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Dear Dana, Romance Novelist

Microsoft in the 1990s: more multi-talented people per square inch than should’ve been geometrically possible.

Which was why Microsoft, not Disneyland, was “The Happiest Place on Earth.” (Except for the Internet Explorer team during the Netscape smack-down, which was “Divorce Court.”)

During those years, I worked with a ballerina marketing lead, a city councilman graphic designer, a Special Forces parajumper database admin (who would neither confirm nor deny), and a brass ensemble of program managers.

Not one, but two pro surfer finance analysts.

Channel sales bagpipers, who practiced after work in the parking garage, giving us a sense of what it must’ve felt like being a lowly British soldier hearing that music coming at you from over the next hill and knowing you were done for.

Then there was Dana, DDEE.

Database Darling and Editor Extraordinaire.

If I was writing the potentially Great American Novel, I’d want Dana to be the poor soul poring over my sorry manuscript because she is, hands down, the best editor I’ve ever worked with.

Ever.

Nowadays she’s Dana, BSRN.

Best-Selling Romance Novelist.

Romance novels just aren’t my thing at all, but it’s a literary fantasy world that’s wildly popular. To the tune of $1.36 billion per year popular.

That’s why some of my first Microsoft friends hatched this grand plan to pay off our student loans by writing romance novels on the side, since girls’ poker night with nickel stakes was going to take forever.

(The guys played with stock, which made them no-fun competitive whiners, so they were banned.)

Problem was, writing compelling, marketable romance novels is part art, part science, part Joy of Sex. There are people in this world who are really, really good at it, and consequently are very, very rich.

Then there’s us.

We just couldn’t figure out how to go about it. (I think the fact that we used a database schematic to map out potential characters and plot lines tells you everything you need to know.) The harder we tried, the more embarrassing it got and the more we laughed until we cried, which apparently with romance novels you’re supposed to do only while you’re reading one.

Eventually, we realized it was hopeless and good thing we had some unromantic skills and day jobs to fall back on.

We also realized why none of us had hot dates for the company Christmas party and that we’d probably have to go together as a group, wearing name tags saying “Romance Writing Failures.”

With the word “Writing” crossed out.

However, I’d heard somewhere that the best way to come up with character names for your romance novel was to pair names of your childhood pets with names of streets where you grew up.

My computation resulted in 4 admittedly promising romance novel personas ‒ Julius Nye, Crispin Victoria, Skipper Melrose, and the one-and-only (thank goodness) Bo Fremont ‒ whose lives ended before they began because I’d learned the hard way to leave fiction writing to the experts.

Allora, cara Dana, whose 4-part romantic suspense series “Blood and Honor” is set in Italy, about which I contributed the tiniest bit of background for book 1, Revenge: it’ll be a pleasure buy the first romance novel of my entire life because you’re a star in anyone’s book and I’d read anything you wrote on the back of a deposit slip.

Like many smart tech-savvy new authors these days, Dana bypassed the world of traditional publishing. Her story is a perfect example of why those dinosaurs are scared to death of self-publishers and e-books, namely the fact that writers aren’t much tempted anymore with measly offers to give them 40% of the profits when they can DIY with equivalent quality ‒ and smarter distribution ‒ and keep 100%!

Also, did you know that if you write a book series you have to sign over the rights to your series story line and characters to the publisher in advance?

According to Dana, let’s say after book #2 of your series goes to print, your publisher decides to dump you. You can’t just take books #3 and #4 to another publisher. The series just dies, unless you go to court to win the rights back…to your own series, which you created!

By the time your case has made its way through the legal system, the only thing you might accomplish after all those attorney fees is to pass those rights onto your novelist grandchildren.

Who, bad luck, might turn out to be commentator types like me and for everyone’s sake should stick with what we know.

Anyway, Dana proves that you don’t need an old-school publisher, who still hasn’t gotten over the Borders Books bankruptcy, to sell your paperbacks and e-books on amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com, let alone on Smashwords, Kobo, and Sony!

Dear Ms. Delamar, I’m a long-time fan. (20 years long.) Can I get an autographed copy on iTunes?

You can follow Dana on Facebook, @DanaDelamar on Twitter and at danadelamar.com.

