Recruiting FAIL: Part1 - How to foul-up employee engagement.

It began, as I recall, on a sunny winters afternoon in August, a Tuesday.
22 days later it had ended acrimoniously with an SMS and my email in response, and the removal of my LinkedIn account to avoid such agents/events in the future.
Please pick up your phone and talk with me steve. Like adults, let's discuss this. At the moment, you are really damaging my relationship with my client which is not fair and not right. I have really done all I can to help you and you won't even talk to me. SMS: +6145206812. 29/08/2012 15:42:49
To: B and C
Subject: Harassment
Date: Wed, 29 Aug 2012 16:43:44 +1000


it's bad enough that against my express wishes you've been bombarding me with calls and texts - that amounts to harassment.

BUT TO CALL MY FRIEND??? What the HELL were you thinking??

Yes I'm ignoring your calls, not because I'm petulant or sulking, but because:

a) I've been doing stuff today, including taking a load of stuff to the tip (loading, driving, unloading, driving - not available to talk), and

b) because there is only ONE thing of interest you can say to me...

Which is: "This is how we can work this out..."

Unless you've got a plan to get me reasonable temporary accommodation while I find a place I can sign a lease on, then there's nothing new to be said.
I can't afford to commit to $10,000 or more in a lease on the chance I'll still have a job in 6 months.

I'm happy to work at C/O, I like C and his team, I think the work would be interesting and think I could make a positive contribution there.

There is just one thing, no more, standing between me and starting there and that's I don't have a place to stay and you haven't helped.

If I had applied for a job in Sydney via you, then it would be my problem to look after myself, pure and simple.

But that didn't happen.

YOU approached ME.

If YOU want me THERE, YOU have to make it happen.
Moving states, you of all people should know its a big deal.

So far you've made empty promises and hung me out to dry...


The only message I want to get from you is "It's fixed..."

Otherwise, we've said all that needs to be said.

I precipitated this crisis with an email just before Noon to the Agent (B), the manager (C) and (F) the person in CO that'd sent me the contract. B was very upset that I'd sprayed a message all over CO - told by my friend G, whom he'd first contacted as a referee and then again after this note when I declined his repeated calls.
To: B, C and F
Subject: problem
Date: Wed, 29 Aug 2012 11:49:41 +1000

I'd like to start by reminding you that I didn't apply for a job with CO - that you've chased me, being insistent to the point of browbeating.

You've known from before you talked to me that I had to move cities to take up your position.

I made two things very, very clear at the outset:

- I do NOT have any temporary accommodation in Sydney, not family or friends I can crash with for a week or two, and

- I required assistance to find a place. From out of town, it's very hard to find anything, especially if a constrained timetable is imposed, as you've done.

Rephrasing this: My employment with CO has always been conditional on finding accommodation, and you've been aware of this.

Two weeks ago, I was promised introductions to estate agents and assured it'd present no problem finding me somewhere to live, presumably reasonably before your selected start date.

As yet, that promise hasn't been fulfilled.
With 2 and a bit days to find a place, I really don't think I could find a place, and certainly not something that I could afford or that I would want to live in.

You've run out the clock on me. I've no idea why.

This week, there was a news item about a murder in a boarding house and I thought: "never again".

A number of times when I was contracting and working in Sydney, I stayed in these unpleasant little dives. Since the news item, I won't be forced for no good reason, to go there again.

I've not been impressed with either how you've generally communicated with me, nor the seeming absence of internal communications at your end.

So I need to spell this out:
  • You need to get back to me on this.
  • You need to come back with an explicit proposal, either of accommodation or something that's guaranteed to lead to it.
  • I expect ONE professional communication back to me on this.
    • no browbeating or harassment, this is a problem of your devising (I got 12 calls/SMS in 30mins when I walked to the Post Office)
In normal engagement scenarios, asking people move inter-city involves a bunch of things you haven't done:
  • flying the candidate to the in-person interview
  • making allowance for the relocation in the start-of-work date
  • paying or, or contributing to relocation expenses, every airfares
  • providing temporary accommodation, usually some months, while the person finds new accommodation
  • providing time-off to search for accommodation and settle affairs, as needed.

steve jenkin
The manager, C, responded with this, making it very plain he wouldn't help me, personally or corporately, nor attempt to negotiate a solution.

