Thank you… goodbye!

I guess the war shall never end!

I have been job hunting for the past four months, and have not yet found anything. I have sent out countless copies of my resume, and have been to more than a dozen interviews. The responses I got varied and were really funny. Here is an example of a few:

– Sorry, you’re over-qualified (mind you, I’m 32 years old)
– We are sorry, but we recruited internally
– We regret to tell you that we are no longer hiring for that post (after, of course, having dragged me to 3 interviews)

The above are samples of the responses I got, which I am thankful for, since up till now some companies did not even bother to call back. And some others have actually said: “We will get back to you to let you know when the next interview is”, but never called. Some have argued that I should call back, but I refuse to do so. Why? Simple, it’s not professional. As a manager or a recruitment agent in a company, one should keep their word. If they say they’d call back, they should call back. I am the one who’s supposed to be waiting on their call, and it’s not my duty to call and remind them that they were supposed to call me.

But the funny-sad thing that could ever happen to anyone while job hunting is to be interviewed by someone who’s either too young to be a good ‘judge’, or – even funnier – someone who has no clue what they are doing. Allow me to elaborate with two incidents:

I had sent my resume to a recruitment agency (a reputable one, I may add), since those have more contacts and job offers. A few weeks after I had sent them my resume, I received a call from a girl who started asking me the usual questions; “What are you looking for?”; “What salary range are you considering?” and inquiries of the sort. Then, towards the end of our phone conversation, she asked me to pass their offices so they would meet me in person. That sounded logical enough and I accepted.

The next day, I got dressed and headed to their offices, located in a very prestigious building in Down Town Beirut. Just for clarification, and for those who don’t know, Down Town Beirut is the most prestigious area in the whole of Lebanon, and the capital of business (if I may put it that way). It is also the capital of many other things, which I don’t feel like delving into right now.

Upon arrival at the entrance of that prestigious building, the security guard asked for my identification, and in exchange gave me a visitor pass. For a moment, I felt I was entering into the US Embassy – armed security guards, identification necessities, thorough search. I was instructed to go to the 3rd floor and was given the proper directions on how to use the visitor pass. And so, being the rules-abiding person I am, I followed instructions and finally – and safely – reached my destination.

A girl in her very early twenties greeted me and escorted me to a conference room and asked me to make myself comfortable. She was also nice enough to ask if I liked to have coffee or tea. I politely declined. She disappeared behind the tinted glass door. My appointment was at 10 am, and I was there at five-to-ten. I knew I was to wait, since I had arrived a bit early, but was surprised that my wait exceeded 15 minutes. Ten is ten; not ten fifteen, not five to ten. But I guess nowadays, in this country of prestige, the old French saying applies: les gens chics sont toujours en retard(translated to English: classy people arrive late).

Anyhow, as I sat in that small conference room waiting, I allowed myself the liberty of screening through the room – a habit I have always had: observation. It was a well kept room, clean, tidy. To my right, there was a big bibliotheque that held multiple books on management, finance, human resources and economy. And I wondered, does anyone ever read those? They look like they’d been sitting there, being eaten up by dust day in, and day out. I came to the conclusion that no one ever laid eyes on these books, except – maybe – when they were being placed there. But of course, such a prestigious company needs to have a prestigious bibliotheque that held prestigious books, isn’t that so?

Around twenty minutes or so after I had first set foot in that office, a young girl of almost 24 walked in. Blue jeans, tight short white blouse, and a pair of flip-flops. Ok, hang on a minute, flip-flops to work?!! Where is the professionalism in all of this? I think I must still be living in the 18th century. Nevertheless, although I did notice that her ‘external’ attire was not-so-professional, I decided to disregard it, thinking to myself that she must be a genius in her field. She greeted me and sat down. Naturally, she had my resume printed out (although I had brought a copy, just in case). She started going through the resume over and over, like she was lost for words and did not know where to begin. I waited. Then came her first question: “So, was it hard to reach our offices?” I was speechless for a second, but was able to smile and say no. Then she went on to ask the usual questions of what did you do, tell me about yourself, and what salary are you looking for.

Ok, those are the inevitable questions – the ice-breakers so to say. But I expected other recruitment-agents’ questions. Stuff that are supposed to help this 24 year old to get to know my personality and character better. None of that happened. The girl was fixated at the “salary” stage and could not develop further. I explained to her that it all depends on the package the company is offering, and that it is negotiable. But she insisted to know (I related that to her “salary” stage fixation).  The whole meeting lasted for 10 minutes, and then I was out of there.

As I got into my car, I started replaying that encounter in my head. I started wondering what she was able to know about me in those 10 minutes. I am not a recruitment agent, and have never worked in that field. But I do know that 10 minutes, with the very regular questions she posed, are not enough to find out anything about me as a person. Some people, with the right type of questions, have the ability and training needed to ‘dissect’ a potential candidate. I didn’t sense that with her.

Another funny-sad similar incident took pace today. I was contacted by a well known, well established company to schedule a meeting with the General Manager. I had already undergone 2 interviews previously with the HR and my future supervisor (if I were hired). Now, it was time for the GM to interview me; which seemed like a positive sign in the hiring process. I was happy.

