Thursday, January 2, 2014

I Am Not a Sheep: How I Learned the Hard Way That Revolver Door Recruiting Is Not for Me

A couple of weeks ago, I surprised myself by walking out of a job interview.

Well, technically the interview hadn’t started yet, and that was a big part of the problem.

See, I’d applied for an HR specialist position and on three separate occasions been contacted by the recruiter du jour about an interview. The first two times I’d declined the invitation, because the pay was too low (as in what-the-hell-are-these-people-thinking? low), but Call Three broke me down, and I decided to check it out. Maybe it’s fate, I thought. Maybe I’ll meet these people and convince them how ridiculous their rate is, I thought.

Mistake #1.

The interview was scheduled for 10:00 AM in a town several counties over from mine. As the appointment neared, I really, really didn’t want to go. But, I’d made a commitment, and then there were fate’s plans to consider. 

And, what do you know? The day before the interview, there were 
forecasts of a snow storm. “Well, that seals it,” I thought, “To heck with that interview.” I emailed my brother for his advice.

“Don’t go,” he told me. “It’s a waste of time. You’re worth way more than they’re willing to pay.”

I didn't listen. I rescheduled instead.

Mistake #2.

The day of the interview (which would now be 11:00 AM) was cold, bright, and clear. I got a little lost finding the recruiter’s office but managed to pull up at 11:00. As I was pulling up, I called the office to apologize for being late and to say I was in the parking lot and would be right in. I absolutely, positively hate to be late, and I believe that if an appointment is for 11:00, and you show up at 11:01, you're late. However, when I called the recruiter, she didn’t pick up. Hmmm …

After entering the recruiter’s office and introducing myself, I was invited by the receptionist to sit in the lobby and wait for the recruiter who’d see me “soon.” Seated on the other side of the room is a young woman in a cheap suit with flyaway hair filling out a stack of papers on a clipboard. 

Uh oh
. Never, ever in my whole, entire 25-year career has anything good come of me filling out a whole stack of papers at the start of the application process. I resolve right then and there that I’m not completing a damn thing before I talk to the recruiter. Meanwhile 10 minutes go by with no recruiter and no word about the recruiter.

At 11:12 or so I text my brother that if this woman doesn’t show up in the next 15 minutes I’m gone. Again, punctuality is very important to me, but more than that, I’m getting a niggling feeling that I simply don’t belong here. Frankly, sitting on a sinking sofa in some dingy recruiter’s office watching bad television is beneath me. Yeah, I said it.

Around 11:15, the receptionist approaches me with the dreaded clipboard and stack of papers. I smile and politely take it, but I already know I’m not giving these people my social security number, permission to do a background check, or anything else without talking to someone, which as I understood it, was the entire point of this interview. The receptionist tells me that the recruiter will be out in a moment.

About 2 or 3 minutes later, a door opens and two women walk out. One is clearly an applicant. The other approaches me—my Millennial recruiter!—introduces herself, and tells me in sing-song, entirely too-upbeat tones that she’ll see me in a bit. She then disappears back into her office without seeming to notice that it is 11:20.

I read all the paperwork and see that I’m being asked to sign a noncompete. Noncompete? Where’s the reciprocity? Why in the world should I sign a noncompete at this stage? I am definitely ready to go.

My recruiter opens her office door, but wait! She needs to see that other applicant again, and when her door closes, I am both done and undone.

It’s now 11:30, and I gather my purse and coat, hand my clipboard to the surprised receptionist who thanks me (and I respond that she’s welcome), and then I hightail it the hell out of there.

It's time to correct my mistake. 

“I am not a sheep to be herded into someone’s office at her leisure,” I think.

“An appointment time should be more than a guideline,” I think.

“I don’t understand why any self-respecting company would believe this is the way to treat applicants,” I think.

“I’m a stubborn idiot,” I think. I just had to find out for myself that further inquiries about this job were a complete and utter waste of my time.

So here’s my takeaway.

It is generally far better to spend good energy pursuing opportunities that make sense than to spend bad energy chasing foolishness that makes no sense. Chasing foolishness that makes no sense squanders everyone’s time and is a downer to boot. 

And I should have known better. In fact, I did know better, but I acted like a dumb dumb anyway. Not again. 

Oh ... and the last lesson? Some recruiters suck.


  1. Great Story! I've had similar experiences. Normally my intuition is pretty accurate when I am feeling a certain level of cynicism about a situation. Its interesting that it only took you 30 minutes to bounce. Perhaps you are more impatient than I. I probably would have given them a little longer depending on the company/industry.

    1. Hey Anon, I'd love to hear about your experiences.

      I could definitely be more impatient than you, and truthfully, I was ready to leave before I got there, so that didn't help. However, I'm serious when it comes to being punctual and respectful of someone's time, and I've never had a candidate wait for me while I spoke to another candidate! Ridiculous.

      Finally, giving a candidate a stack of papers to complete before it's even determined there's a good possibility you'll be moving the candidate forward speaks volumes. It's all take, take, take with not much in return, and I'm just about sick of it. It's unnecessary, inefficient, and shows a serious lack of regard for candidates.

  2. This was a good one Crystal. I have had similar experiences. Once I waited an hour and a half for an interview just because it would have been a "good job". I am over it. I am finally in a place where I realize that my time and talent is valuable and I am not just going to give it away. Especially when I know I am not exhausting it on something in pursuit of my own passions and/or developing my own salable skills. Keep putting the good information out there!

    -Megan S.

    1. Oh man, good for you Megan! There's a wonderful freedom that comes from valuing your own time and talents enough to not let others waste them.

  3. Good for you! I am a very punctual person and it's a pet peeve of mine when people don't respect my time. After all, I could have been doing something more productive.

  4. Good for you for leaving. As you saw in my entry, I stayed. Lesson learned.

    1. It's hard, Alicia. We want work, we're taught to be "good girls" and follow the rules--there are many reasons why we don't walk out when we should. I wish I'd done it years ago!

      Hey folks, here's the link to the article Alicia mentioned. Interesting read.

  5. You are late, but she (who has a job) cannot be late? Seriously? Seriously! Seriously? Wow.

    1. Hmmm ... I'm 1 minute late and apologize. She is 30 minutes late and says nothing. You think that's the same? Seriously? Seriously? Seriously? Interesting conclusion, that. Wow.

      And ... you think one's employment status should determine one's commitment to civility? Double wow.