position lined up. It was a Friday and I wanted to think about it, especially since I had interviews scheduled for Monday and Tuesday, so I said I would call on Wednesday with my decision. The manager gave me his cell number and I wrote it down.

My Monday interview was rescheduled for Wednesday, then didn’t take place at all (more on that later) and the Tuesday interview was for another job I didn’t want, so I was set to call the manager on Wednesday afternoon, even though I still had a funny feeling about the whole thing. When I dialed the number I only got a busy tone. I thought maybe he was in a meeting or attending an event, and decided to call back the next morning.

I tried ringing all day Thursday but constantly got a busy signal, no matter what time of day. In the afternoon, I called back the number from which I’d gotten the job offer, and an automated system answered. I was told to press 2 for the employee directory. I pressed 2, was told that was not a valid option, and was redirected to an answering machine, which I blabbed on for a minute. When I hung up, I was still uncertain – I had no idea where that answering machine was. Was it on the manager’s desk? In his department? Or at the reception for the entire company?

So I went onto the company’s homepage and called the only number I could find. It was a customer service line for the company’s hardware and the lady who answered had absolutely no idea why I would be contacting her when I mentioned a job interview. Luckily, she was still keen to help and managed to find me the manager’s email address. I emailed the manager on Thursday just before 5 pm.

On Friday morning I got a phone call; it was the manager. Yes, I’d had the incorrect cell number, he said, but he had bad news. When I didn’t call on Wednesday he offered the job to someone else and she took it right away.

I couldn’t believe it. It was unbelievable, that’s why. I’d had a pretty good reason for not calling on Wednesday (in that it was not technologically possible) and there could be plenty more good reasons, like family emergencies. But no, instead of taking two minutes to call me and ask, “Do you want the job?”, the manager chose to simply offer it to someone else. I laughed for about an hour after hanging up at the sheer absurdity of the situation.

Computer software once invited me to two different interviews, yet no one in the company knew about it.

I applied for a job I thought I was extremely qualified for and was ecstatic when I received an invite to a phone interview. The email was a bit funny in that it was addressed “Hi Germany”, but I picked an available time in the calendar app link I was sent anyway and prepared for the interview, which was set to be on a Monday.

Monday arrived but I hadn’t yet received a confirmation for my selected time. My interview time came and went, no phone call. I considered the time difference between here and London, where the job was located, and waited another hour just in case – still no call. Suddenly, on Tuesday I received an email: my interview was scheduled for Wednesday. On Wednesday I sat at the table next to my phone for two hours. There was no call.

On Thursday I called the company and asked what was going on. The lady on the phone was confused that the emails I were receiving were signed by someone who didn’t usually handle applications; in any case, she would look into it and let me know. On Friday I got an email to “Hi Germany” that my application did not meet the requirements and would not be considered. At that point, they couldn’t even humour me with a 15-minute phone interview? Honestly.

It’s March 28 and I’m still waiting to hear back from an interview I had in December.

Shortly after I found out I was losing my job, I applied for a position unrelated to marketing. It was a long shot, but it was a job I really wanted and I put my heart and soul into the application. The confirmation email I received said only successful applicants would be contacted. My pessimistic self assumed that wouldn’t be me. So imagine my joy and utter surprise when just three working days later, I was invited to an interview!

The interview style was something I had never done before. It used an online program to show pre-recorded videos of someone asking questions, and I had to film myself answering them. It was a bit nerve-wracking but before each question I was given a minute to think of the answer, so when it came to the filming bit I wasn’t blabbering on and on. Plus, unlike a phone interview, the hiring manager would be able to see my enthusiasm. Even though there was no way to gauge the “interviewer”‘s reaction, I felt I had nailed it.

A couple of weeks went by. The status on my interview link remained at “Someone from the company will contact you with the next steps”. Christmas and New Year’s came and went. When I thought enough time had passed that people would be back from their holidays (in other words, second weekend of January), I sent a follow-up email. I never got a reply. At some point the status on my interview link changed to “Please contact the company for the next steps”.

In mid-March, later than I’d intended, I called the company’s customer service line. The lady who answered was incredibly helpful and did all she could with regards to my application, but the hiring manager simply wasn’t at her desk at that time. She promised to pass on the message and ask the manager to give me an update. It’s now been 106 days since my interview, and I still haven’t heard anything.

I was told I wasn’t assertive enough when I was rejected for a job that I practically begged for.

Okay, I feel bad putting this one on here, because I really liked the manager that I spoke to and I appreciate that difficult choices need to be made in the hiring process. Furthermore, he is the only person so far during this job search that has given me any sort of feedback after an interview.

Sadly it was a reason I couldn’t really wrap my head around. When I got the invitation to the interview, I replied within ten minutes. Then I didn’t hear back for a week. During that week, I called twice, left a well-rehearsed voicemail, sent two emails, and offered to fly to the city to interview in person. When I received a reply that a phone call would be okay and how could he contact me, I gave not only my phone number but also my Skype username and Google Hangouts as a possibility. I thought I was being way too keen and was ready to apologize for it in the interview, but he didn’t mention it. Thank goodness, otherwise who knows how passive I would have come across then.

I had an interview cancelled because the company found and hired the perfect candidate before it was scheduled to take place.

Employers: please do this!!!! Don’t waste people’s time with an interview when you already know who you’re going to hire.

