This week, a discussion with a frustrated job hunter:

Ever hear that one? “Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?”

Yeah, that’s some sexist stuff right there. But it’s the phrase that came to a friend’s mind when she shared some recent jobhunting experience with me.

Seems she’d had her heart set on a leadership role in a worthwhile community organization.

Quickly contacted after applying, she first participated in a sort of prescreening phone interview. It was scheduled, not spontaneous.

About two weeks later, working around the schedules of the search committee, there was an in-person interview. Most were engaged, she said. One or two seemed tired.

One wouldn’t stop answering or playing with her phone, let alone silence it.

“That’s a bad sign,” I said.

“She kept taking over the conversation, too,” my friend said.

“A sign of self-importance or exhibitionism,” I offered.

No matter, positive feedback ensued and my friend was scheduled for an online interview with the full board.

Several weeks later the ‘candidate’ participated in a Zoom interview with the group on their regularly scheduled meeting date.

I remember asking “They didn’t see the need to schedule a meeting for hiring, just dragged the process out for an extra 10 days?”

“Yeah.”

Several staff members also logged in and it stretched into twice the allotted time. They covered a lot of ground. What are your thoughts about this? Ideas about that?

The gal with the cell phone from the in-person meeting was online, but was disengaged, my friend noted.

Other members of the board asked deep developmental questions.

Staff members mostly zoomed in to their personal spheres of interest, some very personal.

“Odd,” I offered my friend. “Clearly the board wants to give existing staff a voice to ensure there will be a workable group after the new hire is brought in.”

Throughout the entire (not) hiring process messages of encouragement came in from her contact within the organization, and her references vaguely reported the sorts of exchanges a job-seeker could only dream of.

Five days after the Zoom interview there was a voicemail from the board president asking her to call.

She said she knew the outcome in her gut, before she heard the message, but picked up the phone with hopeful expedience.

“You had such great ideas,” he told her, adding “I hate for this to be goodbye.”

Almost apologetically, he said among his hardest jobs was convincing the board that if they hire a part-time executive director, they get a part-time employee.

Her hunch was right. She has too much on the ball, or at least that’s how it was perceived.

A majority of the board apparently sought to hire someone they could count on to eat, sleep and breathe the job even though it was advertised as a part-time position.

In fact, the outgoing leader, whose bio on the organization’s website included typographical errors, had been basically AWOL for some time, busy pursuing other interests.

The board no doubt sought to avoid repeating that experience by hiring someone with no other demands on his or her time. Perhaps someone who might, in effect, donate time.

“Surely, they didn’t expect a candidate working through five weeks’ of an interview process to not be so serious about the job that they wouldn’t at least show up,” I said.

“Pathetic,” she said.

“A little, if that was their biggest concern and the reason they went with someone else. But you can’t be sure.”

“Yeah, well at least they got my ideas, she said.

“It’s hard to answer questions honestly, without sharing your creativity and spark,” I said.

“I feel a little taken advantage of. They got the milk for free,” she said.

“The worst thing they did was take so long to make the bad decision of not hiring you,” I said.

“Robbed,” she said.

“Of your time? Sure. They don’t sound very motivated. Five weeks is a long time to fill a part-time job, even one of significance. Of your ideas? Maybe they didn’t even like your ideas, and he was just being kind.”

“He was almost whining. Lamenting his powerlessness over the board,” she said.

“That doesn’t sound like the sort of group you want to work with or for,” I said.

“I could have made a real difference there.”

“Change comes from within. Perhaps the previous guy had big ideas too and found he couldn’t get any traction,” I said.

“So, he started phoning it in,” she said.

“Maybe. But the lack of care displayed on the website suggests he never really had what it took. He should have been leading the charge to fix it, possibly doing it himself.”

“And they let it go for years.”

“Another sign of trouble. That’s their calling card,” I said.

Maybe they got the milk for free, maybe they did not. Either way, perhaps the fridge was in fact unplugged and the milk would have spoiled. 

Is it worth the energy to keep an eye on the situation and see? Only for personal edification. Little good can actually come of it after such a frustrating experience. “Doing so might only prove a distraction, resulting in other lost opportunities,” I told her.

Thanks for reading You can also “follow” this blog, subscribe by email and read about Jonathan Ment Photography, or follow the narrative on twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

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