How a lame comment and a case of mistaken identity torpedoed my job search
I didn’t always say everything that popped into my head. When I went to Kindergarten, the school realized I could already read like a third-grader (though I couldn’t tie my shoes), so after two weeks I was put in first grade. Where I became the smallest, youngest child in the class with the bonus of being the freak kid that skipped Kindergarten. I learned quickly not to draw any more attention to myself and keep my mouth shut. I was horribly shy.
As I got older I would crack wise among my friends because I felt comfortable with them. Around new people though—or the popular kids—I absolutely shut down. If we went to high school together and were friends, you’d know I was brash and funny and have a gross sense of humor. If we didn’t hang out at all you’d think I was shy and quiet.
I went to sleep-away college for exactly one year. Lived in the dorms, went to keggers, smoked weed, etc. I discovered that if I drank beer I got comfortable enough to be funny and charming. But I was still very shy sober.
Eventually I grew the fuck up and was comfortable with myself and didn’t need to be loaded to let my personality out of the cage. I was uncaged, all the time. I still had a filter, but not so you’d notice. Which has gotten me into mild amounts of trouble now and again. I am the person who is uttering the filthiest joke she’s ever told precisely when the big boss comes around the corner.
I’ve written jokes on my blog that have gotten me in trouble at work. Like I thought I’d be fired kind of trouble.
I’ve had phone conversations in what I thought was the privacy of my office that got me reported to HR. Let’s just say the convo involved lube.
Speaking of my office, I used to have a post-it about 5 feet 10 inches up my door frame that said, “You must be this tall to ride”.
My boss once asked me to stop using the F-bomb on Twitter, and though I could have written around my favorite expletive, I resented the censorship, and threw in a stealth “fuck” whenever I thought I could get away with it.
I never attacked anyone personally, though I threw shade at my company’s competition quite often—I thought that was loyalty.
Anyway, I always got away with it. My colleagues kept things professional, and I always pushed the boundaries. It was my thing. It was what I brought to the table.
Now, I’m still outspoken and I like to tweet hate toward the so-called POTUS, and retweet clever take-downs of politicians I think suck. But I’m also almost fifty years old now, a breast cancer survivor, mother of three, and Girl Scout troop leader. I mean, I’m mellow. Partially because I’ve seen outspoken women on social media get targeted for more trouble than I’m willing to bring on my family.
So. That’s the backstory. Semi-bad girl gone good (or just old).
Last week, I applied for a Community Manager position for a popular and family-friendly game franchise. We weren’t to the point of scheduling interviews, but my resume was in the hands of the hiring manager. Here’s a moment where I’m going to toot my own horn which is uncomfortable but fuck it: The community managers that you are familiar with now were influenced—whether they know it or not—by myself and my colleagues at Xbox. I’m not saying, Gore-like, that I invented the Internet, but the practices and policies and programs that we started were copied and built on by those who came after us. There’s a book coming out next month that profiles me as a pioneer in community management.
All this is to point out that I know what I’m doing when it comes to engaging a community and making sure people stay safe, have fun, and buy stuff.
I’m feeling optimistic about this possible job because my resume is in the right hands (half the battle) and people will vouch for my work. People whose opinions matter.
So when I got a message from the hiring manager saying that their team had found a photo of me online that was a “deal breaker,” and that my “brand was too mature,” I was stunned. I asked about the photo and discovered that it’s this photo that killed my chances at an amazing job.
This isn’t a picture of me. Let me repeat that: I am not the woman in this photo. She’s a burlesque dancer that a member of the community I helped manage thought looked like me. We both have curly hair and I admit there’s a slight likeness. But I’m not a burlesque dancer, and I’ve never posed in lingerie. Folks, I had an 8 1/2 pound baby at 22. Unless that lady has stretch marks, I can prove this isn’t me.
I messaged the hiring manager back that the photo isn’t me, and included a link to the 2011 blog post where I pointed this out. I also—maybe stupidly—said “I respect your decision.” Because even if that photo of Not-Me didn’t exist, there were still ten years of social media posts that are snarky and foul-mouthed, novels filled with sex and violence, and that gross sense of humor.
The hiring manager never responded, not even to acknowledge that the photo wasn’t of me. But I think we can all agree, that door is closed forever. And I would have kicked ass at that job.
So already stung from that situation and running on very little sleep due to the altitude in Mexico City where I was doing freelance work, I was surfing LinkedIn and saw that a recruiter (at a company where I’d interviewed unsuccessfully for a marketing writer job, but was scheduled to talk about their open community manager position) posted about the Marketing Writer job that I’d just been told they were “going with another candidate.” Why are they recruiting for this position if they’d already chosen someone? I thought, still upset about the other thing. So, feeling a bit hurt, but meaning to be funny since I had a phone call about the open position scheduled for the day I returned from Mexico, I post:
“But I thought…nevermind. Lol. [peace sign]”
Now, was this unprofessional? Certainly. Do I wish I hadn’t done it? Sure. I thought the recruiter and I had a level of familiarity and similar sense of humor. And even if she thought it was lame, she’d just brush it off.
Well. On Monday (as I turned my phone back on when we landed at LAX), I have an email from the recruiter saying how disappointed she was in my LinkedIn post (which she deleted, along with un-friending me!), and that if I had questions about the decision, I should have asked her during our scheduled phone call, which she was now cancelling. I mean, it was stupid, no doubt, but your average LinkedIn browser wouldn’t know wtf that post was about, so I feel like there was a bit of overreaction on her part.
Look, I know there’s no guarantee I would have been offered either of those jobs. I’ve had ten “final onsite” interviews at nine companies and all have turned me down. So, I’m not having the best luck. But it makes me wonder: Are these other companies doing a Google image search and making the same mistake that REDACTED made? Am I oblivious to something weird I’m doing in interviews? Am I bursting out non-sequitur weirdness akin to that LinkedIn post?
Anyway, I lost out on two opportunities thanks to being too relaxed in my communications and…someone else’s tits.