Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Scenes from Your Recession

Strangest thing just happened...

I'm once again between jobs, and answering the phone to any and all callers. (Before anybody panics, I've got several headhunter agencies working, résumés posted everywhere. I really do expect this to be literally between jobs.)

Two nights ago, the cellie went off. I answered to a very personable young woman who told me that my résumé had sparked an unquenchable glow of interest on the part of her employers. I replied that I was extremely gratified to hear this delightful news, and encouraged her to fill me in on every detail, no matter how trivial. She invited me to an interview; her invitation accepted, she told me she would be sending me the details in an email later that evening. This was Monday evening. The interview was to be Thursday afternoon.

I duly received the email, as promised. Besides the time and place, it gave the name of the prospective employer (a large insurance company you've heard of -- think annoying white duck commercials) and the name of the interviewer and his job title. Mr. Interviewer was Regional Sales Coordinator in Hagerstown, Md. (This is not too terribly far from me, a reasonable commute -- but a long, long way from the well-beaten track of my usual professional haunts, which tend to be more in the Northern Virginia and Maryland suburbs.)

Several things immediately struck me as quite hinky about this email she sent. First, it came from a Yahoo! account, rather than from Annoying-White-Duck Company. First alarm bells go off.

Second, there was an admonition that the dress code was "Business Professional" -- a rather strange construction I'd never seen before. It was almost as if -- irony of ironies -- this was a rather amateurishly put together email.

Third, "Regional Sales Coordinator"? Conducting an interview with a UI designer? That's very odd.

Fourth, I'm to bring a copy of my résumé. Now this is getting insulting. We have email for this kind of thing nowadays, and this instruction heavily suggests that Mr. Regional Sales Coordinator hasn't actually yet seen my résumé.

But most puzzling of all was the whistling emptiness where one would expect to see an explanation of exactly what the job actually entailed. I've been in the user-interface-design racket for quite a few years, and have never seen a job announcement that wasn't extremely specific in its requirements as to expected duties, experience level, software skills expected of the applicant, and so on. Not a word of this appeared in the email.

Oh, I rationalized, I'm sure that was just an oversight. Annoying-Duck Insurance Company is probably setting up a team for some sales-enhancement web tool, but their HR department, being in Hagerstown and all, isn't used to dealing with us techie types, and aren't familiar with the protocols of the process. They haven't danced the dance, as it were. No prob.: I'll just email her back with a request for more information, on the not unreasonable pretext that I really need to familiarize myself with the organization so I can prepare for the interview in a professional manner.


This is now getting very suspicious. I let yesterday, Tuesday, go by, half expecting to see a reply to my email at any moment. This morning, at nine o'clock, I called the number she'd given in her email. It goes to a cell phone message. I left a message asking her to please give me a call. No reply for three hours.

About an hour ago, I received a reply to my email from Monday evening. She was sorry she didn't get back to me, she'd been out dreadfully sick, but I really needn't worry about preparing for the interview, it was entirely a meet-and-greet, just "informational," there would be second interviews to determine my fitness for the job, blah mealymouthed blah.

OK. I'm being fucked with. My reply:
I'm sorry to be blunt, but I want very much to know what the position entails -- even a title will suffice -- before I make the trek to Hagerstown in my business suit. That's not a minor time commitment for me.

The fact the Mr. XXX is a Regional Sales Coordinator, and not, say, a creative director or art director or even an IT director, sets off alarm bells for me. He may be a wise and wonderful man, but a Regional Sales Coordinator is in no position to judge the worth of a user-interface designer. The instruction to bring a copy of my résumé likewise raises suspicions. Do we not have email for this kind of thing now? Hasn't Mr. XXX already got a copy of my résumé?

More information, please. If it's not forthcoming, I'm going to have to decline the interview.
She replies shortly thereafter,
This position would be a sales position and you would be a licensed insurance producer. Let me know if you will still be attending the interview.
The best part? Her own job title?

Licensed Insurance Producer.

Needless to say, I won't be attending the interview, thanks very much.

I confess I'm flummoxed. Is Annoying-Duck Insurance Company actually running some kind of pyramid scheme out of their Hagerstown operation? Does Mr. Regional Sales Coordinator hire naive young women whose entire job it is to lure the unemployed into interviews with vague promises of a paying gig, and then entrap those rubes into enticing other rubes into his office? Is this how they grow their sales staff?

Seriously? It's a combination of Amway and used-car sales. Glengarry Glen Ross updated for Your Recession.

And I'm willing to bet any amount of money it's perfectly legal.


Cleveland Bob said...

Hiya Neddie,

I've been in and out of a couple of jobs since December 2007. I have had genuine calls and interviews during that time.

However, I've also twice had telephonic visits by the unseemly types you've described here. They too were representing insurance companies.

I share your state of flummoxedness. I cannot for the breath of me understand what exactly these charlatans are trying to pull.

I have a MS in Management and have run big call centers and support environments yet these folks are all hopped up trying to get me excited about selling insurance for them. Go figure.

Tis crazy I tell ya...

giggles said...

Yes. And...yes. (Ah, yes...the ol' bait and switch.... Surely you've heard of it??!!)

They are looking for folks who may be so desperate as to want to try a new career... It's a numbers game and if they call/talk to enough people, a few will try it out...and one of those few may even make a real career of it.... They would fill your head with wonderful stories of earning great if that is the only important thing in life.... You would be surrounded by males of a certain young age and have to submit to a frat boy mentality to make it through your training.... Oh, I could blather on and on... I'll spare you....

Neddie said...

I've been in and out of a couple of jobs since December 2007. I have had genuine calls and interviews during that time.Since early 2008, I've had, maybe, fifteen calls about prospective contract gigs. Every one of them was very similar to the first call from these people. Historically, both parties were operating from the assumption that the caller had read the "Objective" section of my resume, and that we needn't discuss the details before agreeing to an interview, at which the details would be discussed -- always over the phone, and not in person. I'm pretty sure that that informality was exactly what these con artists were exploiting.

the ol' bait and switchPerfectly expressed, Gig.

You would be surrounded by males of a certain young age and have to submit to a frat boy mentality to make it through your trainingSomewhere between Glengarry Glen Ross and The Boiler Room.

No, I sent them off with a digital flea in their ear.

But preying on unemployed people, dangling opportunity at people who are hoping to dig themselves out of a hole? Fuck them. Fuck them very much. I'd bet the nice woman who set off this chain of events was in exactly that bind.

Sometimes, people really, really disgust me. (As opposed to the rest of the time, when they merely repel me.)

Cleveland Bob said...

Ultimately, they're just wasting everyone's time.

And I couldn't agree more with the "frat boy" motif. Gosh, I hate those guys...

haigek said...

Identical story for me, but my first call from the annoying-duck-insurance folks was out of a Leesburg office. Then Hagerstown later, after I'd figured out and tossed off the Leesburg crew. I think I got a third call from another office later, too, but my memory is hazy now. Truly. A. Racket. I wonder how many people actually fall for it. Too many, I guess, or it would end. Sigh.

The Viscount LaCarte said...

1st Prize: a new car.2nd Prize: steak knives.3rd Prize: you're fired.