It fits my saw "your priorities are what you do, not say".
Subject: Re Harassment
Date: Wed, 29 Aug 2012 16:51:44 +1000

Hi Steve,

We CO have no way of providing you with a solution for your accommodation here in Sydney and as I mentioned in our phone conversation before, although it is in Agency's best interest to match CO with the right candidate for our job posting, it is not their job either. Unfortunately we will have to miss out on this opportunity to work together.

I wish you the best of luck in your future endeavours.

There had been a fuss previously with the contract. I'd been invited by F to ask questions.
The response to my questions, I found fantastic, as in beyond belief.
  • I was told both B and F found it "offensive" and condescending, but was never told just what I'd written they been offended by.
    • The CEO was shown my email (itself an interesting move, not entirely legal) and laughed. Said he liked my directness and saw no cause for offence.
  • B blew me up for writing to "his client" without permission and instructed me to never contact F directly again.
    • I eventually got B to understand that he'd not mentioned this rules earlier that day when we talked and inventing rules after the event and then chastising me for not following them was impossible logic.
    • I never got an apology for this abuse.
  • B demanded I write F an apology the next day, with him vetting it first.
    • I did so by 09:32.
    • B insisted I was to not write that he'd been involved in asking for, or vetting, my apology.
    • I objected against this, as it is a deliberate fabrication.
My questions/comments on the contract:
To: B and F
Subject: Re: Employment Agreement
Date: Tue, 21 Aug 2012 17:31:40 +1000


Hate to do this to you, but my surname is singular, not plural:
JENKIN, no 's'. [At top and on signature line]

It happens a lot, which is why I emphasised it originally, I can't think how that may have been overlooked.

The contract needs to be redone to correct this.

I will sign and post a copy to you tonight (express post, delivery tomorrow) with the incorrect name noted. On my start day we can sign the new version.

My formal name for legal docs is "William Stephen Jenkin", but I'm called "Steve". No need to put one of my Christian names in brackets.


0. Whom do I report to whilst my erstwhile manager, C, is away on leave?

1. Clause #3, probationary period.
The Fair Work Act sets a 6 month minimum for lodging dismal cases.
Would that be a more effective period than 3 months?

2. Clause #5, working hours.
The wording suggests fixed start/end times resulting in an 8 hour work-days or 40-hour weeks, yet ordinary hours are 2 hours less. Could you please clarify this for me.

3. Clause #5, flexible hours.
As I'll be relocating from Canberra, I was hoping for the first six months of my employment that I could work 9-day fortnights, i.e. 76 ordinary hours in 9 days with alternate Mondays off (RDO style). [An extra 51 minutes/day]

Will that be possible?

4. Clause #5 and #6. On-call duty and remuneration.

5. Clause #10, Intellectual Property.
Will the company advise me of all everything it does.
I can't see how in my position I could adequately fulfil that obligation.

6. Clause #10, Intellectual Property.
To be clear, the contract makes no mention of contributing to "Open Source Software". My understanding is that such work falls outside the scope of this clause.

steve jenkin
The issue of RDO's was critical.
In 3 separate emails, I'd asked B if CO would consider letting me work 9-day fortnights for the first 3 months or so, so I might attend to business in Canberra. While I said it wasn't a "drop-dead", it was important enough for me to keep raising the issue.

B was very adamant that "this was a full-time job, CO won't let you work a 9-day fortnight".

Only I hadn't told him I'd guessed C's email address and had a conversation about this and a few other topics. C was more than happy to arrange flexible hours and an RDO. He didn't want "stress".

C was delegated to reply to my questions, which while apparently honest, didn't strike me as being well thought through, nor complete [whole email not included]:
2. It's been a long time since I've done 40 hours of work at CO. We regularly do more than 40 hours of work on a week. I am hoping that with you joining the team this will get better, but this is not a place where we work 9 to 5. Working hours are in general flexible with some restrictions given that as a team we have to ensure our 8am to 6pm support line has someone here to answer the phone.

3. We can manage that internally and informally. [RDO's]
The really important Red Flag occurred on the Friday after the Interview of Monday 13th.
The first Red Flag was C rescheduling my appointment 2 hours earlier. I was rung by B while I was driving up. It cost me $45 in parking, but I was able to make their changed timetable.

At the end, C raced out without properly terminating the interview as he'd run overtime discussing his technical problem and had a taxi waiting.
Subject: Re: FW: Confirmation of Offer
Date:Fri, 17 Aug 2012 12:00:27 +1000


I'm happy to accept the offer generally BUT my personal circumstances have changed slightly since the informal offer on Tuesday/Wednesday and I can no longer start on the 27th.

