I arrive at the crossroads of desperate lost souls and hopeful promises.
I sign in at the marble lobby with the overly friendly receptionist in a tight skirt and frizzy ponytail. A clipboard, akin to a doctor’s office, holds the names and the arrival times of us job seekers. A man uses the tactic of innocent flirtation with the receptionist. He jokes mindlessly about the effects of caffeine and hopes to earn an advantage. A participant in this live version of an actionless reality show I wait for the catalyst to get us going. I take a seat in the cream-colored leather chair sit and wait to be called.
CNBC is reporting on the big screen TV; there are twelve of us waiting with faces that look like we could be waiting for colonoscopies or mammograms. More people enter, more black pantsuits, more black pumps, more faux leather portfolios, more clipboards with paperwork. The carpet is striped with a recent vacuum trail, the printer is humming, the elevator keeps dinging down the hall.
I look down at my resume. The dark purple header with my name on it printed out instead in bright magenta. Whatever. I’ve gotten too old to care about the old school recruiting rules. My old navy skirt suit hangs in an old dry-cleaning bag in my closet; I have chosen a more modern version of an interview outfit, as I’m wearing a black pencil skirt and flowing black blouse with metallic gold heels. Personality is my PS.
One by one, the privileged selectors emerge from behind a branded etched glass door calling our names like BINGO balls. With the obligatory fake smile, they collect the paperwork for each candidate at the receptionist’s desk. The candidates take turns gathering their hopes, dreams, and applications and reciprocate the insincere greetings. This is a professional courtship and we engage in it as such; they have something we want (jobs) and we want to be the chosen ones.
How many of us remain hopeful and optimistic at the springboard of a new career search while others feel like we’re processing paperwork, putting in the requisite steps.
I look down and see my unpedicured toe nail peeking out from my shoe. I hope the recruiter doesn’t judge my feet. We all fidget, an orchestrated group of nerves with papers. We fix our hair and pull down our skirts; we straighten our ties.
The recruiter calls my name, I look up and smile and extend my arm …
And here’s my PS:
I’ve spent over six years in the recruitment advertising industry so I came to my job search armed with insider knowledge. The niche job boards, the applicant tracking systems, the Linked-ins, the social networking. But it seems that although I seem to know the roads and highways to a destination, I still have to sit in the same traffic.
Job-hunting has gone mostly virtual; we fill out countless online questionnaires and enter in our job histories, our education background, special skills. We check off boxes, click radio buttons, and fill out the obligatory, yet optional, EEO statements at the end. I always choose to answer that I’m white and a female; I’m not sure if this is helping or hindering my cause.
To say that the face of recruiting has changed dramatically is an obvious understatement. People’s qualifications have come down to bits and bytes—keywords on resumes. When a hiring manager needs a candidate, they conduct a search on their internal resume database. The right applicant is served if it had the correct ingredients—matching keywords. The strategic candidates treat the job descriptions like a reading comprehension section of a standardized test. We read the job descriptions and then insert the appropriate keywords onto our resumes, hoping one of them will yield a successful result.
For those good on paper, this system works. For those of us who are good in person, we yearn for another approach. Perhaps corporate recruiting should take a lesson from actors—we should all come in for an audition.