Friday, February 03, 2006

And it is March


March arrives, and to quote Hembeck: "I see you haven't updated recently...". He was at the time bouncing my son on his formidible forearm, so he might see a good reason why I have not updated. A 4 month old infant does take up your time. And not to mention there was, unexpectedly (or at least ahead of time) a ramped-up job search. And it goes a little something, like this...


Boom! Christmas approaches and I'm told that my contract with a big Canadian bank, lets call it the Dominion of Canada Savings and Services (DCSS) will end a few weeks early due to childbirth.

Not my own. But the maternity leave I was working came to an early end due to an early start (child born a month and a bit in advance 13 months ago). So, somewhere, it all works out. Mostly.


I had known my contract would eventually end, and aside from some hope of finding a full-time niche (which at DCSS would prove a challenge from organizational terms) I knew I should start looking in mid-January. Now, I had to start looking in December. And thus, once again, begins the festival of job search.

This time, I was luckier than others. The DCSS contract expanded my resume quite nicely, and I received some references that carried weight, so I can't complain either about the contract or the ending- it was all above board, all professional, and all for the proverbial best. And that said...I needed a job.


So. Workopolis and Monster get my resume, and unlike a previous, unnervingly long bout with unemployment, I started to get calls. I received a LOT of calls on short notice. It probably kept me from going grey, since for once, the majority of the interviews I went to were initiated by the employer. Between Dec 15 and Jan 20, I had over 15 interviews even taking the Christmas break into account. I had 3 in one day in 3 locations, from Rexdale Blvd., King and Bay, and one up near Hwy 7.

The short list of employers goes like this: A large accountancy firm, another role at DCSS, at a rival bank, another rival bank, an ISO firm, an Ontario government ministry, a benefits company, a financial provider owned by two additional rival banks, a travel firm, and a law firm. All of the bank interviews resulted from submitting my resume to jobs I didn't think I had a chance of getting, but the fact I was taken seriously enough to be called in was a boost to the occasionally non-existent ego.

However, the interview process frequently goes off kilter. I was called shortly after Christmas to be told I would not be asked back to a second interview with the Accountancy firm (a proposal writer position). Fair enough. No feedback other than they were looking for a writer with more financial experience.

A week later, I was called BACK for a second interivew, this time with a Vice President of the firm. The official reason (according to the recruiter, who's first interest is simply to get me hired and pick up a fee) was that the HR person "didn't get to see the real Michael," and didn't feel she got to know me on a personal basis. The recruiter, receiving these notes, said that this was insane and went over the HR person's head to the hiring manager, who agreed that the criteria for dismissal was vague. She asked if I'd been nervous in the interview, and I told her that all of the questions in that interview had been technical- how did I write, how did I schedule, how would I do my job in a fast-paced environment.

All typical questions. They were repeated in an accelerated fashion by the VP who essentially said that he was more interested with how I could write rather than what kind of a person I was, politely. I gave the same answers, shook his hand, and was passed over for an internal placement. Go figure.


The frontrunning job was with the benefits company, which was located in Thornhill. My first interview was on Dec 21st, and the company, work and environment looked great. It also was located in Thornhill. The pay and company looked attractive enough that I was willing to buy a car (which I would like to avoid for as long as possible) or to start arranging a car pool with the eminent Hembeck, who worked nearby. To take that job would involve one of those horrible 'lifestyle changes' discussed by insurance agents and on Oprah...it would be an isolating position, but having a car would help. And having a car would be expensive. Which would be offset by the steady salary and nature of the job. It felt like the kind of decision which would look great in hindsight, in 2 or 3 years.

The first person I interviewed with (a marketing director) more or less said that the job was mine- they had been trying to fill it for over 4 months (which should have told me something immediately) and what kind of a laptop would I like, did I want my own office, and did I know that most staff workedup to 2 days a week from home? All of these hit me as perfect, especially working from home.

Still, I kept interviewing. A Ministry of Transportation interview was pointless- the first question I was asked was "What technical and system documentation for end users have you produced in the last 2 years?" and I had to tell them that I'd been a corporate comunicator for the last 2 years, not a tech writer, and could they not have read the resume in front of them to find out the same facts?

And there was a very expensive law firm with a long interview and test (had to write a precis based on a supreme court ruling), which was entertaining and challenging and I left thinking "These people are looking for a paralegal or a law student who can write."


In early January, I was called back to the benefits company to meet with another marketing director for more or less the same interview, largely revolving around proposal writing techniques. I signed a non-disclosure form and produced a brief sample. It was now 2 weeks after the initial interview, a bit longer than usual but the Christmas break had to be taken into account.

A week after that, the recruiter called me and said that the second interviewer was very concerned with 'fit', to ensure that personalities and approach to work were all in sync. This bothered me - again, the questions had all been technical, if she felt that I might not 'fit', could she give me some criteria as to what this 'fit' required? And they wanted to know if I would meet with a 3rd person from the company in a decidedly informal atmosphere - a Starbucks in North York.

Continued in Part II

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