It’s All Greek To Me

“Another American Tanks World Markets”

I made up this headline from the G20 summit in Cannes, but I wouldn’t have been surprised to see it on somebody’s front page this week, alongside “George, Of All The Bonehead Moves…”

Not many Americans outside the Midwest know this about Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou: “Giorgakis” (Little George) is from…St. Paul, Minnesota!

That’s why, when economic austerity measures required for the initial 110€ billion bailout were implemented in May, Greek protesters yelled, “George, go home!”

Please don’t.

We already have too many politicians in office who are willing to rack up huge government bills as long as it panders to their own constituents, then are equally willing to risk our country’s debt default to save their own careers.

Some of these politicians are even from Minnesota, Michele (Bachmann).

In a perfect example of nepotism gone wrong, this 3rd-generation Greek Prime Minister single-handedly sent the global financial markets into a tailspin on Monday by announcing a referendum on the EU and IMF bailout that took months of maneuvering, cajoling, begging, threatening, and pleading to finalize…

…and Greece was lucky to get, and arguably didn’t deserve.

On the eve of the G20 summit, George drops a bomb: he wants the Greek people to vote on whether to accept the billions of free money in part 2 of the biggest bailout in the history of bailouts: valued at 130€ billion this time, with 50% debt forgiveness, orchestrated by Greece’s Eurozone neighbors, at no small financial and political cost to themselves.

Which we now want to “choose” after the fact, because we hate it that this free money is contingent on us doing stuff we should be doing anyway, and I’ve had a hard time explaining these austerity measures to the Greek public without looking like I’m part of the problem, which I am.

Which proves, Eurofriends, that no good deed goes unpunished.

French President Nicholas Sarkozy says Greece should never have been admitted to the Eurozone in the first place. True. Yet here they are, ungratefully so, forcing the Eurozone to contemplate a painful divorce, minimally a legal separation with endless alimony and child support.

But Papandreou’s referendum had a predictably short shelf life.

Recap of the France/Germany G20 dress-down: let’s be perfectly clear, George, we’re not paying another red cent of the debt you racked up from years of riotous living ‒ that Greece blatantly lied about to the Eurozone, by the way ‒ until you agree to the austerity measures set forth in the 26 October agreement.

Of course the austerity measures are harsh, George. They’re meant to be. It’s the only way Greece has any chance of getting its fiscal house in order, and the only way we can try to ensure you don’t suck the rest of the Eurozone into your black hole.

Only in your dreams could you cash that mid-November bailout installment check you can’t live without, while simultaneously holding the Eurozone hostage with your “sometime next year” referendum.

George the American is a gambling man who doesn’t know when to fold ‘em (and may well lose tomorrow’s confidence vote because of it).

Who knows perfectly well that tax increases are key to Greece’s austerity plan, yet shies away from his responsibility to tell the voters plainly. Who was willing to risk the stability of the Euro, and by extension another global recession, to make a point.

Sound familiar? It’s like George never left St. Paul.

Comfort Me With Apples

This post was originally about apples. The fruit.

I had it all written, including the title, and was just about to publish it when I read that Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple, had died.

When you live in Palo Alto, California, where every apple is an Apple, many of your neighbors are famous people who have bank accounts with lots of zeros.

Who also have cars that break down at inopportune times, toddlers with loud and public tantrums, and historic homes with decks that rot clear through and anybody know a good contractor?

Sometimes I’d see Steve Jobs and his wife walking in the neighborhood, along the boulevard under the canopy of trees. Steve, who had the astounding talent and vision to co-found a billion-dollar technology company named after his favorite fruit, was a husband and father of 4.

Whose family could use some comfort food today of all days.

If I were a Jobs family friend, I’d bring what I brought another grieving family on another rainy October day: pumpkin curry apple soup topped with a swirl of sour cream and grated nutmeg, and cheddar cheese soup topped with grated apple and fresh ground pepper.

Loaves of bread, still warm from the oven.

(I use grated apple in fall in the same places I use grated cucumber in summer: as a soup garnish, sandwich filler, and salad and salad dressing staple.)

Following comfort with comfort: baked apples.

Baked apples are also very useful if your house is for sale and you haven’t had many interested buyers in this recession. Chocolate chip cookies say you’re desperate, fish fillets say you secretly don’t want to move at all, but baked apples remind people of holidays at grandma’s house.

