Adventures in Hiring: Please, Not the Flip Flops

We’ve had a number of thoughtful, helpful posts lately regarding the difficult job market, and how to navigate the maze that is finding gainful employment. This is not going to be one of those posts. You see, I’m one of those assholes known as a “hiring manager” (although that’s not my primary job), and folks, I have some stories for you.

For context, I’m responsible for staffing a retail/customer service-oriented workplace. The positions I’ve been hiring for are hourly, higher-than-minimum wage, and, while not particularly glamorous or prestigious, still fairly decent jobs when it comes to the retail industry. We had five open positions, and I had close to three hundred applicants total, over the course of about three weeks. I did a lot of resume scanning, a lot of interviewing, and a lot of shaking my head in disbelief.

Behold, my list of Things I Never Thought I’d Have to Tell Applicants, But Apparently I Really Should:

  • Don’t show up to fill out an application, let alone for an interview, wearing cutoff jean shorts, a low-cut ribbed cotton tank top, and flip flops. (Please, don’t get me started on the flip flops. Probably two thirds of all applicants I encountered were wearing flip flops. More than half wore them to a scheduled interview. Flip flops are now my sworn enemy, much to the dismay of my fifty zillion pairs of them THAT I WOULD NEVER WEAR WHILE I WAS TRYING TO GET A JOB OH MY GOD WITH THE FLIP FLOPS, PEOPLE.)
  • Don’t be rude to the person at the counter. In a retail environment, there’s a very good chance that person may be the manager. Make no mistake, no matter the industry, if you’re rude to the front line employees (receptionists, front desk staff, cashiers), your application will forever be branded with a Post-It note documenting your assholery.
  • “Why do you want to work for [company]?” “I need a job, and this seems pretty easy.” Wrong answer. At least try to lie to me?
  • Don’t tell me how overqualified you are. If I have your resume, I can tell. I make it a point to interview “overqualified” candidates if I think they’ll be a good fit, because I know how horrific the job market is right now. Telling me you’re too good to work here, but you’ll settle because you’re desperate, though, is just not a good idea.
  • Don’t apply to a company with which you have a history of being a bad customer. If you’ve berated, insulted, or abused the staff, why the heck would you want to work there? If your name is flagged as a frequent returner or a check bouncer, maybe you should move on to the next “Help Wanted” ad.
  • Don’t insult me. “Oh, I could never work in retail as, like, a career! God, that’s so depressing! Who would do that?” Me. That’s who.
  • Don’t spend the entire interview talking about your kids/dogs/spouse/herb garden/novel. If you can’t focus on the job for a twenty minute interview, I’m not confident you’ll be able to focus on it for an entire shift at a time.
  • Don’t send an email resume when the job posting says, “Apply in person only. Email and phone inquiries will not be considered.” I have to help customers during this whole process. I’m not in front of a computer, able to sift through ten zillion emailed resumes.
  • Don’t call and ask why you never got called for an interview after you emailed your resume.
  • Don’t: A) chew gum throughout the entire interview; and B) pop it intermittently to punctuate whatever you were saying.
  • FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS GOOD AND HOLY IN THE WORLD, FIND SOMETHING TO PUT ON YOUR FEET BESIDES FLIP FLOPS. I honestly would prefer someone walking in with live crocodiles strapped to their feet than flip flops. I’m not asking for $400 Ferragamo pumps. Payless loafers are fine. Ballet flats are fine. If it’s nine zillion degrees out, dressy sandals are fine. FLIP FLOPS ARE NEVER FINE. Ahem.

For some actually useful posts on job searches and interviewing, check out the following:

The Interview is Not a One-Way Street

How to Ace an Interview

Help Wanted (Parts 1, 2, and 3)


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[E] Rachel

I punctuate sentences with Oxford commas, and I punctuate disagreements with changesocks. Proud curmudgeon. Get off my lawn.

20 thoughts on “Adventures in Hiring: Please, Not the Flip Flops”

  1. The second one is so so so true. I worked at a somewhat high-end dress shop for a while. When people would come in and hand us resumes and were rude, we’d write a big “110” on the top (if you draw a diagonal line between the ones it’s NO).

    You need to be courteous to everyone employed by your prospective employer, especially in an environment where you are unsure how many workers are there. There were only 8 of us, and we were all involved in hiring decisions with our manager because she felt that the most important thing for our success was being able to function as a team.

  2. I have another one: please, please, please try to know something–anything–about the place to which you’re applying. I headed up a (very small) nonprofit once, and had to interview candidates for a receptionist position.
    One woman asked us, right off, what our organization actually does. She also couldn’t remember the NAME of our organization.
    I get it; we’re small. So google us. Learn the name. Then memorize it, for the interview. The End.

