I recently wrote about politicking on job interviews in which hiring managers require applicants to perform extraordinary feats to be considered for the job. Here some true instances in which employers have asked me for more than a resume and a writing sample to determine my candidacy for a job.
I decided to chronicle my experiences because the process has been so brutal, frustrating and exhausting that I decided to share it. Since job interviewers expect courtesy and respect from their job applicants, it stuns me that they forget to return the favor so often.
A corporate training and management firm interviewed me for the position of “writer extraordinaire” for its internal and external communications department.
I interviewed with the company CEO, and then had a phone interview with Jane Doe, the vice-president. I submitted my best clips, including several press releases I had written for a previous employer. Jane was anxious to re-launch her book and she wanted the new hire to help in this effort.
The writing test, aka the “audition”
As part of the application process, she asked me to write a press release announcing the re-launch of this book, albeit with a fresh angle. So I decided to write the sample press release announcing that Jane’s book was re-launching via Twitter, the hot new social media outlet at the time. Jane was impressed with my press release and the idea of re-launching her book via social media. She informed me that she was down to two candidates, and that she decided that I needed to do one more writing test, an “audition” she called it: She wanted me to write a sell sheet for her book.
She did inform me that the other candidate was also doing a second writing test, but not the same one that I was assigned.
Even though I had no idea what a sell sheet was, I agreed to do it. I needed the job. I did inform Jane that I had never written one before but that I would do my best. So I spent three days busting my chops and submitted it for approval. After a few days, Jane called to inform me that the job was given to the other candidate who did a better job in the second writing test.
It was fair and I accepted that. It’s standard procedure for any writing and editing jobs to require some form of a writing test. I did think it was bit unfair to be given a writing test that was different from the one that the other candidate was given because essentially, we were being measured by completely different standards.
Fast-forward six months. At this point, I had lined up some freelance work at an online publication and was building a solid following for my column. One day, I get a desperate email from Jane— the person they hired was leaving and she wanted me to come in for another interview to be considered for that same position I had “auditioned” for. She also cc’d me on an email to her publicist, praising me for my first press release on Twitter and that the company is actually doing what I recommended in the release. In the email, Jane asked me to connect with her publicist to flesh out the plan for the Twitter launch of her book. From the looks of it, all signs pointed to me getting the job offer.
Another Interview and more “auditions”
I came to interview once again, met with the CEO again, and then two other employees of the company, one of which was the very candidate who was leaving the company. Later that day, I received an email from the departing candidate asking me to write another press release as part of yet another “audition.” The email did not ask if I was interested in doing another writing test— it was basically another assignment.
At this point, I was too offended to consider it. I had interviewed with the company three times, submitted my own press releases, did one as a test six-months prior and yet they wanted another. It was also obnoxious because the assignment given to me by the same candidate who was leaving the company after only six-months of employment. I decided I was no longer interested in the company. Jane sent a follow-up email and I took this opportunity to tell her that I had submitted everything I could but that I couldn’t expend any more time to do the “test” because I needed the time to produce work for the company that had already committed to working with me.
In short, I told her to make me a job offer. The next day, she sent an email saying that she decided to hire someone else. No surprise here. If they wanted me after their initial rejection, the company should have made an offer. Instead, Jane sent me through even more tests or “auditions.” Whatever you want to call it, she was simply exercising her power to see what she can get out a desperate job candidate. Jane liked my idea enough to make a major marketing shift in the re-launch of her book, I should have been offered the job, no questions asked. But she decided that I needed to perform more tasks or “auditions” to prove my worth to her. In the end, she said I was not the candidate for her but in my view she was not the right boss for me.
Ironic that was she was promoting a book that supposedly valued the acknowledgement of others’ efforts. Every journalist knows that our bread and butter is in our words and if you use those words, you need to pay for the services. If it wasn’t enough the first time around, don’t ask for more at least not without paying for it. And most certainly do not say it wasn’t enough, if you end up using what I recommended for your company. At the end of the day, any job candidate that walks through your company door is someone to be valued because people who are coming to you for work means they value what you have to offer them— and that is a compliment to be treasured, not abused.