I surrender ...

I've basically given up my search for the elusive next great job, instead deciding my next great career adventure may be with myself.

I've chronicled a few of my job search experiences here, and will add more, but while I continued to interview with companies that often didn't seem to know what they wanted, work kept coming my way. It started with some freelance work last fall that continued through January. More contractual work - with a thriving Chicago-area dot-com came next; it continues and is on the brink of growing substantially. A contractual affiliation with a Chicago marketing communications company finally prompted me to ask, "Exactly why am I still investing a considerable amount of time interviewing - with no returns - when I could be my own boss?"

So, Tipitina Communications, Inc. was born, duly incorporated in the state of Illinois. I'm learning the ropes of small business ownership (earnestly working on becoming a QuickBooks expert).

Business is surprisingly good for a start-up and I'm thrilled to have control over my own schedule ... and my own destiny.

In what may seem ironic, making this decision will actually free me to do a better job with this blog: I can write honestly about experiences - mine and those of others - without fear of ticking off a company with which I have or am intervewing.

So, stay tuned ... I still plan to document the frustrations of seeking that next job, along with companies that are treating their prospective employees right and trends that could either make it easier - or God forbid, more difficult - to reach career Nirvana.

"What's your natural hair color?" and other inappropriate interview questions

Development Dimensions International, a global human resources consulting firm, and Monster.com just released the results of their third study since 1999 of hiring and recruiting practices. While much of their study (read the executive summary by clicking here and the news release by clicking here) talked about ways employers can hire and retain the best talent, the study also focused on job seekers' interview experiences. Two-thirds of job seekers surveyed reported that the interviewer influences their decision to accept a position.

Among the findings I found most interesting (at least for the purposes of this blog) is that interviewers annoy job seekers by:

  1. Treating the interview as unimportant (acting like there’s no time for it, showing up late, appearing unprepared).

  2. Taking an insensitive approach (grilling the candidate, holding back job information).

  3. Asking inappropriate questions (unrelated to the job, personal questions).

Among those "inappropriate questions" were:

  • “What is the cost of the ring you are wearing?”

  • “If you were a dog, what kind would you be?”

  • “What is your natural hair color?”

While the study validated what many a job seeker has experienced, the survey also confirmed what I consider an empowering development, and one of the only ways job seekers can fight back when treated badly. "Interviewers are risking not only the loss of potentially valuable employees, but also their organization’s reputation," the study concluded. Said one job seeker, “'If I had a very poor interviewing experience, I would want no association with that company at all as a customer. I might even become an advocate against them.'” This mirrors my own experience (and the impetus for this blog) as well as the 2002 findings of Chicago headhunter Wendy Tarzian, which I mentioned in a post last year.

More insult to my long-ago Harpo interview nightmare

A horrible interview experience with Harpo Productions, Inc., the media fiefdom of Oprah Winfrey, became the impetus of this blog and was featured prominently in a Wall Street Journal column by Management News Editor Joann Lublin, which I wrote about last October.

Last week, I visited a former colleague, a corporate communications executive for a major entertainment company in NYC. The executive had been my original conduit to Lisa Halliday, Harpo's top flack, and the soulless sociopath who treated me so badly after essentially promising me a job during an interview many years ago. The former colleague I visited in Manhattan had given Halliday her first job in PR, and they had stayed in touch over the years.

I originally came to Halliday's attention after she called my former colleague and asked for Chicago-area candidates she could interview for an opening. My former colleague (and Halliday's former boss) recommended me.

Minutes after getting that initial call from Harpo, I shot my resume over to Halliday, and we met within a few days, during which time she told me the job was mine and we'd take care of the details after she took a previously planned vacation. (You can read the rest of my fairy-tale-turned-nightmare story by clicking here.)

Fast-forward five years, to my interview with The Wall Street Journal's Lublin, who subsequently recounted my Harpo interview experience in the pages of the newspaper (without, however, naming Harpo or Halliday). Seems when Lublin called Halliday for comment about why she had treated me so badly, Halliday became very, very worried about how said column would reflect upon Harpo and her. She called her old boss/my former colleague to enlist his help in refreshing her memory about our interview. As he recounted the conversation to me, it seems she had ABSOLUTELY NO MEMORY WHATSOEVER of my interview with her and all of the marvelous things she said to me about my imminent employment with Harpo! Nothing, nada.

Exactly how little emotional intelligence are people required to have to be hiring managers? Or put more simply, "Who raised these people?"