Hey, Missy, wake up and smell the coffee!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis “wise up” message is sent to a young woman who applied for a job as an office administrator, hoping to work for yours truly to handle professional communications, keep our invoices and payables current, and to keep my office open and functioning smoothly when I travel.

This particular candidate had recently graduated from college, but her emailed resume lacked the requisite experience. Rather than turn her down with no explanation – which lacks respect for her efforts to apply – I wanted to explain the situation. So I emailed her promptly after reviewing a two-line cover letter and student resume:

“Hello, [name]. Thanks for applying for a position in our company. I’m writing to let you know that I am, in fact, looking for an applicant with applicable job experience, as stated clearly in the position posting. Therefore, your application likely won’t go the distance, but I’ll nonetheless forward your resume to my partner for review and get back to you next week.”

To which she responded by email: “Well, how is anyone supposed to get any experience if no one gives them a chance? I’ve got a bachelor’s degree in business administration. I’ve got computer and customer service experience. I don’t know what else you people need. All I want is a chance. It can’t be that hard.”

To which I responded: “[Name], you may have classroom experience, but your cited experience is working in a retail store selling clothing. There are entry-level office positions that pay entry-level wages to learn appropriate office software and to get some office administrative experience. Employment firms like The QTI Group are a great resource for trying out those jobs or to add to your resume. As I posted, my position pays a higher salary level, and this position requires proven office experience in a similar office setting to assure me that the candidate can work independently and handle a busy office with professional demeanor.

Even so, I was willing to keep your application “open” for my partner’s review, but your comments ‘you people’ and ‘it can’t be that hard’ underscore that this isn’t going to be a match, so we can conclude the application process at this time. However, I do hope you soon find that first professional job, and I wish you well in your job search.”

Within an hour, I received this clever reply in my Inbox (in all caps): I HAVE A COLLEGE DEGREE AND THOSE STUPID TEMP FIRMS NEVER GET ME ANYTHING. F*** YOU, B****. (She didn’t use asterisks in her version).

Well, okay then, here’s what I now want you to know, dear applicant. First of all, I have your resume in hand. I know your present employer and one of your two listed references. In fact, I know them well. However, I have professional ethics as well as situational ethics and so I won’t share our little “miscommunication” with them. Instead, I’ll say this to you directly and clearly:

Young Miss, the world isn’t all about you and it doesn’t revolve around what you want. Those classes that you napped through in kindergarten where you should have learned manners and how to show rudimentary respect for people, well, you actually will need to know those skills to get through life with a career intact. Certainly my new hire will demonstrate that she or he understands respect for self and others. Those were important lessons for every playground you’ll ever step onto.

You’ll also need to learn that this “business” playground is smaller than you think. It looks big to you now, from the sidelines while you’re waiting to be drafted to play, but it isn’t. So you want to consider that there is an invisible network all around you, comprised of connections you know nothing of. Be thoughtful what you say and to whom.

Lastly, know this – a World Series ego is indulged (though never actually appreciated) only after winning a World Series; you’re still in the minor leagues nursing a bruised ego because you aren’t getting to bat this inning for this team. And when you didn’t get what you wanted, you acted like a spoiled brat, not a college educated young woman ready for a position of responsibility.

We’ve all started where you are starting; how fast you get a position will, in fact, depend largely on you and your softer skill set. That chip on your shoulder is weighing you down, not our reluctance to “give you a chance” for the most appropriate position on the field.

Actually, I have more empathy for the job applicant than you might think, and I know how easy it can be to strike out in a fit of righteous pique. Once, when I was a young mother driving my very small son to parochial school, an old man drove out of a McDonald’s lot right in front of my car. He didn’t even glance my direction – just pulled out into the street, nearly colliding with my car. He didn’t realize I was on the road until I honked at him long and loud. To underscore my fury with his incompetence, I punctuated the honk with a high and resolute bird salute!

That got his attention, and he immediately pulled over to let me pass, and I thought “Good! Serves you right!” as I swerved angrily around his parked car.

The man quickly pulled back onto the street and followed me… all the way to my son’s school… where the elderly priest stepped out of his car and walked to his office… where I was supposed to meet him at 8:00 a.m. to discuss my son’s bad behavior in class the day before.

The lesson I learned that day – about the town being a much smaller community than I thought, and my actions (in retrospect) being much ruder than I had intended – well, Young Miss has to learn those same lessons the hard way too, apparently. And so I do feel a tiny bit sorry for her… though not sorry enough to ever, ever hire her.

What do you think? Does this young applicant need a wake up call. Feel free to leave your comments below.

About Jody Glynn Patrick

Jody is President of Glynn Patrick & Associates, which provides management consulting, executive coaching and strategic planning services. She is Publisher Emeritus of In Business magazine, which she published for 17 years. Selected as the “U.S. Business Journalist of the Year” in 2007 in Washington, DC, by the U.S. Small Business Administration, Jody has been a business reporter, editor, radio talk show host , and has won other state and national journalism awards. At the same time, she has helped corporate clients grow their businesses -- the basis for her practical coaching advice here. She also was the 2005 Athena Award recipient for her leadership role in mentoring other professional women. Jody will be talking with you weekly on TDS’ blog to share her insights and tips from the C-Suite perspective. Follow on G+.

