In February 2018, after a couple of misfires in my job search, and after the disappointment of not getting the job at Arts Together, I figured going to a staffing agency would be a smart move and would give me a better chance in securing a job.
I’ve had relatively good experiences with staffing agencies in the past, and by good experiences, I mean that I was able to start jobs quickly. One even led to almost permanency, but I left to go attend grad school right before.
Remembering my positive experiences in the past gave me confidence that going through a staffing agency was indeed the way to go.
How did I decide on Frankel Staffing? I saw a job posting on Indeed for a marketing assistant. The job involved the use of InDesign, which I have been using since 2012. That really was the selling point for me; I wanted to keep my skills sharp. There was some light accounting involved as well, but I didn’t let that scare me away. Besides, the job suggested a salary of at least $40K/year. Not bad for a marketing assistant.
Feeling this position would be well suited to my skills, and hopefully not too demanding, I went ahead and followed the link to the Frankel Staffing site and submitted my resume.
In true form, the job description didn’t say who the actual target company was, but that didn’t bother me or deter me from applying.
A day after I submitted the application, I either got an email or a phone called from Julie, a recruiter at Frankel Staffing. We chatted a bit on the phone, and she invited me into the office to meet and talk more about the position I applied to and what I’m looking for in general.
The Preliminary Interview
So I went into the Frankel Staffing office, interview ready.
The office was in a building off of Glenwood Avenue just down the road from Crabtree Valley Mall. There was some light construction and a confusing traffic circle to navigate around.
The building itself was two or three stories with a tinted glass exterior. I entered the building and went to the second floor to the Frankel office.
The front desk was staffed by a very pleasant young black lady. Her name was Joy. The office was quiet save for a muffled phone conversation in another room.
I sat in a chair at the front desk and rifled through a fashion magazine.
The receptionist has already let Julie know I was waiting, and a few minutes later, Julie briskly walked out to greet me and usher me into her office.
Julie was about my age, maybe a few years younger. She seemed cheery and confident.
I sat down at her desk and we began discussing the position I had applied for, my work history, and what I was looking for.
I told her about my time at Duke, my foray into freelancing, and how I wanted to move into marketing and communications.
She seemed impressed that I had pursued freelancing. Her boyfriend/fiance also freelanced. She asked me the obvious question of why I wanted to move away from freelancing.
Uh, because it’s not steady income at the moment.
She then asked me why I left Duke after 10 years.
Because I was all be dead inside, and I couldn’t take it anymore. I hated the commute, hated the people, and hated the work.
I told her I had topped out in what I could do in the job, needed a new experience, and felt like it was time to go.
She warned that an employer might be leery of hiring me. Because what if I decided it was “time to go” and left them? Well, in most cases it would be because I found something better.
I pointedly told her that my 10 YEARS at Duke was not a flash in the pan. Just the duration itself shows that I don’t hop around from job to job. How long have you been here at Frankel? Oh, five years? Then please shut up.
She moved on to describe the company I would be interviewing for and hopefully working at CBRE, an international commercial real estate company.
And then the red flag popped up.
Julie stated that it was difficult staffing this position because there was high turnover. They couldn’t keep anyone in that position.
This revelation concerned me.
Then she insisted that the people of CBRE were “so sweet and so nice.” She had been working with them for X amount of years, and they’re just the “nicest” people and their office is “so stylish and sophisticated.”
Then why the hell can’t you keep people in this job?
She also added that she had been sending in candidates who were straight out of college and perhaps they couldn’t handle the adult 8-5 work day.
Or maybe the work was terrible and the people were extra insufferable.
Perhaps I would fare better because of my age and work history.
So she set up an appointment for me to go into CBRE for an interview.
I have to make this point of the differences between staffing agency procedures from 15+ years ago compared to now. I worked with Kelly Services in 2000 and again in 2002. Kelly Services placed me in receptionist jobs on both occasions. I never had to go in for an interview. They found the job for me, and I could either accept it or reject it. And I could leave the job at any time if it was a bad fit.
Not so these days. Today, you have to identify the job you want, send in your resume, fill out a general application with the staffing agency, take a skills test, and go in for interviews like any other job. And possibly get rejected making you repeat the cycle again.
In the past, the advantage of having a staffing agency is to do the job searching for you. They benefit from placing you and have a monetary incentive to get you into a job. Now you basically have to do all the work while jumping through the agency’s hoops and taking a downgraded salary due to the agency getting their cut.
It seems like the whole advantage of having the agency actually do the work of placing you is lost. Now it’s just another intermediary step that could be cut out if you simply go to the company directly.
The Skills Assessment
Before I left, Julie wanted me to start the skills assessments. Basically the measure your proficiency in Microsoft Office programs, and other programs depending upon your target position.
I did an accounting assessment and MS Word and PowerPoint assessment. The accounting assessment was paper-based, and it was pretty easy. However, the MS assessments weren’t as straightforward. Part of taking the MS assessment was getting through the learning curve of the assessment software. For example, the assessments give you a task such as “create a mailing label,” “bold and center the heading on the document,” or “record a macro.” You can’t use keyboard shortcuts. It was difficult to tell if my answers were satisfactory to the software. After a few questions, I realized that if I didn’t get something right, the assessment would make me begin again. Before the lightbulb came on, I was going to the next question without knowing I might not have answered the first question satisfactorily. And I couldn’t go back and change my previous answers. Once this understanding set in, I took my time to complete each question before moving one, since the assessment wasn’t timed anyway. Or was it?
