OK, I’m going to switch gears for a minute and make a different kind of post.

Just recently, I changed jobs. The job I held before I had for four years. The one before that, for about fifteen months. Before that was darkness (aka College).

The job change in question was a long time coming. I switched positions in the organization two years ago and started working from home (since the company decided to close the office in favor of telecommuting). At first it was great – no commute, no office politics, new position and I liked the work. But then I started getting handed assignments that I didn’t like, like traveling all over to install software or srcripting a survey in a proprietary language. Between these, my company’s fondness for offshoring, constant reorganizations and the fact that they announced my position was becoming a business analyst that didn’t code anymore, I decided it was time to move on. I started a new position a few weeks ago.

The job search, in earnest, took about three months. Not too bad, but it reminded me of why it took so long to move on – I fucking hate the job search process

Interviews – I hate interviewing. For starters, when you haven’t interviewed in a while, you suck at it, so you blow the first couple of interviews. Plus it never fails that you’re really good at Area A in development but they keep asking you questions about Area B and so you feel like a know-nothing idiot when it’s done.

I know I should be grateful, and I am mostly, but at one point I was interviewing every day of the week, which got old quick. I got so tired of explaining to yet another person my life’s history to that point. My degree in college is functionally unrelated to my career and my GPA wasn’t the most awesome, so that’s fun to explain to everyone, too. Nevermind that I’ve been out of college for seven years now, I still have to explain why I majored in Geography and still can’t find my way to the airport I drove to the week before.

Every once in a blue moon over the last four years of my job I would get a random recruiter phone call and the job sounded good enough to at least go talk to them. They’d get to the question “so why are you looking for a new job?” and I’d say “I’m not – you called me” and I’d never hear from them again. Maybe this was me being passive aggressive, I dunno.

My wife has a friend and he has told us that he has never interviewed for a job and then not received an offer. That’s a pretty impressive statistic and you believe it coming from him – but with all due respect, he doesn’t have to go through the technical interviews programmers have to go through. He doesn’t have to write code on a whiteboard in a suit for four hours. He doesn’t have to explain how much the Empire State Building weighs (and yes, I did actually get that question once – I assume we both read the same article). He doesn’t have to explain five different ways that his code is right because the interviewer keeps fucking with him.

Recruiters – I make this complaint in general, not in specific. The job right now I got through a recruiter. In fact, in this last round, I only interviewed twice that wasn’t through a recruiter.

That being said, there are recruiters who are awesome and do their job and make their money and perform a useful role. Then there are the other ones. The ones who know absolutely nothing about the tech field they’re working in. In a meeting with one, I had to explain to her what all the different technologies mean (I didn’t mind, she was pretty receptive about it). Worse are the ones who think they know what they’re talking about, but don’t. Like the ones who see mostly C# on my resume and then assume I couldn’t do a VB.NET job (C# and VB.NET are the two main functionally-identical languages in .NET). Not that I wouldn’t prefer it, that I couldn’t do it. And then they say “do you know anyone who could do it?” – oh, I see, you want me do to your job for you and get someone else a job in the process?

Something else I also figured out really quickly is that if a hundred different recruiters pitch you the same job, there’s something bad wrong with the job probably. There’s got to be some reason why turnover is huge and the company in question has resorted to calling every recruiter in the area (and some not in the area) and say “have at it”.

Recruiters generally want to meet with you before pitching you to people and that’s fine and all so long as they understand that you still have a regular job and you can meet them after work. Some don’t – I would imagine that a good chunk of their clients are unemployed and will jump at the chance to drive to Downtown Dallas and meet them at 10:30 AM. Worse still are the ones who aren’t in your area – at least you don’t have to go meet them in person but I just don’t think I’d be comfortable with getting employment from a third party in Alaska.

Monster.com – now, I’m not really complaining about Monster because this time around Monster indirectly got me the job. For various reasons, this time around I just let the recruiters call me and went from there – I didn’t get to the point where I needed to start applying for jobs directly. Monster has this thing where when you sign on, update your resume, and log off, you’re bumped to the top of some “hey they logged on” list – theory being, you’re looking for a new job. After a couple of months of looking I finally did this one day and the following day I got – I kid you not – 35 emails and 20 phone calls. This was on a Thursday – I pretty much didn’t get any work done until the following week.

That’s not my complaint about Monster. Actually, I guess my complaint isn’t about Monster at all. My complaint is when people ignore what I’ve said on Monster. I listed my profile as the Dallas, TX area, no travel, no relocating, and no straight contracts (i.e., a “three months and then you’re done” sort of position). What happened? Lots of calls about straight contracts. Calls about relocations and positions with lots of travel. “But what if it’s all in the state of Tex…” NO TRAVEL. My wife had a 100% travel position for a while – never again do I get in a position like that if I can manage it. Truth is, I don’t mind some travel – it’s kinda neat to get away for a couple of days and it wouldn’t be the end of the world (my last job had me travelling 4-5 times a year, tops), but if you call me after reading my “NO TRAVEL” portion and pitch me a job that sends me all over the country, I’m going to say “no thanks” and hang up.