The reason I put this one on the list is because of the circumstances that led up to it. I applied for a position posted on Germany’s job agency board back in January and didn’t hear anything for weeks. At the beginning of March, the job was re-posted, and I still hadn’t heard anything! I reapplied with the same application, even though the date on my CV was old, but included the letter of reference I had received in the meantime. Within a day I’d received the invite to the interview. The lady on the phone said, “Yes, you applied twice, back in January and now again with your letter of reference.” So they had seen my first application. Instead of asking me to send a letter of reference back in January, they simply chose to ignore it altogether.

I was asked to bring my high school grades to an interview.

Same company as above. The first time around they couldn’t ask me for a reference letter, and when they finally did call they also wanted my university transcript and high school grades. I thought it was quite funny, what with me having graduated high school nearly ten years ago.

I was rejected for a job a day after my application because they had already filled the position.

Why? Why can’t you take down a job ad once the position has been filled, or put an application deadline on it? This was for a job that a search engine at the job agency sent me in a weekly email, so the posting can’t even have been that old. At that point I was really ready to reply and shame them for wasting applicants’ time, but of course I had been contacted from a no-reply email address. Go figure.

A company once asked me if I had finished my university degree in Canada.

I applied for a job via email with my CV, cover letter, and letter of reference. Surprisingly, a non-automated email came back very quickly. It said, “You have sent very few documents. Have you finished your university degree in Canada?” No, I put “University of Alberta, 2009-2014” on my résumé for a laugh. I suppose it would be a struggle for me to finish my Canadian degree after ten years, what with all the working in Europe I’ve been doing since 2015.

I spent almost two hours on a job application only to be told it was for internal applicants only.

This morning I searched for jobs on Indeed, and one I found mentioned further information that was only available on the company’s website. When searching their site, I checked out the full list of career opportunities for something that might interest me more. Each job was listed with its title and the first few sentences of the job description, which usually included “This job is for internal applicants only” or “This is an internal vacancy only”. There was also a longer PDF with more specific information and application guidelines relevant to each opportunity.

I found a job that interested me, read the description, read the PDF thoroughly, and began my application. This wasn’t your run-of-the-mill CV-and-cover-letter application; rather, they had a few questions they wanted answered, and I really took the time to ensure I answered them well. I wrapped up everything in Word, clicked on “Apply for Position” and was met with the screening question, “Do you work for this company?” No matter what browser I used, clicking “no” sent me back to the list of jobs. I read the PDF and job description again – no mention of internal applicants only. I chalked it up to technical errors, emailed the HR team to let them know, then answered the question with “Yes” and filled out my application.

Full disclosure, at the end of the application the same question appeared and I selected “No”. I also had no intention of fraudulently weasling my way in there; I legitimately thought this was a technical issue as there was absolutely no mention anywhere of this being an internal vacancy. A while later the HR team answered my email. The job is an internal vacancy only and they’re sorry this wasn’t made clearer.

No, it wasn’t clear. It wasn’t even hinted at. Ugh.

I had been thinking about writing this blog post for a while and this last story is the straw that finally broke the camel’s back. I am *so* sick of all of these ridiculous situations that come with searching for a job. I may have a new story to tell every week, but at the same time I get more and more frustrated with this process and the gap in my work history gets longer.

Today I opened an old cover letter to copy part of it for a new one, and saw that I had submitted it with a different company’s name than the one to which I applied. And it wasn’t just a different company’s name, it was a different company’s name in a really silly place that made the tone of my opening paragraph rather farcical. I often panic that I’ve made this mistake but it almost never happens; I suppose this time I must have been distracted, or overwhelmed with the sheer amount of work that goes into applying for a job. But really, with the application process the way it is, is it really any wonder that job searchers make mistakes like this, when they’re sending out dozens of letters, hoping something will work out?

Besides, who knows if anyone will even read it.

Update April 3: A company I’d been interviewing with for about a month suggested a position that was a better fit, then three working days later said it was already filled.

It hurts me to write this story here. I honestly thought this company was different: they prioritize employee satisfaction and that is already reflected in their recruiting process, which occurs in four stages. At first, I had to complete an aptitude test. Then, I had a call with a random employee to see if I fit into the company culture. The third stage had me completing a task related to the job; in this case, I was supposed to write a short article and list where I would distribute it. I’m not going to lie, I struggled with the assignment. The distribution bit especially was something I had little experience with. But I did the work, mulled it over for a couple of days and improved it, then sent it off.

Well, the hiring manager was ecstatic. She wanted to get me in for an interview right away. Unfortunately, we couldn’t really figure out whether the interview could be done online or if the interviewer would rather meet me in person. I began to worry when I didn’t hear anything for a few days. Suddenly, last Friday, I got an email saying that the company was considering me for a different position, and if I would be okay with continuing with my application. The position was more writing-based and less related to distribution, so I was ecstatic and responded with a hearty yes on Monday morning. I didn’t hear anything on Tuesday and was wondering if I needed to schedule an interview in the calendar app they’d sent me. Then, on Wednesday evening, I got a reply: they’d filled the position.

I don’t know when in those three business days they dismissed my supposedly impressive application without an interview. I don’t know why they suggested the other role if they already had a candidate in mind. In the rejection email I was told I should have a look at their other positions and if something interested me, I would be transferred to the appropriate stage in the application process. But honestly, after such a blindsided blow, I can’t decide if I want to accept that offer or send them a long letter to let them know how unimpressed I am.

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