Or, as in my case, grandma’s dockside studio apartment.

Choose apples that are slightly to very tart, with firm flesh, and flat on the bottom so they stand up by themselves. Core, but don’t peel. My auto-pilot, über-comfort filling is a syrup made of salted butter, brown sugar, chopped nuts (walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts), dried fruit (raisins, cherries, cranberries), and spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice).

Then spoon the leftover syrup over the tops of the apples and let it drizzle down the sides.

If opening the oven door during your open house makes buyers swoon, imagine if you just happened to have picnic ware and whipped cream on hand!

You can also core and fill tart apples with wedges of sharp cheddar cheese, or put the cheese underneath the crust of your apple pie. (The secret to that illusive flaky pie crust? Ice water.) While your pie is baking, ponder apple butter, caramelized apples and sweet onion sauté, and North Carolina-style apple crisp, with walnuts and bourbon.

I hope Jobs family friends are bringing over comfort foods like this today, mourning a man who accomplished so much in 56 years, yet still had decades of brilliant ideas left to show us.

Had Steve grown up with his American birth mother and Syrian birth father, university students who gave him up for adoption, he might’ve been called Steve Jandali. Thus, Syrians are proud of him today, and as in awe of his talent as we all are, but posted this sobering reflection on social media from their iPhones:

How many Syrian children have died, or will die, in our quest for freedom and democracy, who could’ve grown up to be another Steve Jobs?

Somewhere there’s a kid who will bring his or her inventions to life for us, creating products that change our daily lives in ways we haven’t even thought of yet. No-one ‒ not repressive governments, not well-meaning naysayers ‒ can halt technological progress.

And that, my dear Apples, is a comfort.

“What a healthy out-of-door appetite it takes to relish the apple of life, the apple of the world, then!” Henry David Thoreau, from Wild Apples.

Torn Between Two Sob Stories

Almost simultaneously, the girl on my left, 20, held her head in her hands and sobbed. The man on my right, 50, slammed his hand down on the counter and said, “Son of a b**ch!”

Just about the reactions you’d expect from these particular demographics.

Sitting in the airport café between these two basket cases, I did the most inappropriate thing possible. I laughed.

Then they both laughed.

Then they told me ‒ and each other ‒ their respective stories and immediately felt a whole lot better.

She’d just received a breakup text from her boyfriend.

He’d just received a layoff text from his boss.

Bill is Bill’s real name and he says I can print it because it’s so common that there have to be millions of other unemployed Bills in this country already, he jokes…which is a good start.

Misty isn’t the girl’s real name. It’s the name of the horse she had growing up…who lived for 27 years and never once received a breakup text.

Although unlike Misty I’ve never been the lucky recipient of a breakup text, it seems to me ‒ seconded by Bill ‒ to have a few key advantages:

#1 It’s definitive

He didn’t move away while you were out of town, without saying goodbye or leaving a forwarding address. He’s gone, and gone on record. When he comes crawling back months of silence later, claiming temporary insanity and asking for a second chance, you can forward his own text back to him.

No guessing or agonizing required!

#2 It’s private

Although he’s a coward not to tell you in person over coffee, this text is presumably only between the two of you. You’re not at a wedding with 100 mutual friends, at which ‒ in an uncharacteristically public stunt ‒ he’s made the most important day of two wonderful people’s lives about himself…and dragged you into it.

No public humiliation involved!

#3 It’s close to home

You’ve received this text either in the city where you live or somewhere you’ve chosen to travel yourself. You’re not stranded far from home without transportation, plans, friends…maybe even housing!

“You’ve gotta understand: she’s my Dream Girl and if I don’t leave with her ‒ right here, right now ‒ I might not get another chance and I’ll always look back and wonder if she was The One.”

No need to spend $500 on a one-way plane ticket over a holiday weekend!

#4 It’s preferable to some other breakup methods we can think of

…like him showing up to visit you in the hospital after your surgery, with flowers…and his new girlfriend. If there was ever a time to ask the nurse for more morphine, this is it.

Oh please don’t tell me guys do worse things than that! (By the way, all of the stories above are true. In every detail.)

Oh honey. You have no idea.

So we can get the full effect, you have to read this text to us out loud. Wait, wait! Let me type while you talk. I don’t want to miss a word of this inspired missive.

