Sunday, April 06, 2008

Applying for a Job

Just like volunteering as writer's workshop coordinator opened my eyes to how it looks, tastes, smells and feels to receive manuscripts, working at the front desk when there's a hiring sign outside has opened my eyes to the first part of the hiring process.

Hints for success drawn from real life experiences today:

Don't send mommy in to pick up your applications.  If you're mommy, send the kid in to pick it up.  We don't hire people under 18 and since mom said both qualify, that's a big hmmm.  Either the people don't want the job enough to bother picking up the app (in which case we don't want 'em) or they're being forced to apply by mom (subcategory of prior) or they're not mature enough to get around to picking up their own or they can't get their own transportation.  Ahem.  If you don't fall into any of these undesirable categories then why the heck are you going to allow the employer to jump to these conclusions?

When applying or asking about whether applications are being accepted, don't return items you bought from the store without tags, stained, without receipt, and with an attitude.  Also, don't spout off about the hiring process, especially if you're wrong.  The pseudo-customer in question brought in stained shorts without tags claiming they didn't fit, and then told me how her application was going to Eugene.  
"Oh, you're moving to Eugene?" I ask hopefully.
"Then why ..."
"Because that's how they hire," she said, rolling her eyes.
Mmm hmm.  Sure they do.  I was (not) hired in exactly that fashion.  I'm sure local store management has nothing to do with, say, looking over your app or interviewing or anything.  It's not like they have to work with you.  
Turns out this gem has applied every time we put a sign out.  Maybe her application did go to corporate to begin legal proceedings for a restraint order.  She only got more obnoxious from there, with a smile.  So, another tip.  Don't annoy your potential coworkers.

One of my bosses confided that he knows whether he's going to hire someone usually within the first minute of an interview, and sometimes in less time than that in the few moments before the interview officially begins.  This parallels the hurdle a short story and novel submission has to overcome with an editor.  And it's not really required to impress/blow away an employer in that first minute.  Just don't be a jackass.  Dress neatly.  Be polite.  Look interested in the job and eager to work.   

I wonder, then, if a story opening really has to be spectacular.  I think maybe not.  I think it has to be competent and interesting.  Overall the story really needs to sparkle to sell.  Overall the applicant needs to outshine the competition for the same job.  But in that first minute the applicant doesn't have to do backflips or display a talent for marksmanship.  They just have to, well, be themselves.  The opening of a story probably (I'm guessing, you understand) just has to be itself too.  

Something to think about.  If the applicant (story) isn't a natural fit for the job (publisher) then no amount of trickery or flash bang or emotional contortionism is going to make them more appealing or more likely to get the job (get published.)  Be yourself. (Write the story.)  Put your best foot forward but don't try to force it. (Write the opening that fits the story. )  And good luck out there.  It's a competitive world, but there are opportunities.  Keep looking, and trying, and hopefully someday you'll get the job (published!) 

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