Job Applications – Some places you go to interview, usually the ones where it’s a direct hire position, want you to fill out a job application before you actually talk to them. This, to me, is probably the single most annoying thing about the job search process.

First, it never fails that I forget to think “oh hey this is a direct hire position, maybe I should bring a ‘cheat sheet’ in case they make me fill out an application”. Instead, it usually comes a surprise. Then they make you fill out your life story, and make you feel pretty rotten in the process. They want you to go back X years in your job history. Dude, it’s on my fucking resume, why don’t you just look there. Yeah, I know you need it for your records – how about you save us both some time and make me fill this out when we’re closer to a job offer? (that’s another thing – what’s up with these jobs that require like ten interviews to get the position – getting in at the Pentagon is easier!) You have to explain any gap longer than thirty days. They want names, addresses, phone numbers, direct reports, etc. It’s especially annoying when they’re asking for the name and phone number of the boss you don’t want to clue into the fact that you’re looking for work and don’t give you a “please don’t contact them” checkbox. I always put in the name and phone number of a coworker who’s in on the gag so they can divert them if need be.

Then they ask for your educational history in the same way. Like I remember offhand the address and phone number of my High School. Oh good, they ask for GPA and Major. Then they ask for any convictions you have. Some ask for that, of which I have none, but some even ask you if you’ve had any tickets for moving violations. Well hell, I don’t know – I had a ticket some years back for an expired registration sticker – is that a moving violation? I was moving the car when the cop spotted me. And heck if I remember if that was in the last seven years or not.

Sometimes they ask if you drink or use tobacco. Erm, define “use”. I have the occasional social drink and yeah, I’ve smoked a cigar in the last decade probably. Does that count? My wife worked at a place that simply would not hire tobacco users and would fire you if they found out you were a smoker. Not smoking on the property, smoking at all ever period. Company line was that smokers needed fewer work breaks and were cheaper on insurance costs. I think the company just liked that it was a legal way to discriminate (same company had few if any black people). So damned if I want to get fired because I had a Swisher Sweet four years ago and forgot about it.

The absolute worst is when they have you sign the back. It never fails that there’s some clause right above the signature spot that says “we have the right to contact…. your employer…” erm – no? Please don’t? If possible, I turn the thing in without signing it. Maybe this has cost me jobs before, I dunno.

Now that I’ve put some of my gripes out there, here’s some actual stories, some from this latest “round” of interviews, some from others

Too-good-to-be-true – one recruiter called me up and pitched me a job that, while it was far away, was offering 2.5x what I made in my previous job (current job at the time). While that sounds awesome and all, it was so much more money that it set off my bullshit detector. It didn’t help that he was pitching the job to me like it was a used car. When I finally got him to tell me the name, it rang a bell and I gave him some “I’ll think about it” line and called my friend. Yup, true enough, the same person had pestered him two years prior, even threatening to come out to meet him at his workplace. I learned from someone else in the time since that the company in question was horrible to work for and generally worked people to death then had nice rounds of layoffs. I eventually programmed the recruiter in my phone under the name “IGNORE”

No we won’t tell you – one recruiter called me up, and every time it wasn’t just one guy on the phone, it was always him and his partner. They pitched me some job that was a little further than I’d like to drive but I figured it was worth being submitted to. That is, until they wouldn’t tell me the name. I get that when you first have contact with a recruiter they don’t want to tell you the client’s name because they don’t want you to go behind their backs and go directly to the client and cut them out of the loop (consequently if they have an exclusive arrangement with the client, they’ll tell you right off the bat). But my policy is that I must know the name of the client before I let you submit me. Part of this is because there are certain companies I don’t want to work for for various reasons (like I’ve known people who have worked there and they’ve warned me to stay away) and sometimes I’ve been submitted there before so it’s a waste of everyone’s time to resubmit me. But this one recruiter-pair literally wouldn’t tell me until after they submitted me. When I wouldn’t budge on the matter, they offered to take me to lunch to sweet-talk me, but I refused. Generally, this is a sign that the company in question is so notorious that no one will work with them.

Not too fair – a couple of years ago I interviewed for a large mortgage broker headquartered in the area. Their location was a large, sprawling, multi-building campus. All was well and good until I got there and saw the “JOB FAIR” banner. There were tons of people there, all vying to be cogs in the mortgage broker machine. My first thought was “I’ve been scammed”. Kinda like when someone sets up a “job interview” for you and it winds up being a large seminar trying to sell you on Amway or something. I had to park a mile away from the place. Hopeful that perhaps I wasn’t part of the “Job Fair”, I went to the building on the campus without the “Job Fair” banner. I asked for the Such-and-such building I was supposed to be reporting to for the interview – the woman pointed to the building with the banner. Every conversation I had went like this

“I’m here for an interview with So-and-so at the Such-and-such building.”