“Translated” from texting abbreviations, Devin’s (his real name) 1-sentence kiss-off: “hey misty this isn’t working sorry see you around but i still need your ee notes”

Around campus. Electrical Engineering 205. Case study notes.

Hear that silence, Devin? It’s short for “not a chance.”

Bill reluctantly admits to #3 back when he was single, “but I’ve been happily married for 20 years to an amazing woman who’s neither of those women”…at which point Misty and I immediately tell him he deserves to be laid off because what goes around comes around and did you honestly think you could get away with it forever, doing something that low?

Employment layoffs are no less emotionally charged than romantic breakups, says Bill, who has now experienced both. Maybe even more so, since we often invest more hours per day in our jobs than we do in our relationships, sadly.

To get unceremoniously sacked after you’ve given years of over-the-top effort to build your employer’s client base ‒ and have succeeded, in spades ‒ can be heartbreaking, too.

I should also mention that Bill’s wife was “right-sized” out of her senior management position after a messy corporate merger late last year. Oh, and they have twins ‒ a daughter and a son ‒ starting college in September.

In football, they call this kind of thing “piling on.”

Ironically, Bill had just gotten off the phone with a new customer, having signed his biggest deal of the quarter. Probably the year. Luckily, he says, that one commission will keep them afloat for quite awhile.

He was really tempted to fire back a text to his boss right then and there, crowing a little about the details of this magnificent win over a key competitor and how ‒ too bad for you ‒ this client would most likely follow him to his next job.

Wisely, he decided not to. He was a day and a plane ride away from the office. He’d wait ‘til then.

Crowing is so much more effective in person anyway, especially with this delighted new customer on speaker phone.

We hear a lot about the hazards of going to bed angry, meaning not dealing with bad things right when they happen and letting them fester and eventually explode. Even the Scriptures encourage us to “let not the sun go down upon your wrath.”

Although this advice is ideal for couples, because what pure misery to share a bed with someone with whom you’re not on speaking terms, the same basic principle surely applies to our friends, co-workers, extended family, and anybody else with whom we closely interact.

So, I’m going to have to respectfully disagree with God a little on this one. I think it’s smart sometimes to go to bed angry on purpose. I don’t know about you, but when I’m really tired and really frustrated, there’s a good chance I’ll say or do something really regrettable.

Why not sleep on it?

Rested and refreshed, we’ll have a calmer, more reasonable, longer-term perspective. On everything: life, love, work, family, and whatever other unanswered texts we’ve got flagged to follow up.

Tomorrow.

Top 5 Bosses from the Lost Eternity

A recent college graduate, Class of ’10, who’s still looking for a full-time job and discouraged with this sour economy (aren’t we all?), sent me her resume/CV and asked, “Who’s the worse boss I could end up working for?”

This year? Until you go off to grad school? In your entire career?

Hard to say.

However, it got me thinking: who are the absolute worst people I’ve ever worked for, EVER, since finishing school about 20 years go?

I expect LOTS of comments on my Top 5 Bosses from the Lost Eternity…and some “I can top that” stories that I can’t wait to receive (and will publish, with your permission). You might even recognize one or more of these bosses, or have worked for or with them at some point, too.

Luckily, neither one of us do anymore. Everyone else, read on to find out why.

Or, let’s say during a recent job search you got all the way past my Top 20 Ridiculous Recession Job “Offers” and my Top 10 Outrageous Comments from Managers Who No-Hire You, only to find yourself working for somebody on this list.

(Given the way these freaks conduct themselves on the job, imagine what nightmares they must be at home and in their communities in their off-hours. You can quit a job, but you can’t as easily quit a neighbor…or your kid’s teacher…or a spouse.)

Psycho Bosses

I was working for one of her peers, encountered her rarely, and thought not much about her until I was promoted and transferred to her team. She met with each of her new employees and when it was my turn, she said – out of the blue and in a genuinely threatening way – that she was going to make me sorry and ruin my life.

Since we’d just met, that seemed premature. When I reported it to HR, they advised me to “give her a chance.”

Turns out, I wasn’t the only potential ruin-ee to get this message. Based on her personal history, unknown to us, our new boss had this deep, irrational hatred of all straight women and clearly hadn’t gotten the therapy she deeply needed.

