The Ad Was Perfect. Why Didn’t They Call Me?

Photo by Robyn Gallagher

You know what sucks about writing a blog where you sit up high and give advice?  The part where you realize you’re just as much of a boob as everybody else.

I do a little bit of freelance work—at least, in my head I do.  In reality I don’t do very much, because there really isn’t any.  When I left my job last summer, my plan to cover the grocery bill with project work seemed reasonable.  I got a few projects, and everything was going well.  Then last September all hell broke loose, and now I haven’t heard of a really decent gig for months.   I’ve seen some postings, but they all seem to go to people overseas who can work for $2/hour (no knock against them, because they have to eat too…but my rate is higher, because $2 won’t even cover one package of the Trader Joe’s cheese curds my 1-year-old loves).

Then I saw this ad posted on a freelancer’s site.  They wanted someone to write an employee handbook for a small company, and they had a decent budget.  A budget that could pay someone in the United States.  A budget that could buy a fair number of packages of Trader Joe’s cheese curds.  Hey, I thought.  Pick me!  PICK ME!  I’ve written, like, a dozen handbooks, and I especially like writing them for small companies.  I could do it for the low end of their budget, and I’d be really quick.  “I saw this ad,” I told my husband that night, “and it was like it was meant for me.”

You’ve said that too, right?  You’ve seen an ad somewhere and you thought, omigawd, that is totally meant for me. And then they never call, and it’s like in high school, when the boy you had a huge crush on never asked you to the dance.  Why didn’t they pick me, you think.  Didn’t they know that it was meant for me?  Then you walk around all sad and rejected for a couple of days.  It sucks.

So weeks go by, and they never awarded the project.   I whined to my husband about it over dinner.  Then I sat down to write a blog post while he and the kids watched PBS Sprout.  I pulled up my List O’Future Topics, and there it was:

Don’t fall in love with the ad.  The ad has little to do with the job.

And I was like, well, duh.

Here’s the thing:  ads for jobs are a lot like those profiles you see on dating sites.  Sometimes the picture they show is kinda fuzzy, and not really a good representation at all.  Sometimes they flat-out exaggerate.  Sometimes they aren’t really serious about hiring (or dating); they’re just seeing what’s out there.  Sometimes they change their mind about what they want, or whether they want to do this, after they post the ads.  Sometimes they’re written by HR people, who have no clue what the job is actually about.  Sometimes budget cuts come after the job is posted, so the job or project gets put on hold.  Sometimes an internal candidate says, “Hey, I want that!” and gets it.

They also leave out a lot of important details.  Maybe the boss is a screaming weenie, and they don’t want anyone who has a backbone, because they’ll walk out on day two.  Maybe the screaming weenie is easily threatened, so he only wants entry-level types so they won’t take his job.  Maybe they’re finally fed up with that screaming weenie boss themselves, and they want someone who will replace him in a couple of months…but they can’t put that qualification in the ad, because the screaming weenie will see it and freak.

It’s hard to avoid getting your heart set on a job when you see an ad that seems perfect.  It’s especially hard in this market, when there are so few jobs and you’re waiting so long between interviews.  Remember, though, that the ad doesn’t always tell the whole story…and that there are a million reasons they didn’t call that have nothing at all to do with you.  Don’t take it personally.  There’s a job for you out there somewhere.

Photo by Robyn Gallagher

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