The Lady and the Tech Recruiter: A Lesson in Gender Relations

Gather round for a tale as old as, well, the Internet.

In the not so distant past, a tech company asked me to submit a writing sample for an open position. Churning out brand-building marketing materials has become my bread and butter over the past couple of years, so I wasn’t surprised to receive a follow-up call from the company’s recruiter a few hours after submitting my sample.

I quickly realized, however, the position was not right for me.

The anonymous salaries shared on Glassdoor were not in the right range, and the recruiter was, to be completely honest, disrespectful of my time and organizationally challenged. While I normally would try not to judge an entire enterprise on one lackluster employee, online reviews also suggested that a boy’s club mentality permeated upper management.

No thanks.

The Retreat

After the recruiter missed our phone interview, brushing it off a day later with a non-apology (“Sorry we couldn’t connect”), I sent him an email withdrawing my candidacy. I thanked the recruiter for the opportunity, explained that the position was not right for me at this time, and wished him the best in filling the role.

The recruiter responded with lightning speed. He said he wanted to know what had changed my mind, so the company could do better at attracting talent.

I stared at my laptop screen, internally weighing whether I should take this opportunity to provide real feedback.

Ultimately, I took the bait. I responded that it was a combination of the salary ranges listed on Glassdoor as well as the poor reviews of management. Out of politeness, I didn’t mention that the recruiter’s own behavior was also a huge red flag.

Then another email pinged into my inbox — no subject line. It was from him, and it wasn’t a plea to reconsider.

It was an indictment.

The Rebuke

Beginning with an unmistakably condescending tone — “Oh, Megan, I wish you would have come to me”  — the recruiter berated me for missing out on a specific salary that was 40 percent higher than the top anonymous salary I found online. Upper management has made changes, he said. If only I had paid more attention to the review trendline on Glassdoor, I could have seen that, he patronized. He concluded the email by educating me on best practice of “not withdrawing too early.”

The message had all the hallmarks of the dating diss — you know, when a guys asks you out and then, after you politely decline, proceeds to say you’re ugly or, my personal favorite, “You’re probably from Hoboken.”

For the record, I really was on the receiving end of that dubious insult during my single days in Manhattan.

The Reaction

My fingers were twitching with rage by the time I got to his email signature. So I started pounding away at this blog post. And then, it dawned on me: Glassdoor.

With the righteous indignation of a thousand Elizabeth Warrens, I wrote and posted an anonymous review of my experience. By the next day, the company’s HR director had responded to my review.

On behalf of [our company], I would like to apologize for your interviewing experience. We never want a candidate to feel negatively about [our company]. Our recruiting department has been short staffed and while that is not an excuse, we have made changes to remedy that situation so your experience should never happen again.

Two weeks later, LinkedIn notified me that the recruiter had moved to another company.

The Revelation

It’s impossible to definitively label this encounter as sexism.

The recruiter was clearly bad at his job. So the suppositions stack up: maybe he’s bad with everyone. Perhaps his disrespect is equal opportunity. Or maybe he already knew he had another job on the line and was professionally checked out.

And yet . . .

A friend of mine was applying for a job on the same team at the same company with the same recruiter at the very same time. This friend has significantly less work experience than I do — we’re talking close to a decade less. Oh, and this friend is also male.

You know where this is going, don’t you?

He had zero bad interactions with the recruiter. There were no missed interviews. No required tests. No condescending emails.

The Redux

As I reflect on this experience, I’m left wondering what I should take from it. Should I have done anything differently? If so, what? What lessons are entombed in this anecdote for me and other women? Here are a few ideas.

Checking My Politeness

While I believe the world ultimately needs more civility, especially in public discourse, I seem to suffer from a near pathological need to be polite in the face of blatant disrespect.

It’s a fact that women have been socialized in many cultures to be the polite, meek, and quiet sex. And I often fall into that niceness trap, hesitant to voice my opinions, concerns, or disagreement because I’m supposed to be sweet.

In this particular situation, I’m not sure that being more forthright with the recruiter would have done any good. However, moving forward, I want to remind myself to be a little bolder and braver in the face of disrespect.

Civil doesn’t mean silent.

Sharing Your Story Can Lead to Incremental Change

This recruiter was probably not removed from his post because of my poor review, but I still believe I made an impact by sharing my experience in a public forum.

It spurred the HR director to action, even if that action was simply responding to my online review. And in the future, my words will serve as a warning to other prospective candidates in perpetuity — or at least until Glassdoor’s server goes down.

What Do You Think?

So tell me, friends, what do you make of my experience? Have you had similar interview encounters? And what advice would you offer to women who face a patronizing hiring process? Let’s swap war stories in the comments below.

Comments

  1. I had a similar experience with a guy I interviewed for an article a few years back. I had ended up not using his quote for some reason, and he tried to lay on the guilt about how he had offered so much of his time and expertise. It was just icky and manipulative.

    Anyway, I totally want to work “the righteous indignation of a thousand Elizabeth Warrens” into conversation sometime soon. 🙂

    Like

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