Another member of our new team, a man she’d nicknamed “the prince” and made clear was going to be her favorite (which he was completely uninterested in being), tried in vain to intervene, only to become a target of hostility himself.

His princely advice: watch your back and get out.

I did, the day after my psycho boss tried to run me over in the underground parking garage with her car. I don’t think HR would’ve believed me then, either, except that a colleague from another team, who had no dog in that fight, was walking back from lunch with me and had an even closer call than I did…and I know I’m going to hear from you, still alive and well across the pond. Cheers!

Shortly thereafter, my boss was fired. She must’ve done something really outrageous, although I can’t imagine what else might qualify, unless a second attempt at vehicular assault landed somebody in the hospital. My employer also filed a restraining order against her.

Criminal Bosses

Call it incredibly bad luck: I’ve had 2 different bosses hauled away in handcuffs by the police.

The first was for embezzlement, discovered during an external audit. Since the authorities shut them down temporarily and my boss was in jail, it seemed my services were no longer required. While I was looking for a new job, I was asked about that. “My boss and I had very different work styles,” I said. (No kidding. She’s a criminal and I’m not.)

The second criminal boss was far worse. Somebody in the IT department had discovered child pornography on the computer of a guy who wasn’t my direct manager, but who was supervising a project of mine. Married guy with 3 kids. Every so often went to one of those “be a manly man and lead your family” types of religious retreats.

The police arrested him very quickly and quietly so he’d have no time to destroy evidence. In the process, they seized dozens of DVDs of that filth that he’d burned for himself and his pedophile buddies on company equipment.

He went to prison, but not for long enough.

Racist Bosses

Our company had employees from all over the world, many with long and challenging names. We had lots of practice with this, but when in occasional doubt, we’d just ask the owner for the correct spelling and pronunciation and usually we made a friend in the process.

On the other hand, my boss would deliberately mispronounce these people’s names over and over again (sometimes mimicking their accents and mannerisms, too), with that sly implication that you’re a foreigner and don’t belong here and nobody can understand anything you say anyway, so you must be stupider than dirt.

Trust me, that Fulbright you won was a complete fluke.

Something he commonly did, especially to people who spoke accented English: if they were explaining something to the group, he’d say “fast forward,” accompanied by this silent-movie hand motion, indicating that he wanted the presenter to skip the parts he wasn’t interested in hearing, as if he was the Speaker of the House and his time was just that precious.

In addition to having the attention span of a toddler, he used that tactic as a way to make people feel small and marginalized, which is exactly where he eventually found himself.

Sexist Bosses

There was a morbidly obese woman working in our firm. No obese person needs to be told they’re overweight, although an amazing number of people persist in doing just that.

(To disdainful thin people: remember that weight can be lost with hard work, but cruelty is a character flaw.)

One day, she decided to lose weight. Wisely, she told no-one at the office. This went on for awhile, unnoticed by everyone, until she went away on vacation and came back markedly thinner.

Workplaces safe from harassment weren’t quite the norm yet. I guess that’s why our boss felt free to set up a pool and openly take bets among the other male employees about how much weight she’d lost so far and what her final weight might be. They speculated whether she’d succeed in becoming an “overweight, but still pretty celebrity,” a “curvy, athletic celebrity,” or a “smoking hot, supermodel thin celebrity,” using photos he’d cut out of celebrity magazines to illustrate these respective profiles and posted on the office bulletin board.

Her colleagues were appalled, and we said so, forcefully. (We were ignored.) She took the high road and said nothing.

You’ll be happy to know that she lost more than 150 pounds, permanently. (Her family photos on Facebook bear this out.) Her motivation: her parents had both been obese and died young of heart disease. She was determined not to leave her husband and daughter the same way.

Bravo.

Predator Bosses

This boss’s boss must’ve had some serious dirt on the executive board because he kept climbing in the ranks despite being the company’s #1 legal risk. We women had an unspoken policy: never, ever meet with him alone (and preferably only with a male colleague), or anywhere with the door closed.

I’m dead serious.

I’d heard eyewitness accounts of encounters with that predator boss about which I couldn’t believe nobody had called 911. (Forget about corporate security. They know all about him and have been told he’s untouchable.) Please, somebody, light him up already!

