If You’re Hiring, Just Be Decent to Applicants, OK?

June 11, 2021

We’re hearing a lot now about how employers can’t find workers to come back to their crappy low wage/no benefit jobs. Shocking, I know. We’re not really hearing how things are still rough for mid-range workers who are trying to return to salaried positions with some health care. I’m one of those people and there is no desperation to hire us. Slave labor, oh sure there are plenty of opportunities! A living wage that supports a family, not so much.

It’s no secret that I left my secure tenured position at Hogwarts when I learned the school had been taken over by trolls and goblins. It was time to try something else after two decades of institutional loyalty. So, as a stay-at-home dad, I focused on my writing and growing my consulting business. But that baby just finished first grade and it’s time to bring more revenue into the household. So scanning indeed.com and writing the cover letters began.

I’ve had some great experiences as a job applicant, including being flown to places like New York City to interview. I know it’s competitive and there are a lot of qualified applicants, some who are willing to work for cheap. I’ve had interviews in boardrooms and on Zoom and I get it if I might not be the right fit. I’m not a cookie cutter applicant. But that’s not what this about. This about one aspect of the hiring process that is a reason so many jobseekers are frustrated, the lack of contact.

I was on a lot of hiring committees at Hogwarts and here’s how it went. When we advertised for a position, we’d get a ton of applicants (usually around 50). We’d end up interviewing three or four people and hopefully having a “successful search.” (You’re hired!) But everyone of those  applicants got a call or email that said thanks for applying but you we won’t be advancing your candidacy. It was just being decent. Putting applications together takes a lot of work. Let those folks know they’re not in the running so they can move on and spend their job-seeking time wisely, instead of sitting by the phone like chumps.

The norm for hiring officers now is to be a dick. This has happened to me numerous times. My first sociology professor was retiring and he encouraged me to apply and step into his shoes. It seemed perfect. I became a fairly renown expert in my field because of the impact he had on me as a college freshman. I even flew in to have lunch with him and discuss how the college had changed so I could best frame my application. I prepared a solid package and began imagining moving my family across the country and becoming a sociology professor at Oxford College of Emory University, where I started in the field. And then I waited.

And I waited. And waited. Finally my wife said I should contact them. I sent an email to the chair of the department to ask about the status of my application and he casually replied that they had hired someone else.  I let him know that the CUSTOM (something sociologists should understand) is to let applicants know when they are no longer being considered. Asshole.

There are jobs I’ve applied to where I know it’s a complete long shot, like the position to be the equity director for Macy’s in NYC (Hey, I love a parade!), but even those should trigger a “Thanks, but no thanks” email. How hard can that be? Can’t you hire a bot to do that job if you’re too lazy to do it yourself?

So much of my work is built around how concepts like racism, sexism, and ableism dehumanize people. They’re not thinking, feeling people, they’re things to be used. While it’s not as historically traumatizing, jobseekers get dehumanized too, just a name on an online application. Just another PDF of a resume taking up data space. Not worthy of a, “Hey, this position is closed but good luck to ya!”

There’s an equity director position at my credit union that applied for. Twice. It’s still being advertised. They must have had a few failed searches, but they never bothered to let me know I was not in the running. Aren’t credit unions supposed to be “more human”? Do I have to be Arnold Horshack? “Oh! Oh! Pick me!”

This isn’t just me complaining. This is something so many jobseekers are going through. Even Toby on This Is Us! You totally think you’ve got an interview for a gig in the bag. You start imagining your new work life. You mentally pay off your credit cards. You buy pants. And then there is the roar of silence. Maybe their email is in the spam folder! Ah, shit.  It makes you appreciate when someone actually takes the time to turn you down, like this email that came while I was writing this paragraph:

“Unfortunately, at this time, we decided to proceed with our selection process with another candidate. The interview committee was impressed with your credentials and experience and it is a decision we didn’t make easily.

We will keep your resume in our talent database, and in case that we have a job opening that better fits your profile, we will make sure to get in touch with you.

I wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors.” – Email received on June 11, 2021

It’s been a rough year. A ton of people have drained their savings accounts and maxed their credit cards. If you are in charge of hiring, or just on a hiring team, think of the people on the other side of that application process. Please. They are both stressed and hopeful. Don’t just let them dangle. It’s not cool. Mental wellbeing can be fragile, especially in a pandemic. If you don’t want someone on your payroll, have the decency to let them know.