“Are you here for the Job Fair”

“I don’t know if I’m here for the Job Fair, all I know is I’m here for an interview with So-and-so at the Such-and-such building.”

And then the person would just point me to someone for the Job Fair. Apparently they were doing interviews at the Job Fair. I had to repeat this routine like 3-4 times and as soon as I finally got to someone who knew what was going on (while I prepared the “there’s been a misunderstanding fuck you bye” speech in my head) they finally said “Oh, you’re supposed to go to the fourth floor” and there I had the actual interview.

We don’t know either – I once had an interview at a company that made trucks (we’ll just leave it at that). They had a “hire for life” mentality, and mentioned that the only reason they had a position open for interviewing at all was because someone had retired – their retirement party was the week before. Nice, considering my gig at the time saw programmers as an exportable resource. Only problem was – they had no idea what I’d be doing when I got there. Their policy was to hire first, then figure out what the person does later. So that part where you interview them to see if you even want the gig? Yeah that was impossible. I might be working in VB.NET. Or VB6. They didn’t know for sure. Oh, I might have to travel to Europe for six months on hire. Or not. They didn’t really know for sure. I wasn’t sad when they never called back.

Oh and the reason I mention it was a trucking-related company was that this was another one of those fill-out-a-job-application companies. They didn’t make me do it first, I did it at the end of the interview. It included a question asking for my CB Handle. I guess they hired truckers as well?

I hope you’re not evil – This one was not an interview per se but it was with a recruiter. Job sounded great, but then she said “the only thing is the company is… well, they’re… Christian, so they want someone with good morals and values.” I asked, “So, what does that mean? What does it matter if they’re a Christian company?” She responds “Well, I don’t think they start off every day with a prayer like Interstate Batteries but they just want someone with good…. morals and values”.

I’m not sure what they expected me to say. “Oh sorry, I have no morals or values. Hell, you should be scared to be in the room with me.” I never heard more on the position but it just struck me as odd that they were bracing me for the overt Christianity of this company (which is just fine with me, I sort of have a separation of work and church stance). I wouldn’t have ended the interview or anything, but it was just weird.

Please wait – When I was trying to move to the Metroplex like four years ago I interviewed at this one place on the Tollway and at one point towards what I thought was the end they said “OK we’ll be right back”… and I sat there for like 45 minutes in this dead silent conference room in this dead silent office doing nothing. Then one of them came back and said “OK, we’ll call you back for your next interview”

That wasn’t the weird part – the weird part is I did that standard thing where you wait a bit and you call back to see if you got the job (or in this case, the next interview). Which if you have to call them either means they’re slow or you didn’t get the gig. So the receptionist says “oh he’s busy now, would you like to leave him a message?” so I do. And I call back in a few hours. Same story, only I don’t leave a message. I do the same for the next few days. I leave him another message or two. I’m on the road headed to another interview (for the job I accepted and kept for four years) when another recruiter calls and pitches me this place and I tell him I’ve already interviewed there. I eventually quit calling the place and I never did hear back from them.

Now, I know what happened – they went in the back and maybe they were busy or maybe they discussed me, I don’t know. Maybe they just passed on hiring me or maybe the position fell through or whatever, which was fine. But why avoid my calls? Why not call me back when I’ve taken the time to call you first? If I don’t have the job just tell me and I’ll leave you alone. Why avoid me? I mean, it did eventually work – I eventually just quit calling and so they avoided any conflict. But jeeze, grow some sack and tell me no already.

Carry the one – One recruiter called me up and pitched me a gig with a company that sounded fun (that’s another thing – every job is pitched to you as a “fun place to work”. Every single one) until it came out that they required a 50-hour work week. Thanks but no thanks, all other things being equal, I’ll take the job that only requires 40 hours per week.

But they weren’t done yet – you got paid in some sort of sliding scale overtime sort of deal. So like, if your salary was $X that was what you got paid for your typical 40-hour work week. Divide the salary by the number of weeks/hours in a year and that was the amount per-hour you’d be paid for those extra 10 hours a week.

So… why not just pay me 120% of $X? As in, if the job paid $10,000 a year for a 40-hour week (an unrealistic but simple number) why not just say “oh the job pays $12,000 per year but you have to work 50 hours a week”. Why in the hell are you making me do the math on this one? Is it because the 50-hour-a-week thing is such a turnoff for everyone that you’re trying to make it sound like I get a bonus for it? Or are you trying to trick me into thinking I’ll get paid more than I will?

I think they were targeting the desperate-to-get-a-job types. That or they were just handed a shitty job to pitch. Like the one local firm I kept getting pitched that had a suit-and-tie policy. Sorry, all other things being equal I’m taking the job that lets me wear something normal to work.

Contracting Insanity – this one is not mine, but it’s my favorite interview story ever. It was a Slashdot comment.

All is well now, I got an awesome job through a great recruiter at a good pay rate mere minutes from my house (30 of them). Truth be told, I like these horror stories, I just hate going through them.