The following is an anonymously written letter from an AG reader to HR teams and job-searchers across America, and to business leaders who lean on the following behavior all too frequently:
There’s a cliché diatribe in Fight Club that bros love to chime in with: “You are not a beautiful and unique snowflake; You are the same decaying organic matter as everything else; We are all part of the same compost heap; We are the all-singing, all-dancing, crap of the world.” And while it’s become a tangential piece of American lore for better or worse, this is how I feel about a job at your company.
Working in the tech industry, I’ve learned a valuable lesson: it loves self-important bullshit.
Outside of Hollywood and politics, no other line of work loves to pat itself on the back more than tech. They love “buy-in” and “bleeding edge adoption,” and they love when they can jump on the cloak of a founder and obsess over their every word as if it came from Mount Sinai.
Give some dude who hasn’t seen the sun in a few years a couple of bucks to make his streamlined toaster app a reality. Soon this nerd is going to think he’s a fuckin’ genius for his “char to sourdough ratio” algorithm, all while pretending he’s Gandhi or some nonsense, preaching about love and peace and transparency, all while ripping lines of blow off the bar after hours. What’s worse is people get in line because he’s playing well with that funky bread cash. They believe the bullshit. They become “champions of culture.” People become obsessed with “culture fit.”
Every day, some person from some company passes off the party line on values, leadership, and magical bullshittery to make a candidate think that their mundane self-service software will change the world. Here’s the thing, it might make people’s lives easier, it might give you a nice paycheck, but you know as well as I do, it’s all performative Grade horse manure.
I’m not a problem employee. I do my job. I want to be left alone. I don’t want to pretend I care about someone having a baby. I don’t want to stick around for board game night. I want to beat traffic – and I certainly do not want any part of another “virtual” happy hour. Just for the sake of clarity: I like collaboration. Am friendly. Will always take someone for lunch on their birthday. I don’t want to make your product my life. I don’t want to “own” anything. I want to do my job.
What sucks is there are a lot of people like me, and all of us get sucked into being involved in “culture” in-person or remote. Some people are great at pretending they want to talk for hours about the company’s future. Me, I just want to get my work done.
I recently went through multiple rounds for a job that I was very much qualified for and ultimately didn’t get. Why? Because I was honest. I’ve been freelancing for a while, but I’d like to jump back into a full-time position. I have kids, and you know what, insurance would be excellent. I wouldn’t mind a little of that 401K action, either. After a few rounds of talking with the team, I thought this was a lock. I would get the job. It paid well, and I knew the market. And then, I got an email letting me know they were moving forward with different candidates.
Miffed, I asked what could I have improved upon? How can I get better? This is a teachable moment. Even if you’re senior and don’t get the job, ask why you didn’t make the cut – make HR sweat a little.
The paraphrased response was that the team felt a stronger connection with other candidates. It seemed like I would take the job for the salary, without being heavily involved with the team and owning the entirety of the experience.
I can handle losing. May the best person win. What I don’t truck with is “owning the experience.” This is a JOB. We have a set of skills, and we do them to make money. What was my answer when asked why I wanted to leave the world of freelance? Why was I interested in the position?
Stability. I want a steady paycheck. I’m tired of chasing money, chasing clients. I want to clock in and clock out and not take work home with me. I want something nice and reliable. I didn’t offer a colorful read-through of my love of their product. I don’t know it. Why do I have to kiss every inch of the company’s ass and pretend I think your Saas tool will alter humanity and that I’m excited at the chance to make my mark? Dude, I just want to pay rent. I’ll do my job. I’ll give you results, what does “owning an experience” even mean?
People on teams expect you to be blown away by the opportunity to meet with them. We’re just looking for a job. We skimmed the description and five minutes before the call. We look at your website, that’s it. Some of us are better at lying than others. It’s no different than school: some know how to take a test.
We don’t ask plumbers their opinion on pipes. We don’t ask a carpenter what they think about wood. We don’t ask a foreman, “why’d you apply for the job?” That’s bush league psychological garbage folks love to trot out because they read it in a book written by a guy who sits amongst the 56 others just like it.
HR people, leaders, headhunters, circus clowns – whatever your role is – stop looking at candidates like we want to be in your cult. We don’t. We want to get paid. If the resume stands up, that’s what matters, not how much smoke we blow.