Another day, another sleepless night borne of confusion, frustration and anxiety.
Yep, just another day in Bizarro World.
I met with yet another recruiter yesterday. Her agency has a job with a confidential employer. The employer is one of those companies you might have read about recently. One of the companies that has implemented a rule about hiring: Currently employed candidates only. No unemployed candidates need apply.
"Why, then," I asked the recruiter, all innocence and confusion, "am I here? I'm unemployed."
"Because you're perfectly qualified for the job. And we are obligated to send them a certain number of qualified candidates. We have one currently employed candidate who's qualified and interested in the job. And we have several hundred mostly qualified candidates who are unemployed. Among them are a few standouts and you're one of them."
"But am I not categorically unqualified because I'm unemployed?"
"They don't need to know that."
"Ummmm, okay, so, what's my story? Where have I been working the past 17 months? Who are my references for that job and, heh heh, what's my current salary? Heck, maybe I don't want to give up this fictitious job I've had for the past 17 months!"
"We can get creative with your history. We can tell them you want to keep your job-hunt confidential, that you have concerns about word that you're job hunting getting out at your current job. In this employment climate that's a common issue, people are looking over their shoulders, no one who has a job wants any cloud of doubt over them in the office."
"I not comfortable lying like that. You said I'm qualified as is, why can't we just leave it at that?"
"Because they are very rigid in their 'currently employed candidates only' policy. They mean it. They've had this policy for over a year. It's the main reason they're using a recruitment agency instead of letting their HR group handle the candidate search. It keeps their hands clean."
"Have you sent other currently unemployed candidates to them? Have other people lied about their employment status?"
"Did they get hired?"
"Ultimately they weren't the best fit, but not because of the exaggeration of their employment status."
Exaggeration of their employment status.
Buzzwords for the new decade.
Don't let anyone know you're unemployed.
As if we unemployed aren't carrying around enough guilt, shame, anxiety and fear.
You know when every instinct you have is telling you to flee? This was one of those situations.
I know recruiters regularly "groom" candidates they send to employers. But it's been established that I don't need much, if any, "grooming." I'm a good candidate, a viable candidate. So why the lie? Do I want to work for a company that has such ridiculous policies? If they have a "currently employed candidates only" hiring policy, what other cringe-worthy policies do they have? But mostly my concerns and instinct to run were about the lies that would be told if I went through with an interview.
I think the recruiter sensed my urge to run.
"We're willing to cover for you. We believe in you. You want a job. This job is a great opportunity for you. They want a qualified candidate who is resourceful, current and can hit the ground running. That's you. It's a win-win-win situation. Except for their hiring policy, which, by the way, we do not agree with, so this is an opportunity to beat them at their discriminatory game."
"We're sticking it to The Man."
"Exactly! See? You get it! What do you say? Shall we start adding a few lines to your resume?"
Exaggeration of my employment status.
When real life starts making the hypothetical ethics questions in the game Scruples seem tame and outrageous you know things have taken a serious turn for the bizarre in your life. Things might
be a little out of hand. It might
be time for some evaluation. And re-evaluation.
I'm no stranger to creative resume-ing. Over the past year various recruiters and career coaches have told me, not suggested, flat out told me, to play down and out-and-out eliminate many of my academic and professional credentials. Every recruiter has said something like the one I talked to a few months ago, "You have fantastic credentials. But. We're not going to showcase everything you bring to the job. On paper you look too educated and too experienced. Too perfect. You look fake. We need to dumb you down on paper otherwise interviewers will be intimidated or disinterested. They'll think you want their job, or, they'll think you won't stay on the job long because you'll leave for something better."
Again I ask, imploring to the Universe, when did s college education and relevant professional work experience become a liability?
And aren't these lies by omission? If I get hired based on a dumbed-down resume I have to remember to never, ever mention the education and work experience that were left off my resume. If they find out I have more education and experience than I represented in the interview...I mean...this all gets really weird.
Misrepresenting yourself in career terms used to be a polite way of saying you lied about your credentials, padded them, made yourself look more educated, more experienced than you really are. Now it's a polite way of saying you lied about your credentials, unpadded them, made yourself look less educated, less experienced than you really are.
Can you imagine that scene playing out in an HR office?
"We're letting you go."
"But, but, I'm doing a great job, I had a great review last month, what's the problem?"
"It's come to our attention that you misrepresented yourself when you interviewed for this job."
"I, I can explain..."
"Did you honestly think we wouldn't find out that you have a masters degree and worked at [prestigious company] managing 20 people?! How dare you insult us like this!"
"...it's just that I really wanted this job and I like it here and..."
"And you lied! You got this job under false pretenses."
"Wait. Wait. Let's be reasonable. You're firing me because I'm overqualified?"
"Yes. And because you misrepresented yourself at your job interview."
I weep for the future.
And now it's being suggested that I lie about the fact that I'm unemployed...and looking for a job. I'm being asked to lie about being employed so that a company who needs to hire someone with my education and experience will interview me.
If you can figure out the reason and logic in that please explain it to me.
As few as five years ago a college degree and 8 - 10 years of relevant professional experience guaranteed an interview and most likely a job offer. Now a college degree (or perish the thought, degrees) and professional experience are something savvy job hunters downplay lest they look overqualified.
It's tragic, sad, and...weird. I don't like the overused hyperbole, but, it's seeming more true every day: We're becoming a nation of fast food workers, discount megastore cashiers and farm workers. Even traditionally "open" industries like nursing and accounting are not hiring in their former quantities - and they're hiring less experienced, less educated candidates. (LPNs instead of RNs, someone H&R Block certified instead of finance majors, for instance). Not that there's anything wrong with those jobs, but where's the incentive to push yourself to study, learn, focus and work at your career?
The audacity of aspiration.
Mainly it confuses me.
I worked really hard to get college degrees. I worked really hard to prove myself to get decent jobs at good companies, doing relevant, professional work. And now I'm being told to lie about it so that I will be considered for a jobs.
And now I'm being asked to lie about being unemployed. I mean, huh? What's the stigma, the taboo, about an unemployed person looking for, gasp, a job?
So. To lie or not to lie. That is the question.