(My sister runs a safe house for domestic violence victims and protected witnesses. Her advice to both women and men: the best thing to do during any assault, sexual or otherwise, is to bite and scratch the perpetrator. Human bites infect and the criminal will have to seek medical treatment. Both bite marks and DNA can be matched.)

A few years after I left that group, I was flying on a first class upgrade. This predator boss sat next to me. I recognized him, but he didn’t recognize me. When he propositioned me in the crudest possible way, I said something completely true: “I promised my dad I’d never sleep with anybody older than him.”

For the rest of the flight, dead silence.

Make that the Top 20 Ridiculous Recession Job “Offers”!

I got laugh-out-loud feedback on my 8 July post, Top 10 Ridiculous Recession Job “Offers.” Who knew there could be “offers” out there even more absurd than the ones I included in the original post!

I still had 3 stories on hand and had no trouble getting 7 more, with ugly variations on almost all of them, to round out this week’s update. You couldn’t make up stuff this hilariously appalling.

Just when you thought you’d heard every crazy recession job search scenario, you read 10 more…for a total of 20 Ridiculous Recession Job “Offers”!

#11 Congratulations, you’ve made it to the first round of interviews! To progress further, we require that, at your own expense, you submit to a full psychological evaluation. (This is our new policy across the board, for all managerial positions, and no – you’re not applying at the FBI.) This evaluation will no doubt include questions about your personal life that are in no way relevant to the job, but we’re asking you to sign a release giving us the full results anyway. It’ll take a full day and cost $1800. Oh, and if you’re from out of town, you can’t arrange to have the evaluation done locally because we have a special deal with this testing organization, so you’ll have travel expenses, too. But look at it as an investment! If you don’t get a job with us, you can carry the report along with you to the next potential employer, who might ask for it, too.

#12 We both know that it’s typical in our line of work to bring some clients with you when you change jobs and that’s part of your appeal as a candidate. However, we’re going to take it one step further and ask you to declare exactly who you’d be bringing over, by client name and $ value to the firm, even though we know this is proprietary information. If you’re unable to deliver those clients, or they turn out to be not as lucrative as you say, you’ll be found in “breach of contract.”

#13 This job is 100% commission-based, but your compensation will be based not only on your sales, but on the sales of your peers. It’ll be calculated on kind of an average. We called it “pooled commissions.” (Is that like pooled tips at a restaurant?) If they do well, you do well; if they don’t, you don’t. We’ve found that friendly collaboration among salespeople drives up sales overall. (That sounds like sales communism and motivates me how?)

#14 We have a probationary period of 3 months. During that time, you won’t be paid, nor receive benefits. If we keep you beyond 3 months, we’ll give you all the back pay; if we don’t, we owe you nothing. We’re open about our history: we fire almost everyone on day 89. However, you’re a really great candidate, so you might be in the 1% and it’s worth a try anyway.

#15 We’re funded by a government grant, so before we even do a phone interview, we need you to fill out some forms. Don’t be alarmed that these forms are more detailed than your federal tax return and could allow anyone receiving them – including us, who you don’t know from Adam − to reconstruct and steal your identity in less than 5 minutes.

#16 The person who inhabited the job before you got n salary. Now we’re splitting the job in half and giving you and 1 other person each half the salary, in hopes of getting twice the work for the same money. We haven’t quite decided, though, how to divide the responsibilities and neither of you get any say who the other person is. Also, if we need to pay the other person more, that means we need to pay you less…and that goes for raises and performance bonuses later, since you’ll be co-joined twins.

#17 We’re trying to be The Apprentice and Top Chef at the same time, while making you do even more free work. On the final day of interviews, our 3 finalists will take on a brief, on-site joint project that has a real application in our business (and we intend to use for profit after you’re gone). At the end of the day, you’ll present your findings together in front of the interview committee. Whoever we like best, we’ll hire on the spot and send you other 2 “participants” home.

#18 We liked you, so we made you an offer, but we accidentally on purpose didn’t tell you that we were moving our headquarters to Timbuktu − because we knew you wouldn’t have said yes, obviously. Now we’re giving you the option of a) moving with us – and, no, we won’t pay relocation expenses because it’s not a relocation, the job was ALWAYS going to be in Timbuktu, or b) being laid off before you start, no severance. We’re terribly sorry that you turned down another really good offer while we were messing with you (and that you sold your house at a loss to move here), but given the economic situation these days, we’re pretty sure now that we can count on you and your family for Timbuktu. Thanks!

