Friday, July 8, 2011

This is Why I Didn't Get the Job, Part II

Like many Creative Writing majors, I spent the last few weeks of college panicking over my precarious employment future. All writers make half-jokes about living in cardboard boxes after graduation and paying off their loans by making weekly sperm bank donations, but suddenly the outline of my future box was becoming all too clear to me and I could see that the box once contained a small Fisher-Price electric jeep.

My desperation distracted me from my homework and drove me to spend countless hours scrolling through Craigslist and other worthless job websites. I looked at freelance writing positions, most of which were non-paying internships. Everyone needs writers to perform feats of linguistic acrobatics, but no one wants to pay them to do it. Usually, such Craigslist posts contain a line like, “You will be paid in experience and exposure,” and “In this economy, you should be grateful to have a job even if you’re working for free.”

Once I cut out non-paying internships, positions that I’m unqualified for, jobs writing quirky catalogue descriptions for lawnmowers, positions that required me to be a 5’6” brunette with a 75 wpm typing speed… there was almost nothing left.

I imagined, instead, doing some sort of physical labor, something that would allow me to move around, produce endorphins, and be in nature with the trees and the squirrels. This train of thought eventually stopped at organic farming. I care a great deal about health and the environment, so it wasn’t the huge vocational jump it seems to be. I compiled a list of organic farms in New York that were hiring interns. The great benefit to being a farming intern as opposed to a writing intern is that people are actually willing to pay you in more than “valuable experience,” a currency that is not recognized by Sallie Mae.

By what seemed like a magical twist of fate, I found a post from an organization that plants its interns on suitable organic farms, obliges them to keep regular blog posts about what they learn, and pays a minimum wage stipend. I leapt from my rocking chair with joy and proceeded to dance around my dorm room.

Alas, my jubilation was premature. After gracefully passing through the application process, answering fanciful interview questions, and choosing possible farms from a list of ones connected with the organization, I have heard almost nothing. Two months pass. My emails remain unanswered but for the occasional, “We are still placing you on a farm. Thanks for following up!”

Now I feel naive for putting all of my free-range eggs in one basket. I am at home, working as a cashier. I am looking for a more practical job, the sort of menial desk job that one seeks after earning a bachelor’s degree.

I turned my occupational eye towards administrative positions, thinking that the employers would welcome an English background. I found a wellness office looking for a receptionist and the same misguided instinct that led me to organic farming compelled me to apply. After passing through the application process, I received an email essentially asking me why I would be a good fit for the position. I responded, echoing what I had already said in the cover letter that they apparently did not read.

Then I received a very long email. We need a Superstar Receptionist… this office is challenging medical paradigms… resurrecting a community hampered by Western medicine through the shifting of vertebrae… and do you still want to apply for this position? Are you Superstar enough for this wellness center? Can you handle the ideological weight of our filing system?

Yes, I answered firmly, for I refuse to succumb to intimidation.

The interview took place over the phone because I still live rather far from where I intend to work. I made notes about why I am interested in the position and how superbly qualified I am. The phone rang. I spoke with the chiropractor, and he went into length about the details of the Wellness Center and how they only hire Superstars. I cursed the state school system for not including Superstar as one of their majors. Then doctor asked a rather weighted question: “What makes you great?

I paused for a moment and densely responded, “For this position or in general?” The WikiHow page on job interviews had not prepared me for such a vague question. I was answered with silence. Shaken, I began to mutter awkwardly about my excellent interpersonal skills. Then I asked a few confident questions about the position. The doctor said that his assistant would get back to me within twenty-four hours with a personality quiz. “There are many personalities that we are willing to consider for this position,” he said sternly, “But not all of them.” Then he announced that he had another appointment.

“It was great talking to you. Thank you for your time,” I said. No response. “I’m looking forward to your email. I hope to hear from you soon,” I said. No response. I suspected that he had set the phone down next to the receiver and walked away to realign someone’s spine or something. “Goodbye…” I trailed off. I have not received so much as an email from the office, let alone a personality test. Apparently my personality was not one of the acceptable ones.

I have composed a draft of a follow-up email:

Dear Superstars,

I just wanted to follow up on that Superstar personality test. Just because you post your jobs on Craigslist doesn't mean be you have to be a dick.

Yours truly & etc…

            It will rot away in a Gmail folder until I can think of something wittier.

For my last job search failure, see This is why I didn't get the job.


  1. Wow, what a jerk. If that's how they treat their perspective employees, it's a good thing you won't be working for them.

    That's such a strange question to ask. And a personality quiz? Really? Next do you have to share your horoscope with them?

  2. I know! I'm actually kind of glad I didn't get the job in that case. I guess the "Why are you great?" isn't as weird as I took it to be, other people have since told me that it's a normal interview question. Go figure. I think the personality quiz went mainly by the astrological charts. Scorpios are too intense for a holistic office. :P

  3. Any employer that doesn't know why you are great is not worth your time. Your greatness is obvious!

  4. That should have been my answer to what makes me great. "Isn't it obvious?" :P