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Worker's Productivity "A Drawback" in Job Search; Boston Hires Chosen So That Existing Staff Doesn't 'Look Bad'

Boston, MA-- Like many young people caught in the squeeze of corporate downsizing, Bernadetta Taylor found herself out of a promising graphic arts job in the advertising firm that had employed her. Not to be deterred by the misfortune, Taylor assembled her resume and began pounding the pavement --and the internet-- for job leads. As the weeks stretched on with interview after interview but no callbacks or job offers, Taylor began to solicit feedback from interviewers. The comments were always ones of mild praise and non-committal thanks for submitting her resume for review. She turned at last to the Boston placement agency of Fiche, Roland, and Furlind. Daphne Edwards, Vice President of Transitional Placements at Fiche, Roland, and Furlind remembers, "We made a few calls, and what we found out frankly shocked us. None of the companies questioned the quality of her work, her efficiency, or the depth of her commitment. In fact, that was the problem--Ms. Taylor is _too_ good, too productive."

Taylor, whose email signature line is "Will *work* for money", is just one of a growing number of earnest and dedicated job candidates who are ready, willing, and able to work, but whose productivity records are head and shoulders above companies' current staff. "It's like a pact between management and staff," says Edwards. "Management accepts the less than noteworthy productivity as the price for a harmonious workplace. The hidden extra cost comes when new hires are accepted or rejected on the basis of whether they make the existing staff 'look bad'."

Numerous human resources managers in the Boston area refused comment or scoffed at the idea that efficient and productive prospects were being turned away. But others, on the condition of anonymity, confirmed Edwards' observation. "Many candidates come through the company for first interviews," said one HR manager with a local advertising firm, "and they're ranked really high by the executive level people. Then we get back the interview notes from the department staff, and they're full of comments like 'not a team player', 'not receptive to ideas', 'inadequate people skills', 'not team material'. In many cases, those phrases stand for 'someone who will make us look bad'. We don't ask those candidates back, because we can't risk losing the whole department, even if they aren't at the peak of efficiency."

More disturbing, says Edwards, is the practice of 'tin-canning' a job candidate, in which staff at one company calls friends and colleagues in other companies, sometimes competitors, to alert them to overly-promising interviewees. "It's insidious," declares Edwards. "The job seeker's name goes out over the grapevine, and soon the poor man or woman has a reputation as 'not team material'. After that, it's very hard to even secure an interview."

The problem is particularly acute in advertising firms in which traditional graphic design departments handle the new demands of web design. "There are some pretty poor corporate web sites out there," according to Peter Boutimax of the Web Designers' Consortium, "sites that are ill-assembled, out-dated, in desperate need of redesign. The traditional designers are trying to protect their turf, and the last thing they want is for management to see some new hire cranking out a superb, lean-and-mean web site. Doesn't matter if the new hire has awards, can shave 30% off time and cost factors, and can write flawless programming code on the back of a lunch napkin-- 15 minutes of 'tin-canning' and the job candidate will be lucky to get an interview three states away."

For now, Taylor continues to respond to newspaper ads and internet postings and calls Edwards twice a week in the hopes that the firm can line up some interviews. "I'd like to work--I'm eager to work," stresses Taylor. "I don't want to make anyone look bad. It's all in my letters of recommendation, my work history--I want to do the best job I can."

Taylor musters up a resolute smile.

"I just hope someone will give me that chance."

Interested in hiring Taylor? Please send her email at

Reported by the Daily Apocrypha News Staff. All rights reserved. © 1998.

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