My meeting with this GM was scheduled at 10 am today; but I overslept. I woke up at 9, which meant I had to be super fast in getting ready, especially that the area in which this company is located happens to be in the heart of Beirut (not Down Town, in case you’re wondering), in the busiest street. Speed was of high importance. However, to my good fortune, I received a call from the HR agent at 9:15 telling me that the appointment had been rescheduled till 11:30. Good for my sake, as I was running really late; bad (in my opinion) since appointments have to be respected and any rescheduling should be announced at least 24 hours in advance. Nevertheless, I was happy and didn’t mind that glitch.

11:15 am; I was already sitting in the designated waiting area of that company. I had been greeted by the HR agent whom I had met previously, and was asked to fill in an application. I thought, “Fine, this is to kill the 10 remaining minutes, and I would be in to see the GM by 11:30”. I filled in the application and was done by 11:23 (I looked at my wrist watch). Then came the wait. As I sat there I started wondering in the back of my mind of the reason why upper management make people wait. It could be many reasons, but I didn’t want to bother. So, I shut down my mind and sang to myself (Je T’aime by Lara Fabian).

At 11:45, the HR agent directed me to the GM’s meeting room, and asked me to make myself comfortable. I wonder what they mean by that – make yourself comfortable. Could they possibly be trying to tell me to kick my shoes and put my feet up on the table? A bottle of Pepsi could do, thank you. Some times, English as a second language is a curse.

Anyhow, Mr. GM walked into the meeting room 5 minutes after I was admitted. Dressed in dark blue suit pants, a white shirt – with a red smudge on the collar (I wonder where that came from) – and a blue tie. His hair looked like Elvis Presley’s but thrown to the back and longer. He had a neatly trimmed beard, and his lips were obviously ‘siliconized’. He came in looking like he was disgusted of something. He was a man of not more than 36-37 years of age, held an already-lit cigarette in his hand, and barely said good morning upon entering. Despite this, I got to my feet, held out my hand and blurted a good morning followed by my name, in a well balanced voice (Etiquette 101 – not usually taught in school, but acquired through up-bringing and experience). He gave me a hand shake and sat down before asking me to have a seat. I disregarded that – yet again – and seated myself in turn. Mr. GM started going through my resume and application (both having the very exact same information). He was silent for a while, with his lips clenched – try to imagine how a pair of siliconized lips look like; not a very nice sight.

About 5 minutes passed by as I waited for this dude to start the ‘interrogation’ process. And he finally was able to throw the very first question at me: “How old are you?” I was stunned at the question, mainly because my date of birth was stated on both my resume and the application. Nevertheless, and not to seem impolite, I said 32 with a little sarcastic smile, which I don’t think he noticed, since he was too busy ashing his cigarette and skimming through the documents in front of him. I waited for the next question, thinking to myself that perhaps that was his way of an ice-breaker. The next question took almost the same amount of time to be blurted out as the first; but it was finally blurted.

The questions he asked varied between “how old are you”, “what’s your longest work experience”, “NGO? Do you consider yourself an activist or you had too much free time on your hand to waste”. The waiting period between each question varied between 5 to around 10 minutes. His last question, though, for me, was the funniest. “Do you have any questions for me?”. Having had a summary of the working hours and conditions, what type of business this was, I was a bit confused. What was I supposed to need answers for? His age? Or maybe what brand of cigarettes he smoked. I answered with a no, and without a blink of an eye, Mr. GM stood up and said: “OK, I’m done now”, and was about to turn around and walk away when I stood up, put out my hand to him and said: “Thank you for your time, I appreciate it. Goodbye” (again with the same well balanced Etiquette 101 voice). Then I proceeded to walk out. The HR manager, who was present during the whole ‘interview with the GM’, and was half asleep in the process, smiled and said: “Have a good day”. My response to that was to turn around, smile and say thank you.

I will not delve into the age versus position issue. However, I will expand on the whole disrespectful attitude and total ignorance in conducting an interview.

First of all, General Manager or janitor, respecting an individual is a must; since I believe we have all been created equally as human beings. We all have lungs, hearts, hands, feet, brains (regardless of the level of usage). Having more wealth and position does not give anyone, whoever it may be, the right to belittle others, or to behave in a totally impertinent way. On the contrary, a better-off individual should have had more education and etiquette training… But apparently, in this country I unfortunately live in, more wealth and position gives one the right to act like a god. This is what I would call poverty of the mind.

Second, a General Manager should be one who has an idea about everything in their business. Someone who is well learned of all the operation. When I was told that the General Manager wanted to meet with me, I started reviewing, in the back of my mind, all possible tricky questions he might pose. I was a little worried and hoped to be smart enough to answer those questions. Yet, I felt like I was talking to someone who had to interview me; who had no clue what the post I was applying for is, to start with.

I watched a movie the other day called Corporate Affairs, during which one of the characters was explaining to this newly promoted manager how corporate level managers converse. It was very simple and yet so true. Their conversation went like this: “Blah, blah… blah-blah-blah… blah”! After having met with this man today, and after having seen many such a sample, I think this is explanation to management mumbo-jumbo is completely correct. For a better appearance, you can throw in a few complicated technical words, and voila! You’re officially a manager… Oh! I almost forgot; the suit, tie and cigar are a must!

Thank you… goodbye!

1 thought on “Thank you… goodbye!”

  1. Hey Sam,
    Don’t despair. It is the same everywhere you go. Believe me, even here in the Great (yeah my foot) United States …
    Now, what do I say to them?I say: “Shove it up your A.s”
    What do I say to myself? I say: “Something better is waiting for me outthere…”
    Got my drift, pal? 🙂

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