, , , , , , ,

2 Responses to Hey, Missy, wake up and smell the coffee!

  1. Samantha September 3, 2013 at 10:22 pm #

    As a person who has been seeking professional employment for over three years now, I can relate to the applicant. What employers sometimes don’t understand from a resume is that we have the skill sets necessary for the position. Sure, we may not have ever worked in a similar business doing the same job but that doesn’t mean we can not do exactly what that role requires. If your initial response was exactly how you quoted it, it honestly came off very rude. It is nice to know that we aren’t what the employer is looking for but as a leader, even though not hers, you should encourage her to reapply if the position comes available once she has experience doing the same role on a smaller scale. You unintentially came off as sounding like “you are not good enough for my standards but maybe if no one else qualified applies, you’ll do for my partner”. No one wants to feel as if they were only hired because no one qualified applied.

    I honestly would not be seen as qualified to you for that role, probably because all of my resumes are catered towards other skill sets. I freelance as a marketing consultant and entertainment manager, I have been doing this since 2003. Most my resumes address my marketing knowledge and entertainment industry skills. I of course would make sure to address my relevant skills in a well thought out cover letter, but after 20 applications a day, even mine start to shrink. What you don’t know about me could amaze you, my job as a peon could shock you at how great of a professional multitasker I am. How polite I can be, or how even though its not stated in my resume, I can build you a computer from the mother board up, and then fix it when it breaks down.

    A nice email stating I’m not qualified before you even speak to me is essentially you judging me like a book, and my cover doesn’t look appealing. You judged the old man at McDonalds as a threat to you and your sons well being, a waste of space. Turns out he probably ended up being a great role model in your sons development.

    The applicant did get an ego and felt entitled, but we have been told since birth, do good in school, go to college and you’ll get a great job. Is that our ego making us think we deserve this job, or is it the false statements that were imbedded in us? I made four times as much money before getting my masters degree, I owe more in student loans than the morgage on three of my parents houses at full price. Is it fair that we should be put at the bottom of the ladder making minimum wage, because we need professional work experience despite already knowing more about the inner workings of business than most of our bosses five years younger than us? Society spewed lies at us and its frustrating, we are all sitting at our computers spending full time hours applying for jobs, half of which are not enough to pay our bills, and then to get that email from you… it was meant to be encouraging but in fact it literally pulled the last straw probably for this girl. She wasn’t right for the job clearly, most of us would of just vented to a friend.

    Thanks for sharing your experience though, I know I’m in the applicants boat slightly but it was nice to see that I handle rejection more professionally than her.

  2. Carol January 2, 2014 at 12:25 pm #

    I have to stand with Ms. Patrick. I, too, was a new graduate at one time and ready to enter the career world. But my common sense told me I would have to work my way up the ranks. Thankfully, I attended a school that trained us to be prepared…interships and workstudies in our field of choice gave us references. And we were always encouraged to take jobs, no matter how part-time or temporary they were, in our field of study so we would build work experience.

    Did I apply for jobs that I was not fully qualified for, especially in the work experience area? Of course. I think it is human nature for us to hope that we will stand out, forgetting the hundreds or thousands that might be as qualified or more qualified than we are. But for Missy to not understand fully that the qualifications would play in her application being considered shows inexperience and lack of understanding, possibly due to lack of training or attention to her training. Her response to Ms. Patrick’s first e-mail shows that all too well. As I read about the events, I took the e-mail to be saying that although Ms. Patrick did not feel that Missy was fully qualified, she was willing to pass the app on to the other person that may be affected by a new hire to see if that person saw something in the application Ms. Patrick did not see.

    I do think that Ms. Patrick did stumble a little as well. Before technology invaded our lives, a letter may have been mailed to the persons who did not get an interview (that does not always happen, by the way), the potential applicant would have read it and that would have been that unless he or she wanted to follow up with a phone call. Thanks to technology, instant gratification has become the norm and allows people to respond too quickly and easily before thinking things through. If I was Ms. Patrick, after I sent the first e-mail notifying Missy of the situation, I would never have responded to additional follow-ups because of the tone and language used by Missy; Ms. Patrick fulfilled her obligation with the first e-mail. The applicant was venting when she should not have and in a way she never should have. By responding, Ms. Patrick simply kept fanning the flame.

    By the way, NO ONE, whether the CEO of a company, the receiptionist, or the mailroom clerk should ever have to put up with the language and temperament that Missy conveyed in her responses. And those that are on the receiving end have the right to inform the other person and walk away if in person, telling the person you’re going to hang up if a phone call, or refusing not to respond to such in e-mails.

Leave a Comment