Common Courtesy and the Digital Age

The Digital Age is just plain rude.

I don’t blog very often, but occasionally I’ll feel the need to write down some thoughts….and clearly this is one of those times.  I’m going to try – try – to keep this from being too rant-like, I promise!

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I’ve never had to really submit a résumé.  Despite having a variety of “day jobs” over the years, none really required résumé submission; basically, they were jobs one would “apply” for, and fill out information on said application.  No bullet-pointed documents necessary.

In fact, the last time I applied for a job was over 15 years ago.  And the process went something like this (I think I’ll use a bulleted list here, for ironic effect, perhaps):

  • Decided I needed a new job
  • Spent 50 cents on a newspaperRemember these?
  • Perused the want-ads
  • Circled potential jobs
  • Made phone calls to the numbers listed in the ads
  • Set up interview appointments
  • Showed up early and prepared for interviews
  • Met with potential bosses
  • Engaged in inter-personal conversation, mostly (but not completely), relating to the job being applied for.
  • Followed up with thank you phone calls
  • Landed a job and started working within a few days

This is the procedure.  And the most important part (in my opinion) is in red text.  Conversation.  A face-to-face meeting.  A chance to gauge personality.  Not only for ME to be evaluated, but for me to evaluate my potential working environment as well.

Fast forward to today:  That procedure has been whittled down to a much shorter list:

  • Search online job listings
  • Submit résumé digitally
  • Wait for responses (most of which never come)

And that’s about it.  Again – I’ve never had to engage in job-seeking in the digital age.  Luckily.  Because I think my head would explode in frustration.  I have, however, watched people close to me go through this kind of torture, sometimes for weeks or even months.  Submitting résumés, and just waiting.  And being treated – well – like a piece of crap on the floor, to put it bluntly.

Back before all this digital screening, the worst thing that happened was your phone call was not returned.  And frankly, that’s rude as well.  But even the most mildly ambitious person could get some interviews.  Or at the very least, talk to a human being on the phone and have a chance to try.  Allow their personality to come through and perhaps sell themselves a little bit.  I like to think that this is how I landed most of the jobs I had throughout my 20’s and 30’s.

These were mostly construction-based jobs, however also more specialized skill-wise, and higher paying than your average unskilled labor.  For a while, I installed and refinished hardwood flooring.  I was a “problem solver” (or “punch list guy”) for a large kitchen and bath remodeling company; fixing various issues that arose after a customer’s job was completed.  I worked for many years as a restroom partition installer; “shitter splitters” as they are known in the biz – both in New York and after moving to Arizona.

The common factor with most of these jobs is that I had ZERO experience when I started.  I admitted that in my interviews.  I’ve always been a handy guy who knows how to use tools, but had absolutely no clue about these specialized industries.  Despite that, I was hired.  Often chosen from a pool of qualified candidates.  And I would like to think that my résumé had nothing to do with it.  It was my interview.  It was the person-to-person interaction in which I was able to sell myself that landed me those jobs.

Had hiring been done based solely on a piece of paper, I’d probably have never even been considered.

And that’s where things are today.  And it’s goddamn rude and I feel sorry for anyone who has to go through the process.

Why “rude”, you ask?

Because applicants are routinely ignored.  “Routinely” is probably not even strong enough.  More like consistently.  Habitually.

People submit a résumé, and never hear a word back.  Not even an email to say “sorry, you are not what we are looking for” or “the position has been filled” – even if they are lies.  It’s ARROGANT to ignore people.  It is among the highest forms of insult.  And employers feel fine about doing it ALL the time.  Par for the course.

It’s really just cowardice and laziness.  It’s tough to be up front with people when giving them bad news.  And there’s a LOT of bad news to give when hundreds of people apply for just a position or two.  So employers hide behind their digital devices, pretending that ignoring all these applicants is no big deal.

It IS a big deal.

Now I know I’ve already stated that I’ve never had to deal with this type of résumé submission – so why am I blogging about it now?

Well, it’s because – in my own way – I am starting to deal with it.  And I don’t like it.  I’ll explain:

I will be taking a short out of town trip with some friends in the near future.  Summoning my personal ambition and love of what I do for a living, I decided it would be fantastic to book a show somewhere in that town during this short vacation.  My friends would enjoy it, I would enjoy it, and I could make a little money while out-of-town.

So I researched the area, grabbed the info for 12 or 14 establishments that I knew did, or may, have live music, and started making phone calls.

A few were immediate busts (no music), and one or two already had performers booked.  But the real frustration is this:  The vast majority would not ALLOW me to speak to someone about booking.  The answer was: “We have an email address for that”.  *sigh*  My response was – very politely – to say that I’d gladly shoot out an email, but would love to just speak to whoever is in charge of booking for a brief minute to introduce myself.  I was declined.  Every time.  I even asked for the name of the booking person a few times.  You know – so I could call back and ask for them specifically.  And I was repeatedly told “we don’t give that out – we just give out the email address.  It’s all handled by email only.”  Wow.

Now that’s pretty rude.  But it gets worse…..

1I graciously thanked each one of them, took the email address, and promptly sent a well-worded message explaining who I was, why I was writing, and included links to my website as confirmation that yes, I’m actually a professional working in this industry and not just some hack.  Listen to the music samples.  Watch my videos.

The number of responses thus far?  ZERO.

Now I don’t take that as an insult to my abilities.  I’m confident in my talents and that I can entertain people in a bar/restaurant environment.  It’s what I do, and I’m good at it.

But the part that gets my dander up is that these people insist on email communication.  And then don’t communicate.  A person takes the time to reach out; to make a phone call, and then send off a polite and well-crafted email, and these people don’t think twice about blowing it off completely.  It’s goddamn rude.  You could send a 2 sentence reply.  Say you’re considering it.  Say you’re already booked.  Say ANYTHING.  But instead, it’s so much easier to ignore the contact, and go about your day.

And the best part – anyone who sends a second, follow-up email is probably viewed as a pushy pain in the ass.  Viewed as though THEY are the rude one.

Listen people – this goes across the board.  Not just booking, not just employers, but everyone.  When someone reaches out to you, RESPOND.  Of course this doesn’t apply to the Nigerian diplomat that wants to give you $3.456 million just for helping him out.  But it DOES apply when someone makes contact with you concerning YOUR business.  This is what you DO.  How dare you ignore people.  How dare you act as though someone asking you to do your JOB is burdening you.  If you are in charge of booking, REPLY when someone contacts you about booking.  If you are in charge of hiring, RESPOND to résumé submissions.

Put yourself in someone else’s shoes and realize how awful it is to just be ignored.

It feels good to get this off my chest, but I know my stupid blog won’t change anything.

The anonymity and lack of inter-personal connection makes it all too easy to be dismissive.  Used to be, you wouldn’t return a phone call.  Somehow, not replying to an email is even…..easier.

Because the Digital Age is not only rude, it’s damn rude.

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