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It's not your fault

I have been unemployed since November 1st, four days after my wedding. The company I was working for went out of business for various reasons I won't get into but at least I got one last paycheck! This was the first time in my life that I'd been let go from a job. I'd either leave on my own accord or be fired (this only happened twice, once in my professional career). I went into this new development in my life fairly non-plussed because I've always been able to find work relatively quickly. Of course, life has a way of reminding you not to get comfortable. Hooray.

Rounds of interviews

Lots and lots of rounds. I really don't understand why this is necessary. Here's what what makes sense to me:

  1. Phone screen
  2. Tech screen
  3. Meet the team

After this, shouldn't you know if you want to work with someone or not? What's wrong with your process that you need more than three steps? Last month, I ran an interview gauntlet with a company I (previously) admired. I had a video interview with HR and a phone interview with another person from HR days later. Then, I had to clear my entire Friday from 9am to 6pm for five video interviews with the shortest one being 45 minutes. I thought I aced it! I even wrote a tutorial on how to use one of their products and integrated said product into some of my projects. I was told that I'd hear back from someone in a few days and if not, to email.

Stop me if you've heard this before.

I waited. Emailed. Waited. Emailed again. By this point, another week passed and I was pissed. I even checked my mail server to see if messages were lost in the ether. Nothing.

Companies don't seem to realize that every interview is an investment of time and emotion for the applicant. I apply for positions where I feel I can make a positive impact and work on an awesome product or help an idea form and gain traction. There is no excuse for not communicating. While these companies are internally deciding who to vet next, they can at least send a templated reply back. I don't care if it looks like:

Dear Paul, Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha NO.

At least I know not to waste my time waiting on you.

Coding/design tests

See also: whiteboarding.

I've never met someone who performs exceptionally well with thinking on the spot in front of people they've never met when the grand prize is gainful employment. Not only are you thinking about whatever question you've been asked to demonstrate your thought process on, you're also thinking about what they might want to see. Do you have your back turned too much? Should you over-explain to "prove" you fundamentally understand the concept(s)? What happens if you don't understand the question? Do they take "points" off for that?

That shit is incredibly stressful.

You know what I love about coding tests? Finding a use for one-off code exercises in my own work so I feel like my time wasn't completely wasted. You know what else I love about them? Absolutely nothing. These tests and whiteboarding are not indicative of your skill level, they are approximations of what you can do with what is likely to be limited information and ambiguous scope.

Assuming you are gainfully employed, dear reader, think about your job today: you (typically) aren't asked to create a solution for something with three bullet points in a README file with a section for "extra credit ;)".

I recently did one of these tests and yes, I've identified a portion of the code I wrote for integration in one of my projects. After days of waiting to hear yay or nay, I decided to email a few hours ago and was told other people had more impressive code submissions and tech stack cohesion. Makes sense but, would I have gotten that rejection email today if I hadn't checked in? Next week? Next month? In my experience, I either don't get that email until at least two weeks later at the earliest, if ever.

Segue!

Feedback

It's very rare that you'll get helpful emails on how you can improve your chances in interviews from the very companies that rejected you, especially if you ask for it. This is at odds with the initial tone and type of communication that's exchanged when figuring out if you two are a good fit. "Other candidates were a better fit, feel free to apply again in the future." Um, okay, but why would I do that when I don't know why I wasn't a fit to begin with? I view these canned statements as passive aggressive and make a note of avoiding the company and their products going forward.

How to deal

Depends on the person.

For me, open world video games are a great outlet for expending frustration and allows me to cool down. I also enjoy writing and that's why I've written this post. Having my time wasted is one of my chief pet peeves and it's an unavoidable part of the job search...falling in love with a product and/or company only to later be rejected, dismissed, and ignored is a soul-crushing exercise, one that we subject ourselves to because we quite literally don't have a choice.

It fucking sucks.

I was at a seminar today about dealing with stress in the job search and I heard from people over the age of 40 expressing their experiences and frustration with age bias. They do well with initial email contact and phone interviews but when it's time for the in-person interview, they see and feel quite accurately that their age is what prevents them from moving forward in the process. I feel bad for these people because their only enemy is time. Rather than hire the best, some companies look to hire recent graduates so they can 1) be overworked and 2) offered less pay. They don't know what they don't know and certainly won't ask questions. Older people and those with experience would never put up with that.

In the seminar we were told:

You are not at fault for being in the situation you are in. External forces changed your lives in a (mostly) negative way but, it's up to you to deal with it in a productive way.

Have you ever tried guided meditation? It was the first time my brain was silent outside of sleep...it was weird. I almost fell asleep, haha! I'm going to try practicing mindfulness more.

Upsides?

Losing my job and not finding a new one shortly after has awarded me something that's been lacking in me for quite some time, and that is focus. As I mentioned in my last post, I put a stop to all but one of my projects and am focusing on just one.

Seeing my year-old child grow and learning new words, colors, and numbers has been a fascinating experience. He'll randomly point at something and say whatever he's looking at: "Red! Nine! A! Lellow!" (Yellow) and so on. Pretty neat.

Constantly retelling my employment history has encouraged me to shorten my "elevator pitch" so I can at least get that part of the conversation over and done with quickly. My cover letter has seen many shifts and improvements. I state upfront that I have zero React experience because 99.999999% of tech companies want someone with 18 years of experience with a four-year-old JavaScript framework. I'm being facetious here but that requirement is ridiculous for a fad. Writing CSS in JS? GROSS.

I redesigned my resume to put my skills upfront (responsive front-end web design and development, yes I can design and code), followed by projects that utilize those skills, and then experience. As tired as I am of the bullshit companies put you through in the hiring process, I'm sure companies deal with all sorts of other bullshit too. I like to think my cover letter and resume do a very good job of informing potential employers if I'm a good tech fit. If not, no need to respond! Just keep it moving. Getting me invested in the conversation, your company and product, and then ignoring me?

Maaaaan, go fuck yourself. 🕸




P.S. When I eventually hire people for my own company I'm reading this post every week to remind myself that applicants aren't just numbers or Post-Its on a board, they are people with feelings and expectations that they will be replied to in a timely manner because they have life and responsibilities to deal with.

P.P.S. This post has garnered more interest than I thought it would on HackerNews. You can read varying viewpoints ranging from those who've been in this situation and are employers doing MUCH better than the ones I've outlined in this post, to people who are just plain dismissive of myself and others like me. It's a pretty good read regardless, I love discourse.