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

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

by Kerry Scott on 25 February 2009

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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Ask a Manager February 25, 2009 at 8:59 am

Great comparison to personal ads. So true! I will never tire of the number of ways in which job-searching is like dating. Another parallel between the two: Someone might think they’re being accurate but actually have no self-insight/self-awareness — so they might represent their company’s culture in a way that they truly believe to be accurate, but which in fact misses the mark. Hence, it’s never worth feeling too sad about — I like to think of unresponded-to applications as bullets dodged, in ways we’ll never have to know about.

Eliz February 25, 2009 at 9:33 am

I really needed to hear this today. Thanks for the inside perspective. It doesn’t take the sting out of NEVER hearing from anyone, from sending my resume out into the black hole of the Internet, but it’s good to know I’m not the only one. I know the right job is out there, but I needed it, like, months ago.

Eliz’s last blog post..Routine Matters

maruca February 25, 2009 at 2:14 pm

I love reading your page…today’s is right on target. I used the exact same high school crush comparison to my friend last week. The stress is horrible, I have another twist after 4 dates (4 interviews) for the same position no call…
thanks for the various reasons for no call ; you added today, at least tonight I will get some sleep.

Sadistic Manager February 26, 2009 at 6:53 pm

I have one question.

What does it say about me and/or the way my week has gone that the first thing my mind clued in on is the sign in that picture … followed by “I wonder how you’d write a sex discrimination policy for that place…”

Sadistic Manager’s last blog post..Best Practice Bingo

Jenn Barnes / HR Wench February 27, 2009 at 12:47 am

I think we were separated at birth.

Melissa April 5, 2009 at 9:14 pm

Oh My! I too really needed to read that tonight… I have applied for a position which is just *perfect* for me and the deadline was March 27th and interview date is April 15th. The employer is an internationally recognised not-for-profit organisation and they specifically mention that they do not accept CVs or prospective applications but only application forms which are a reply to an ad. They also mention that feedback will only be given to those who get to the interview stage. So theoretically I need to wait until they call me but this wait is KIL-LING ME!!! I swear it is!!!! (I have to admit I did contemplate calling them with a false excuse like “I dont have my phone with me at the moment and I wanted to check if you had called”, just to know if they had chosen who to call for an interview or not, but then I changed my mind after reading your post on “Calling to follow-up?”).They also mention that if we havent heard from them within two weeks, then we can assume we have bee unsuccessful. A week has passed now, nothing. Im all over the place because I was really SURE they would call me for an interview. I know I still have another week but I dont know, now I feel like its better I get prepared now for the “non-event of my life”, than in after a week. But I just can’t!! Ive installed Google Notifier on firefox JUST for that!!
Ok anyway theres one thing Id like to mention in my case which does not fit with what you explained in your post and which is that the employer I have applied to work for has just received funding for this project so it is unlikely that they would withdraw the post because of lack of funding. Also, their strong ethics means that I can’t see them posting an ad without being serious about it. So in a way I thin what really saddens me is that il ann honesty, if they dont call me it WILL be because they didn’t think I was fit for the job, not for any other reason Iml afraid. But still a great post!!!

Kerry April 6, 2009 at 8:38 am

Melissa–hang in there. There’s no way to keep the wait from sucking other than to keep busy and keep looking. Maybe they’ll call, maybe they won’t, but now that you’ve submitted your application, there’s nothing you can do but wait.

Keep in mind that they almost never call early; people are usually behind in their work, not ahead. Don’t read anything into the fact that they haven’t called yet, because if the interview date is the 15th, they’ll probably be calling people later this week.

Good luck!

Melissa April 6, 2009 at 11:25 am

You really have no idea what your kind words mean to me. I am so anxious, I really am, and I am not usually like that! I so hope they are just behind their schedule, and not ahead! I have noticed something scary though: the week after the deadline for my position, they advertised for a lower position, and the deadline for it was today 5pm. It is 5.22pm and the ad has been removed already and new ones have been added for other positions. Plus the interview date advertised for that position is the week commencing April 6th! So it means that those applying for this position will have applied after me and got their interview before me. I know it is in a totally different area (it’s admin work and I would be a project worker), but still : isn’t this an indication that they are bang on time and not at all late, if they can squeeze in ads, remove them on time, call people for other interviews, etc?

Melissa April 6, 2009 at 11:26 am

Oups I forgot to say : thank you soooo much for your answer by the way, it is REALLY appreciated this side of the pond ;) . Thank, thanks, thanks!

Melissa April 7, 2009 at 10:06 pm

I still have no news from them…I have only got two complete days left : Wednesday 8th and Thursday 9th, after that I will fall under utter despair if they have not called…Ill keep you posted!

Melissa April 8, 2009 at 8:03 am

Kerry Im sorry I just had to call for a follow up it was just driving me mad!!! I didnt actually call, so that I would not interrupt somebody while they work, but I sent an email, here it is in full : “My name is Melissa and I applied for the post of “xxx Project Worker” on March 26th. I know you are a very busy team and therefore I will understand if you cannot answer this query. I just wanted to ask you if the shortlisted candidates for the interview taking place on April 15th have been called yet. I do not ask for personal feedback as the website states this is not possible before an interview. But I thought you might be able to inform me if the chosen applicants have been contacted yet or not.
Thank you for reading this, and if you do not have enough time to answer this email, I will completely understand.” What do you think?

Ann September 15, 2009 at 12:28 pm

Kerry, I just stumbled upon your blog and feel a bit better about all the times this kind of thing has happened to me since my position in community relations was eliminated in a mass layoff 7 months ago. Thanks for the encouragement and for helping us applicants get a grip on what’s going on inside the black hole of HR.

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