With C now going on holidays, it wouldn't be operationally effective for me to start on the originally advertised date, Mon 3-Sept-2012.

I'm happy to negotiate a start date when or after C returns from holidays, but realise that CO may wish to rescind this offer to me and go with a "Plan B".

Hope to hear from you soon.

steve jenkin
The first Red Flag was a total of six emails from 09:43 to 10:05 on Fri 17, first confirming the job offer, then "recalling" the email as he'd made an error, and again and again... Geting the contract details right is a necessary competency for an agent.

At 16.05, I finally received a contract from F at CO, whom I'd not heard of or from before. Mess with names and questions is above.

The Red Flag extraordinaire was a dozen missed calls and texts from B in 30 minutes while I walked down to the Post Office, sans phone, to put a signed copy of the contract in the mail (express post) so it'd be there in their office 09:00 next working day. Canberra is treated as Regional NSW by Australia Post with normal mail normally taking 2 days going via Wollongong.

I then got The Third Degree from B, demanding four or five times to know just how my personal circumstances had changed as "he had to sell it to the client". I felt abused, browbeaten and upset after that little tirade.

All of which was pretty surprising as they'd never suggested a start date, never suggested there was any hurry to fill the position and then I found out C, the manager, was going to be away just after I started.

Just to show that B did know that Accommodation was Drop Dead for me, I include an email from him.
I got another call from B around 3PM the next day, Tuesday, while I was driving back from Bowral where B said he was having a little trouble getting anything for me from an a Real Estate agent.
I specifically asked that he sent me the contact details of at least one agent.

Nothing came that evening and I waited until around Noon the next day before sending my "problem" email.
Subject: Are you free to chat today?
Date: Mon, 27 Aug 2012 14:39:30 +1000

Will you be free to chat today?

I have some people that can talk to you regarding accommodation and keen to catch up.


One of the things I found "Not Quite Right" early on was a request that I take a look at a Performance Problem on one of their production systems as part of the Interview process. Turns out it wasn't fake data or a test, but I was in front of a console of a running production system, having someone else type my commands, trying to diagnose a live problem for them. Without any background, system maps or application briefing...

This had been my initial queasiness at the request.
Subject: Re: Interview Request
Date: Sat, 11 Aug 2012 19:14:18 +1000


On reflection, I'm thinking there's a mismatch between this part of the Interview process (snippet below) and the job description as given...

Still going to do the interview, but I'd like to flag my concerns with you first.

The questions they are asking in the Interview are specifically:
- Capacity Planning (circuit planning, load forecasting, provisioning) and
- Performance Analysis (scalability, bottlenecks, rearchitecting, design, interactions, ...)

The closest thing in the job description is:

"A multi-skilled technical profile is required with proven ability to monitor and troubleshoot database and web server performance."

Which includes fault analysis but NOT architecture redesign and Performance Analysis.

If they're wanting a free consult (with current data), I'm not happy with that. I've done enough consulting gigs to be wary of customers asking "just one little question", then getting stiffed on the purported contract

I'd be very happy to look at data from a year ago and analyse that, then compare my analysis with what they did and what happened.
That's completely fair to both them and me.
They don't give away their secrets and I can't be conned into a freebie.

I'm not inclined to give them high-quality consulting advice for free.

Remember that I have bailed multiple large, high-profile Govt. sites out of extreme situations before, so they might just be casting around for that.

Extremely happy to be engaged by them as a consultant for an appropriate daily fee and look at any problems they give me, if that's what they truly want

Anyway, I hope they are being straight with me or just a little naive.

That's the position I'll take until I confirm otherwise.

I had paid $350 to a boarding house for a weeks' accommodation. I had organised accommodation for the first week, but decided I was going to be miserable living there in a state of permanent anxiety both for my safety and if I'd have to find a new room at short notice.

Part of the problem was the uncertainty of employment, and since 2002, I've had 3 failed attempts to make it through to permanent employment. I've become very wary of Hidden Agendas of employers and managers...

Very kindly, the boarding house allowed me a 2/3 refund, as they'd not informed me of the 14-day cancellation policy. In the end, I got through this sorry mess for under $250.

In Part 2 I will try to extract the Red Flags and my Lessons Learned...

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