Wednesday, January 24, 2007

On finding a job in an uncivil society:

I believe we are witnessing the decline of civil society. I have quite a few reasons for thinking this way, but what’s on my mind today is the modern job search. Once-- not so long ago-- if you submitted a resume to a prospective employer, you had to have it printed on fancy paper and send it, along with a tailored cover letter, via the mail to a “sir “or “madam” and follow up with a phone call. And no matter how pitiful your resume, that sir or madam had to send you a letter saying, “we are in receipt of your credentials and if we are interested you’ll hear from us soon.” If you didn’t hear within, say, 3 months you could assume that your stuff was in the circular file.

I used to think all these formalities were kind of silly. Recently however, I’ve begun a job search after many years of not being out there. While I’ve been teaching and mommying, the protocol has apparently changed. Web postings for job openings say that electronic submissions are preferred. In a lot of ways this is actually easier for the applicant as well. So I send all my hard work out into the ether bound for someone known only as “Hiring Manager“: my labored cover letter, a resume I’ve customized for this particular employer and a writing sample from the last incarnation of my fundraising career that I’ve dug out of my basement or resurrected from a previous hard drive. Can I expect to hear that they’ve received my credentials? Despite the fact that the information age has also brought the option of an automatic response to any message received by Hiring Manager’s box, I hear nothing. Can I call to confirm that my application has successfully navigated the fiber optic cable between here and there? “No phone calls please.” Or worse, no mention of whether calls are frowned upon. It’s just very difficult to find a number for Hiring Manager and my instincts say s/he doesn‘t want to be bothered.

Today I got an email from Hiring Manager at one office saying “we got your credentials…” I haven’t had an interview yet, but if I have a choice, this place is already my first. Call me old fashioned but I still believe that when one is making a first impression in the world of work, she should put her best foot forward, be over-polite, wear a suit (and stockings even in summer), send acknowledgements. And that goes for the human beings on both sides of the interview table.

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