Thursday, August 05, 2010

Bad behaviour for a company

What I will write down here has happened over two weeks ago now. I have not written about it earlier to calm down a little (otherwise this might be one of the few posts in which I actually used strong language).

As I’m currently looking for a new job, I do send out quite some applications regularly and sometimes (not always, which is one more reason for me to be angry, but it’s not the topic here) I do get answers and invitations to job interviews.

Most of you out there will either know already what it is like to go through all the phases of application these days, but still I’ll give you the basics for Germany (as long as you don’t want to be a leader of some kind). First, of course, still is the application. German employers want a picture with the application, personal data such as gender, age and marital status (I know through a book it’s different both in England and the US) and a letter of application. When you have mastered this stage, you get invited to a job interview, either with one or various people (depending on the size of the company). If you’re getting past that stage, too, you often have to work for free for the company for a couple of hours or one or two days. This way, you can see how work is handled there, who you’ll be working with and so on. Afterwards, if you still turn out to be the best for the job, you get it. Most companies start employment either on the 15th or on the 1st of a month. It’s traditional, because those are the days at which wages are paid – in monthly rhythm, not per week or per day.

But now back to my own experience. I had applied for a job with a small IT-company in my hometown. From the first minute of the whole process onwards, I always dealt with the same person, Miss B. (I won’t post her full name or that of the company, just in case.) Now, Miss B was the one I sent my application to – by email, as requested. Miss B was the one who phoned me and invited me to a job interview. It was not, admittedly, Miss B who handled the interview, the boss of the company did that himself (but then, it’s a small company where it usually is the boss who handles such things). Still, Miss B demonstrated me for a few minutes what the job was all about and what programs I would have to work with. Miss B later on invited me to the free work and she supervised me throughout the couple of hours during which I got a look at the job I was applying for (on a Tuesday). She told me she was positively surprised at my work, that I was much better than was expected of an applicant. She also told me, before we parted, that I would learn whether or not I had gotten the job by the end of that week. Friday my phone stayed silent. It did the same on Monday, so I called the company on Tuesday. Miss B told me they had not decided, but definitely would do so before the end of the week. Wednesday I got a short email with a refusal. It was not by Miss B, but by a trainee of the company.

Don’t get me wrong – it’s always possible for someone better to turn up during such a race for a job. You learn to live with that after a while, forget about this job and go looking for another one. It’s not the refusal as a such that made me angry. But I had been handled for a couple of weeks by a woman who was, basically, taking up the job of the boss’ secretary. She had been in contact with me throughout every step of the process. But once I was no longer of interest to the company, they told me so through an email written by a trainee … a trainee, for god’s sake! (There it goes, even after over two weeks…) I won’t claim she already knew I wasn’t going to get the job the day before when I spoke to her (though it’s possible). I do not demand a phone call – an email, though less personal, still is good enough for such news. But it is an offence to let applicants that have been handled by a secretary be handled by a trainee once they’re not of interest any longer. It tells them, in effect, they’re not worth anything else. Of course a trainee needs to learn such things, too, but you don’t let her send such mails out to actual people, not from an email account with a signature that actually tells everyone she’s a trainee.

It’s an affront and nothing can excuse such a thing, from my point of view. It doesn’t shed a good light on the company, either. You’re not good with your soft skills as a manager, if you let such things happen (or even encourage them) in your company.

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