#19 Normally we just hint during an interview that we’d sure like to know which other companies in our industry you’re talking to besides us. You can usually feel free to ignore those hints, knowing we won’t hold it against you. Nowadays we’re asking you formally, or you won’t be advancing to the next round. You’re a great catch and normally we couldn’t attract you, so we want to test how desperate you might be in salary/benefits negotiation (especially if the answer is you’re talking to NO-ONE else), since the unemployment rate here is 12%. Mainly, though, we want to find out which of our competitors is hiring again (and, if so, for what senior positions), so we can make profitable business decisions in this down economy.

…and #20, from San Francisco, California… We’re hiring you for a teaching job, so we’re asking you to demonstrate your teaching skills for us in a real class. After the first day, we say, well…unfortunately, not everybody who needs to evaluate you was here today. Do you mind coming back tomorrow to finish up? We really like you. Sure. We’ll have you teach a different class tomorrow, though. Fine. It’ll be helpful to see your various classes. What we’re not telling you is that we’re not evaluating your teaching skills at all. We’re using you, and the other candidates we’re interviewing at the same time, as free substitute teachers! Come day 3, you’ve caught on, so we’re sort of forced to tell you we really have no intention of hiring you, but if you’d like to continue teaching on a volunteer basis…

If you have a recession job “offer” I haven’t yet described…I was going to say I’d be amazed, but that seems unlikely…please comment this post!

Top 10 Outrageous Comments from Managers Who No-Hire You

It’s hard to tell sometimes whether managers, after they no-hire you, are simply trying to be helpful and are doing so cluelessly, or they’re on a power trip and just can’t resist, or both.

I had this post in the works before I ever published Top 10 Ridiculous Recession Job “Offers,” but the unbelievable replies from that post helped me fill in the rest of this top 10. You’ll see why I had trouble ranking them.

Don’t worry! I will be publishing a follow-up with even MORE ridiculous recession job “offers,” but you’ve sent me so many incredible (and not in a good way) details that it’s going to take me a little longer to put something together.

Until then, here are the Top 10 Outrageous Comments from Managers Who No-Hire You, true stories of American job seekers between fall ’08, when the market tanked, and the present. As before, believe me, I’d give anything to name names!

#10 “You’d be better at my job than I am, so if I hired you, they’d give you my job and lay me off.” (I wonder if your employer knows that.)

#9 “Have you considered selling your house?” (You mean my house with the underwater mortgage? Or, the house I’m glad I never bought because I’d be losing it right now?)

#8 “You’ve been out of the workforce ‘so long,’ your market value at this point is zero.” (Does it matter that I’m an award-winner in my field, with a 6-figure salary history?)

#7 “We usually only interview people who have full-time jobs already. We made an exception in your case.” (Employment discrimination laws don’t apply to the unemployed.)

#6 “What line of work is your husband/wife/significant other in? Maybe that industry is more stable.” (Maybe your spouse can keep your family afloat with one income indefinitely.)

#5 “Are you single? Sure you couldn’t hook up with some rich guy? You’re pretty hot.” (Where do I even begin?)

#4 “I could do you a favor and give you a full-time unpaid internship, so at least you could get some experience.” (I have a graduate degree and 15 years of experience in the field, about twice as much as you.)

#3 “Two of the other people we considered for this job have Ph.D.’s. You’re lucky you even made it to the final round.” (The real reason I’m lucky is that I won’t be working for you!)

#2 “You really should consider long-term volunteer work.” (Nice.)

…and, from Boston, Massachusetts, the #1 outrageous comment from a manager who no-hires you… “Maybe you could try work options in your home country.” (This IS my home country. Although I may look “foreign” to you, my great-great-grandparents immigrated – legally, in case you’re wondering − in 1910. Too bad your family came over on the Mayflower and hasn’t learned anything since!)

Top 10 Ridiculous Recession Job “Offers”

Anybody who’s looking for a job right now knows it’s an employers’ market. This golden opportunity apparently calls for even more dismissive, inconsiderate, and downright ridiculous behavior than usual on the part of employers.

However, some of these organizations have felt the need to take it to a whole new level of unprofessionalism. Every one of these 10 stories is true, accurate, and took place in the USA between September 2008 and today.

