Tuesday, August 29, 2006


Mrs. Linklater hasn't been gainfully employed for sometime now. At least not in a work for a company kind of way. As her own boss, she enjoys a level of work satsifaction not often found in nature.  But she thinks she remembers what it was like to have clammy hands and a dry mouth during an interview. Anyway, AOL offered up these helpful hiring hints and she just couldn't keep her mouth shut.

Job seekers, beware. While you may be raring to ditch a demeaning employer, make sure you aren’t trading one problem workplace for another. There’s no crystal ball to tell you with certainty whether a prospective employer is toxic or terrific, but you do have the power to sniff out signs of negativity before you join a soul-crushing team. You can spot red flags to avoid joining a dreary workplace by using these simple investigative techniques and observational skills.

Mrs. Linklater:  Does this advice seem especially timely since AOL is dumping a couple of thousand people?

A picture is worth a thousand words and so are facial expressions. Arrive early to your interview and watch people coming and going from the office.

Mrs. Linklater:  If they have pained looks on their faces, don't try the free Slim Jims. 

Notice how visitors, yourself included, are announced. (“Mr. Jordan, your nine o’clock is here,” versus, “Sam! Get out here right now!”) The tone of the greeting can tell you a little about a company’s general personality.

Mrs. Linklater:  If the receptionist announces your presence with, "Mr. Jordan, that nice piece of ass from Friday is here," you may want to just take that as a compliment. Especially gay men or women over forty.

Don’t be shy; strike up a quick dialogue with company chatterboxes during your wait. Look for telltale signs of unhappiness or resentment, such as employees who refuse to answer questions clearly, avoid direct eye contact or blow you off completely.

Mrs Linklater:  On the other hand, they may just think you're creepy.

Although some might simply be having a bad day, this could be the kind of daily treatment you’ll receive here.

Mrs. Linklater:  Which would you prefer? A bunch of chatty Kathies you can never get rid of.  Or people who don't have to stop and talk to every time you pass in the hall?

Bewary if you see a number of people who seem overworked or stressed. You might witness hunched shoulders, tired faces and sluggish gaits. These traits probably signal discontent.

Mrs. Linklater:  Or they could be illegals. 

Ask for a tour of the facility. (If the prospective employer refuses your request without offering a good reason, run for the hills.) The common areas of any office are ripe with information for the job seeker. Pause at the water cooler, elevators and courtyard while you scrutinize body language and conversations. Are employees happily chatting about their families and hobbies? Are they mired in serious work discussions? Are they complaining about fellow coworkers? Are they marching solo without interaction?

Mrs. Linklater:  Don't overdo it, they'll think you're a narc.

During your walk through the office, look for telltale signs of mutiny such as people surfing the Internet, worried looks on the faces of employees, or less-than-cordial greetings to you.

Mrs. Linklater:  You might be interrupting the only free time they have to look at porn.

While you’re walking the halls, note whether the place seems like one where you’ll become inspired or depressed. After all, the personality of a company is often reflected in its visual elements. For example, walls barren of artwork could signify the place is run by penny pinchers who are either unwilling or unable to pay for simple decorations.

Mrs. Linklater:  Most office artwork sucks.  Look in the dumpster.  Somebody may have finally put it out there.

Observe the d├ęcor of cubicles and offices. Does every cube look pretty much the same, or are they personalized with photos, awards and mementoes? If you see a lot of pictures of kids and you have a brood of your own, it could indicate that you’ll have a great deal in common with your coworkers. Conversely, very few personal touches might indicate a general expectation of conformity.

Mrs. Linklater:  No personal touches may indicate unusual alternative lifestyles disguised as conformity.  This could be a good thing.

If the timing seems appropriate, ask specific questions of employees based on the items on their desks, such as, “I see your son plays soccer. Do you get to many games?” If the answer is a dejected, “No, I’m usually at work,” think twice. This workplace might foster a sweatshop labormentality.

Mrs. Linklater:   Or they're just getting it on with somebody at the office.

If your interview is scheduled after business hours or during lunch, be conscious of how many people are sticking around the office. If everyone is working through lunch or way beyond official closing time, ask your interviewer if this represents a typical workday.

Mrs. Linklater:   If there's nobody around at all, don't be surprised if the offer you get is a proposition.

Finally, note the cleanliness of the facility. Be especially cautious if the president or executive team has an updated suite of plush, decorated offices while the rest of the business resembles a run-down tenement. Check out the lavatory before or after your interview. Take a moment in the stall to listen for hot gossip. While you’re at it, note how clean it is; if the taps drip and the place appears dingy, the health and wellbeing of the employees might be undervalued.

Mrs. Linklater:  Stand up on the toilet so they can't see your feet -- a surefire way to hear lots of good dirt.  If you fall in, pretend you were trying not to touch the seat. 

When you’re considering making a move to another employer, ask around about the company. Chances are you’ll uncover useful information via friends or acquaintances. If you’re really fortunate, you may even be able to connect with someone who is a current or former employee. Set up a telephone call or lunch date with that person and find out all there is to know before you accept the job. During your conversation, ask the person to describe the company culture and a characteristic day on the job.

Mrs. Linklater:  Good luck. In this day and age of wiretaps without warrants, they'll just assume you're bugged and they're being recorded. 

Once your reconnaissance mission is complete, evaluate your data with your head and gut. Ask yourself the basic question, “Does this seem like a place where I will be happy working?” If the answer is an obvious negative, stop wasting your time. Go in search of a company where mutual respect and satisfaction are everyday fundamentals.

Mrs. Linklater:  A company store, summer hours, casual Fridays, a cheap cafeteria, free parking -- there are many perks that make mutual respect and satisfaction worth giving up. 


mosie1944 said...

You do this SO well.  Thanks for a chuckle.  (By the way, both my husband and I switched to the 81 mg aspirin in place of the 325 mg, after my researching the subject.  In fact, I only just yesterday found out that's the size Cliff had prescribed for him and was supposed to be taking.)

bosoxblue6993w said...

getting job tips from AOL is like getting ethics tips from Heinrik Himmler.

screaminremo303 said...

Leave it to BoSox to steal the good line.

I worked in Dilbertland (DiscoverCard) in the 80's. I can't imagine Dante had a better idea of Hell than that place. On the other hand, it was rather refreshing to be one of a handful of heterosexual men in a building of over 800 women.


gaboatman said...

If a job applicant did all of this spying centered around the actual job interview he or she will have no worries about getting the job.  The prospective emplyer will notice the intense surveilance and that will end any job prospect with said company.  Who wants to hire a snoop?

ladeeoftheworld said...

It only took me 30 years to find a decent job.  Not bad, huh?