The Situation, Day 5

15 Mar 2013

Original Blogger tags: The Situation 2013

Aside from the informal contacts, and sending some résumés to people I know for them to send on to their companies or potentially interested parties, I formally applied for a senior software engineering position online. It’s a company located right here in Saginaw, but they don’t want phone calls or faxes or visits, their site says. Everything has to go through the web site. Initially I had a lot of trouble with errors and timeouts. It eventually started working. What a complicated, messy, redundant process, though. They want you to upload a résumé, preferably in .DOC form, which I did, and enter text into a field by way of a cover letter or anything else you’d like to say to whoever might be reading. It’s a tiny little field — you can only see three lines at a time or so. Then you’re supposed to review the plain text of the .DOC file you just uploaded, which the web site has extracted, except that you can only see three lines at a time, the formatting is destroyed, and you can’t edit it. Why am I reviewing it if I can’t correct it?

I entered a sort of brief text-only cover letter highlighting my most recent relevant experience, thinking it might be valuable to have some sort of personalized information there. But it turns out that at the very end you actually have the option of attaching files, a résumé and cover letter and anything else including code samples or other portfolio materials. So I attached a PDF file version of the same résumé. Meanwhile, you have to fill out web forms that contain what is on your résumé, including things like major accomplishments for each job. I was at my last job for seven years; I did a lot. I have some highlights already written up and ready to go, in the “long form” of my résumé, on my personal Wiki. Except… they want it in 500 characters or less.

Oh, and it won’t tell you how many characters you’ve entered. Note that I’ve now uploaded or retyped the contents of my résumé three times to apply for one job. And paraphrased some of it to mention in the “cover letter.” And you know that thing about providing references “on request?” They want all those entered into the forms. At least they don’t demand salary history — I would flatly refuse to type my salary history into some web site that I can’t guarantee is even collecting my information for an actual open position, and not a recruiting company.

The whole point of this is to get to where I could actually talk to a human about a position, right? But they’ve outsourced their recruiting to some kind of recruiting service, it appears. So the person I’m trying to convince that I should be allowed to talk to a human has only a cursory business relationship with the person that knows something about the job they need done. Finally, the very last question asked me to enter my college GPA. Holy crap, how long has it been since I was asked for, or thought about, my college cumulative GPA? It could be twenty years. I certainly don’t remember exactly what it was. I’m not even sure I still have a transcript, at least not that I could find easily. I guess I should see if I can dig one up in case this comes up again. I’m still scratching my head a bit. I picked a number; it’s in the right ballpark at least.

Anyway. That was yesterday. Today (Friday) I was down in Lansing to return some equipment and pick up my final paycheck. That actually went fine. I had wondered if they would pay me for the 21 days of vacation time I didn’t get to take. They actually paid me for part of it, using some kind of formula based on how much of the year, calculated from the anniversary of my start date, I worked, along with how many days I had left and how many I took (3, all for sick-kid days). So I got some extra money in my last paycheck. That helps lower my stress level a little bit — we will be able to pay our bills a little longer.

I got some more information on COBRA. It’s both encouraging and discouraging. Encouraging, because I can still have a grace period before I have to pay the fees, and we should be covered with no break. But discouraging because, and this is news to me, apparently my employer could unilaterally cancel the whole health plan, even if I want to continue paying for it via COBRA. I thought the whole point of COBRA was to give people a guaranteed grace period where they are allowed to continue their insurance — at least, assuming they can pay the full price for it. That’s apparently not guaranteed, so we really need to get onto a new insurance plan soon.

I also had a brief chat with the VP that helped interview and hire me originally. He reiterated that I had made some major contributions to one of the company’s big projects — what became the Rockwell-Collins iForce system. It was nice to hear that he recognized what I did there. We talked about what the experience of working from home was like. He told me that he had no complaints about that, and he knew I had been quick to respond to urgent bug reports and change requests that popped up over the last couple of years. I told him that I would happily work for them again if something came up and they wanted me, either as an employee again or possibly via some other arrangement. I don’t actually expect to hear from them any time soon, of course, but we shook hands and said goodbye on a positive note.

Grace and I recorded a multi-part chat in the car. I’ll be turning that into a podcast episode next week. Meanwhile, I think I will be slowing down on these “situation updates” for now, to focus more time on the job search and skills-building, at least until such time as I have something interesting to report. To the people who have been following along while I spill out my nervous thoughts, thank you so much for your support!

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