If I wasn’t so professional, I’d name NAMES in this top 10 – an “Employers List of Shame” − because they deserve serious payback when the economy turns around.

#10 To advance beyond the phone screen, we require that you do a project that will take 8 hours of your time. We’re doing this to make sure you can actually do the job and we don’t waste time interviewing you unnecessarily. (We’re too lazy to make this judgment call based on your resume and initial conversation.) After giving us 1 free day of your labor, we’ll decide whether you or not you make it to the first interview round. For every round of interviews, you’ll be required to do about that much more free work.

(Talk about new math! Let’s say I move forward with 20 people after the phone screen x 8 hours per person. That’s 160 hours of free work. Then let’s say round #1 is 10 people x 8 hours = 80 more hours. Round #2 is 5 people x 8 hours = 40 hours. Then 3 finalists x 8 hours = 24 hours. That’s 38 days, ALMOST 2 MONTHS, of free labor that I don’t have to pay current employees or temporary hires to do…and you’re giving me all this for the opportunity of maybe interviewing with me. Getting a job with me is too far away to contemplate at this stage. Imagine if I worked this system for every open job in my company? I’d never have to hire anyone!)

#9 We actually don’t have a job opening. We’ve already chosen a candidate, but before we seal the deal, we’re simply fishing for resumes for comparison. To make it look real, we’re going to put you and a few other people through 1, even 2, rounds of interviews for this nonexistent job and even discuss specifics of your “offer,” so that in a year or two we have some “known quantities” to contact.

#8 In negotiating salary, we’ll be going back to your salary in 2002, when the economy was good, and offering you 6% above that, regardless of what you’ve been earning for the past 8 years.

#7 This is supposed to be a team of 4, and used to be, but we’ve laid off all those people and now we’re hiring only you at half the salary of 1 of those former employees (so, 12.5% of what we used to be paying for the same work). We expect you to get colleagues from other departments, who you’re going to meet for the first time on your first day, to do the balance of the work for free…not as a one-time favor, but on an ongoing, uncompensated basis.

#6 We’re hiring you for a position that has an assistant, who we get to choose but whose salary you’ll be paying for out of YOUR salary.

#5 You’ll be openly competing with the other job candidates, so your peers, bosses, and everybody in the industry will know exactly who’s interviewing for what, how, and when. (Somebody watched too many episodes of The Apprentice and thinks he’s Donald Trump.)

#4 Our board can’t justify hiring you as an employee because you’re too expensive, but we’d love to have you ON our board − for “expenses” ($500/month). First assignment? Annual board meeting in Florida. Your expense budget will pay for 1.25 nights at the resort hotel. The remaining hotel nights, airfare, meals, ground transport, etc.? We expect you to be self-funded (translation: pay out of pocket). Eventually, when the economy turns around, we’ll talk to lots of other candidates, but we’ll talk to you, too, so we invite you to stick around on that basis and meanwhile we’ll get the benefit of your expertise for nada.

#3 This job involves no secret clearance or financial responsibility, but we’re requiring background and credit checks anyway, for which you’ll be required to pay in advance, again for the opportunity (not guarantee) of advancing to the next round of interviews. Our primary goals are a) to figure out how little we can offer you in salary that you still might be willing to accept, and b) to discover anything in your history that could cost us money, e.g., make our insurance premiums go up. As a bonus, we might find out who else you’re interviewing with.

#2 You’re a finalist, but we want to “road-test” you first. Please do a 2-week new product development project for us (under NDA, of course, and relinquishing copyright). After you finish the work, we’ll say thank you very much, you’ve given us everything we wanted, and move forward with our investors, taking credit for all your ideas (but most likely not hiring you).

…and, from Washington, DC, the #1 most ridiculous job “offer” of this recession… We’re located 3,000 miles away from your home and want to interview you. The position offers relocation, including cost of travel to interviews. While you’re on the airplane, we’ll leave you a voice mail saying we’ve decided not to interview you after all…and, since we never actually interviewed you, we don’t feel obligated to reimburse the airfare and hotel costs you stupidly fronted for us. But, if we have another job opening in the future, feel free to travel cross-country at your own expense AGAIN to be considered!

Needless to say, none of these “offers” were “accepted”!

Incredibly, read on for 10 new “offers”!