On the Other Side of the Table

One of my part time gigs has a couple of job openings for another part time evening supervisor (aka the other half of the week I do not work) and a part time overnight supervisor. Why won’t they just hire me full time, you ask? Well, that’s another blog post for another time (focused on the bullshittiness that libraries and archives are grossly underfunded).

These interviews were conducted in the evening because my supervisors (hiring for the position) also work in the evening. On one of those evenings my supervisor was out sick, so I was asked to help “conduct the interview” (they just needed a warm body to ask questions). Finally, my chance to infiltrate on the other side of the interview process had arrived!

HR Forms

Do you remember those stupid online forms that every HR department makes you fill out for a job application even though you already uploaded your resume, cover letter, and references? Well, apparently at my place of work those stupid fucking forms are printed out for the hiring committee to use. Let me tell you how completely useless those forms are from the interviewer perspective! 

My reaction to the printed HR form (with clothes on).

I was expecting to read cover letters and resumes. Something created by the applicant to show me their editing, formatting, and creative skills in a word doc. Instead I got a print out of that stupid fucking HR form. It was visually boring and lazy. It also didn’t feel personal. Resumes and cover letters are unique and that uniqueness can tell an interviewer a lot of things. When you take that away from an applicant, you are basically taking away their chance to stand out. 

I don’t know about you, but I’m always tempted to not fill out those forms after I submit a resume. Apparently, some institutions rely on those forms completely, so I guess it’s not a complete waste of time as much as it is a (lazy) time saver for the hiring committee.

Bad (Job) Call

Let me preface that this job is an entry level supervisory position, therefore the interviews were very short and basic. We were looking for a person that had some supervisory or library experience and could work the required hours. Sounds easy, right? WRONG! Long Island is an incredibly expensive place to live (hell, anywhere in or around NYC is not cheap), forcing many people to work more than one job. So many of our applicants had day jobs and needed the extra income to support themselves and/or their families. 

The open position we were interviewing for that evening was for the part time overnight position. However, my institution hires support staff, like supervisors, with yearly contracts. This is where it gets tricky. The official job call stated the position was temporary. So the applicants applied for this position believing it would serve as a bridge between jobs or even a short term extra income gig. 

How job calls really sound like.

The official job call also states the position is part time. Now, legally speaking, part time is anything under 30 hours per week (for the state of New York). However, my current position is part time at 18.25 hours per week (the 0.25 has to do with breaks). Many part time positions I’ve worked, and my friends have worked, are usually between 15-20 hours. So it was a shock seeing this position advertised as part time, which isn’t entirely false but incredibly misleading. 

Along with misleading hours, the salary range is also misleading. The stated salary range is based on a full time position. So applicants believed they were applying for a position that paid well for half the hours. The rest of the job tasks and descriptions were so basic it bored me to death just reading it again. I’ll save you that misery and go straight to the applicants reaction to our misleading job call. 

The Applicants

So far, we have two strikes against my institution’s hiring process, poorly written and misleading job calls, and equally poorly organized hiring procedures. Something the applicants had no idea of. So, that evening I got to “interview” two applicants (again, I was playing the role of warm body). We had about ten questions provided (and approved) by HR. And, holy shit, there were the most terribly worded and repetitive questions ever! These were also the exact questions from my interview almost a year ago! 

Again, this is an entry level position so the applicant’s only requirements were a Bachelor’s degree or four years of experience in lieu of a degree, and proficient word processing skills. The two applicants that evening were both very qualified on paper but also grossly misled on what they were applying to. 

Both applicants believed the job was temporary (gee, I wonder why) because they both needed a position to fill the financial gaps for a few months. They were both surprised when we explained the yearly contract. Like many people in Long Island, these applicants had a full time day job. They interpreted this position as part time overnight, hoping they could work a couple of over nights during the week or weekend and still keep their day job. 

Apparently this is my institution’s motto

However, it is really hard to balance a full time 9am – 5pm position with a part time job requiring you to work from 12am – 8am four nights a week. Just let that sink in. We were basically asking applicants if they can work 80 hours per week and never sleep or see their families.

As much as these applicants needed the extra income, they both expressed uncertainty in their ability to balance two demanding positions. The supervisor reassured them that “this is a great part time job”. The supervisor believed it was great because you could use your days running errands or taking care of family, and still reap those sweet benefits for only working part time (any part time position under a New York agency still gets benefits). 

Reality Check, Please!

While I don’t work the overnight gig, I do work the evening shift (5pm – 12am) part time. So I know a thing or two about this “great part time job”. It’s not great, at all! Have you tried to work a full time and part time position? It’s not easy. Usually you are driving from one job to the next while you eat a quick sandwich or bag of chips because your next break isn’t for another six hours. You also don’t get many chances to see family or friends because you are working 80 hours a week. 

For about a month, I worked a full time day job while working my part time evening job (see One Flew Over the Cubicle Desk for another job related story). Here’s how my schedule looked. I would work from 8:30 am until around 4:00 pm then drive 45 minutes to the other job and work from 5 pm until midnight. Then I would drive the 45 minutes back home and finally fall asleep around 1:30 am or 2 am. And repeat for the next three days. Now, imagine a similar schedule but working at night from 12 am to 8 am, then driving to your day job. We were asking applicants to do that. What the fuck is wrong with us?!

Back to those sweet state benefits for working part time. Sure, I get benefits from the state however that comes out of my paycheck. And I did the math, my benefits cost me half my paycheck. The supervisor leading the interview has absolutely no clue how much this job is costing me. They also said “you get great vacation time and sick leave”. That’s also not entirely true. 

I earn half a vacation day per pay period. Again, I did the math which leaves me with 13 vacation days per year. However, those vacation days are also used when the library is not open during my regular work hours (usually during inter-sessions and Spring Break). Leaving me with about three days of vacation time. Why, you ask, did the supervisor say that? Well, two reasons. The supervisor works full time and thus earns more vacation time, and they wanted to convince applicants to accept the position.

Closing Thoughts

Fortunately, these were two very smart applicants. They asked questions about the position being temporary and required hours. They both walked in knowing exactly what worked for them and what didn’t. And walked out understanding the positions would not benefit them at all. And while my role in the interview was pointless, it was a great insight for me. I wanted to share that insight with others. 

While this is only a small sliver of an example of the inner workings of the interview process from the other side of the table, it is good to know a few things. Like how much influence HR can have on your chance of being picked for an interview. Read over the job call and ask questions about salary, hours and job description. And think about the logistics of accepting the part time job.

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