I wasn’t comfortable taking the Excel and the Access assessments, soI told the assistant/front receptionist that I would come back and complete them later the next week. There was no set deadline when I needed to get them done. She gave me a link that I could log into to access the practice tests at home.
I tried to log in to the link she gave me but it kept prompting me to install Java. I installed Java a couple of times, and the stupid website never came up for me. I emailed Joy that I was having trouble logging in even after installing Java, and she told me that some candidates also have this problem.
At that point, I gave up on the assessments.
The Interview at CBRE
Below are some pictures of the CBRE office in my city. Click to enlarge.
Pretty nice, huh?
I’ve never worked in a space like this. Julie was right: it was a really gorgeous office.
The views from the glass exterior windows overlooking the city are pretty magnificent.
Getting there was a trip though.
The actual drive to the location was fine, just a 15-minute drive from my home. What tied me up was the city-block-size underground parking lot I had to navigate once I got there. I think I drove around in circles for a good five to ten minutes trying to find a place to park that wasn’t reserved, handicapped, or on the wrong side of the building.
Once I found a space, I had to reorient myself at the street level and eventually found the building.
I entered in, but the front security had to give me access to ride the elevator to CBRE’s floor.
Once there, I greeted the receptionist, a middle-aged white woman who liked Taylor Swift.
She was pretty talkative, so we chatted for a bit until my interviewer came out.
I forgot the interviewer’s name, but she was white, tall (around 5’9″), slender, wore glasses, was smartly dressed, and had red hair. I’ll call her Ginger.
I could tell from the very moment she laid eyes on me it wasn’t going to go well.
I found Ginger’s demeanor cold, impersonal, and arrogant. I don’t mind that she wanted to get down business, but unlike most interviewers, she didn’t try to establish a “connection” with me at all. Which, then by that point, I was already mentally done and just wanted to get the interview out of the way so I could go home.
One of the very first things she asked me was, “So Krystal, tell me. What you want to be when you grow up?”
Was she trying to be clever? Maybe that was her attempt at being human.
I told her about my background at Duke, name-dropped some big projects I worked on while there, left because I was ready to explore new opportunities, love of InDesign (which is what attracted me to this position in the first place), blah, blah, blah.
Ginger seemed to warm up the more we talked. She gradually transitioned from frosty to refrigerator temperature.
She told me a little bit more about the position and asked me if I was interested in getting my real estate license. Apparently, I could earn commissions connected to the sales the brokers generated.
She reassured me that CBRE really was a swell place to work and “everyone’s really friendly.” Uh, okay…
What happens to people in this position? What the hell are you doing to these people? Why do they leave? Do you just chew them up and spit them out?
I think the interview lasted 25-30 minutes.
When it was over, Ginger jumped up so quickly from the couch, I thought her butt was on fire.
She escorted me back to the front desk and told me she’d be in touch.
After the Interview
I didn’t feel too hopeful after that interview. Between Ginger’s impersonal manner and the dullness of the job, I was on the fence.
Though the job itself didn’t sound too great, I was attracted to the fact that it was located downtown, the office suite was modern, clean, and stylish, and the prospect of earning $40+ as a marketing assistant really appealed to me.
Julie emailed me the next day to ask me how the interview went. I replied back that I thought it went positively and I really liked the space.
I didn’t expect Joy to contact me and asked me for my references. Yay! Asking for references is always a good sign, so I swiftly sent them.
I hadn’t heard back from Julie for a couple of days, so I emailed her to get an update on where I was in the process.
Julie told me Ginger was checking with her boss to get the position and salary approved and she would get an update shortly.
Huh? Wasn’t this already done? I thought the fact that I went on an interview meant that the position was already approved and they just needed a person to fill it. I was so used to Duke’s bureaucracy and red tape. Everything there had to be preapproved before it went through—from job positions to purchasing a stapler.
A day or two later, I got a message from Julie that they went with another candidate.
I did not respond.
What? They Changed Their Mind? Another Interview?
At that time I started doing a gratitude journal to keep myself sane during the job search process.
I specifically wrote in my journal that I was grateful I did not get the job at CBRE. Something better was in the future, or some shit.
The very next day Julie emailed me and asked if I was available to go in for another interview at CBRE. The person they hired instead of me bounced.
I honestly didn’t want to go in for another interview because I already went through that. Why do I need to go in again? They had already checked my references. Jesus!
I said, “Sure.”
Julie said, “Great! I’ll email you back with another interview appointment.”
Two or three days passed and no email.
Again, I reached out to Julie to ask her what’s up.
She emailed me back that basically, they don’t want to hire me because after review my resume, they really just want a glorified secretary and they think I’m overqualified and would be bored in the role.
So they requested a second interview with me without ever taking a glance at my resume to make sure they actually wanted to see me again?
Fuck you, Julie and CBRE.
I never responded and never heard from Julie ever again.
The Finding a Job Sucks series chronicles my misadventures through unemployment. I explore my mountains and valleys through the process in detail as a method of catharsis and resentful pettiness. 2018 has been one of the most difficult years of my life. No sense in sugar-coating it. You will not find any uplifting stories, pithy sayings, or inspirational lessons here. Just real life and the real shit I’ve been going through. Cheers.