Now back to Indeed.

It’s a Mom’s, Mom’s, Mom’s World. Dads to the Front!

March 9, 2015

The other day I was pushing Cozy in her stroller down NE Alberta St. on our daily trip to the coffee shop and a woman said, “You’re a good dad.” I just smiled. Is it that strange to see a man with his child in the middle of a weekday? Being one of the over 2 million stay-at-home dads, you start to notice something; It’s a mom’s world. Especially if you are out looking for a yoga class. Dads are parents, too, you know.

For 25 years, I’ve lectured about the gendered nature of advertising. I’ve had students do random samples of ads during football games and soap operas and discuss the themes about men and women. Or fashion magazines and car magazines (that’s a good one). I’d have them read Simon Davis’ excellent 1990 article, “Men as Success Objects, Women as Sex Objects: A Study of Personal Advertisements.” The message is clear, men are on the go and women stay at home with the kids and look pretty.

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It’s not 1955, but we are still bombarded with images of mom manning the home front while dad does out to make a buck. Products are “kid tested, mother approved.” Sure, there’s occasionally a dad making dinner, but he’s an idiot (not a chef) so he needs an easy solution. Pizza night!

Some might say, what’s the problem? Mom’s deserve recognition for all the hard work they do. True. But there is a feminist perspective that says men get the public sphere outside of the home and women get the private domestic sphere, and that’s all. They have to keep the house clean and the kids fed so the man can go out and get the glory. That behind every great man is a woman washing his underwear.

The goal of second wave feminism was to liberate women from being ONLY unpaid domestic servants. Women deserved equal participation in the public sphere. But to make this work, men had to help out with the domestic chores.

Instead, we got “supermoms,” who work 9 to 5 and then come home and get dinner ready. However, we are finally getting a generation of men who are making dinner and changing diapers in massive levels. Some of this is the result in cultural changes around gender. Real men know how to bake quiche! But some of it has to do with the change in the economy. The “manly” manufacturing jobs have been replaced by low-paid service sector jobs. Fifty years ago the American workforce was dominated by men working at GM. Now it is dominated by women working at Wal-Mart.

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Stay-at-home dads petition for ‘Amazon Mom’ name change

But you wouldn’t know this from our pop-culture. As I mentioned last week, the campaign by a Seattle stay-at-home dad to get the Amazon Mom service changed to Amazon Family is just the tip of the iceberg. Finding a place where dads are fully recognized as equal caregivers is a challenge even in liberal Portland.

I found this out when my wife suggested I take Cozy to a baby yoga class. I love yoga and the idea of Cozy doing “happy baby” poses next to me on the mat seems like a perfect activity. The problem is, every single class is a “Mom & Baby” class. No dads allowed. I know because I made several inquiries.

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As a feminist, I can appreciate women wanting a “safe space,” to work on some of the postpartum body issues. But does a dad with his baby going through his vinyasa flow with his kid next to him imply “creeper”?

The demand is there so I think “Dad & Baby Yoga” is coming soon. I got an email from one Portland yoga proprietor who said, “SO many papas have asked, that I am considering alternating weeks: mama baby, daddy baby.” I can’t wait to go and write about the experience there. Hopefully it will happen soon. Cozy is kicking my ass when it comes to being able to put your feet in your mouth.

The larger issue is the marginalization of dads and how it reinforces patriarchy. Men can be high paid chefs, but can’t be expected to make breakfast for mom and the kids. Why are these men doing the work of women? They should be out slaying dragons! The absence of the nurturing dad in our popular culture adds the pressure to the “supermoms” and undermines the promise of true gender equality. Dads are parents, too.

It’s exciting to see things change. The “dadvertising” I wrote about after the Super Bowl was a step in the right direction. The growing voice of dad bloggers is adding to the momentum. Soon we may see images of dads in the kitchen who aren’t bumbling fools. Dads taking their daughters shopping and dads who can fold laundry. This would be twice as good for families with two dads.

Until then I’ll just do yoga with Cozy in the living room.