  3. I work retail, part of my responsibility used to be interviewing potential new hires selected by my assistant manager based on their applications. We interview three people for every position. One day, three of the people I had to interview were ALL problem customers. I had to get the interview paper work from an assistant manager that didn’t pick my candidates. He looked at the names and apologized on behalf of the other assistant manager for wasting my time. One of the candidates was a lady that routinely came in drunk at 11:00 am to harass the staff. She’s fairly well known through the store. That was my most fun interview, ever.

  4. Your second point is so key IN LIFE IN GENERAL. Never be rude to anyone. Ever. First, because it’s dick, and second, because you never know who anyone really is.

    This actually happened when my sister had her med school interview. She was with two or three other candidates at the time, and there was a woman behind a desk who clearly appeared to be some kind of receptionist (she was taking the paperwork, etc). Alone among the candidates, my sister – schooled in the art of not being an asshole – bothered to introduce herself to the receptionist, shake her hand, say it was nice to meet her, look her in the eye, you know, treat her like a human rather than just throw paperwork at her. And of course, the ‘receptionist’ turned out to be the interviewer. (My sis got in. Obvs.)

  5. Don’t apply to a company with which you have a history of being a bad customer. If you’ve berated, insulted, or abused the staff, why the heck would you want to work there? If your name is flagged as a frequent returner or a check bouncer, maybe you should move on to the next “Help Wanted” ad.

    This one. When I worked retail this would happen quite a bit. I was a cashier and often took those applications and would often cheerfully tell the manager which customer had dropped it off (in case the name itself wasn’t a give away). We once had a lady who MADE THE OWNER CRY apply for a job. Seriously.

  6. Ah, yes. I used to sit in on interview at my last job ( retail jewelry and design) and we had some doozies. May I add…

    1. Do not threaten to kill yourself if you do not get the job. When you break down on the floor in front of the staff and plead with us to hire you because otherwise you might do something “drastic” and ” it will be our fault” is not okay for many reasons and we honestly do hope you seek out care.

    2. Do not tell me you will “regret” not hiring you. There might be a reason why we didn’t. You are allowed to think it all you want, but once you say it aloud to the people who just interviewed you, its not cool.

    3. Do not try to steal from the store that you just interviewed at.

    And yes – the ” oh, i could never work in retail like for real thing is awful We have so many people who come in and act like its a favor that their college educated ass is the best thing that ever happened to our store. Really? Everyone who worked at our store was amazingly intelligent, dedicated and hard working. Maybe they were a lifer, maybe they weren’t, but they weren’t arrogant enough to judge everyone who worked retail and decided it was a “less then” job.

  7. This all seems resonable.

    I have a question. My mother insists that I should call to follow up after I drop off a resume. I’ve been employed as a while now so haven’t felt the need to do this, but she’s taken to harassing my boyfriend who is looking for work to call and follow up with his resume. In cases where a job ad does not specifically state “No calls please” is it ever acceptable to call to see if a hiring manager has gotten your application? It always struck me as a little annoying.

    1. I did no small amount of hiring for my previous job. People who called to follow-up after submitting their resume drove me bonkers and wasted my time. Imagine getting 300 resumes for a vacant position, which is completely typical in this economy. Now imagine those 300 people calling you, often more than once.

      I didn’t mind someone calling me up ONCE after an interview to thank me for taking the time, to ask a question or two, and even to ask when we might be making a decision. Repeated calls and “hounding” only frustrated me and, yes, wasted my time.

      I would say to focus all that energy otherwise spent on making phone calls onto the cover letter, which is really the most important determinant (in conjunction with the resume) to who gets or does not get an interview.

      Just my personal experience as a hiring manager.

        1. I second that! I get hundreds of resumes when I post a job opening, which means I have certain items on a checklist that will thin out the pile before me very quickly, and one of the first things on that list is “phone calls when ad specifically states no phone calls.” Resume will immediately go to the “No” pile for being unable to follow instructions. I know it seems harsh, but it is really overwhelming to rifle through hundreds of documents. Cover letter, cover letter, cover letter! I have hired people based on the awesomeness of their cover letters alone.

          1. Thank you for this! My mom keeps getting on my case to call places I sent in my resume. Most of them specifically say no calls…but even the ones that don’t…I know how many applications they are getting. Far from making me “stand out” I am pretty sure they are just making me stand out as annoying.

    2. What’s interesting to me is that the old-school interviewing wisdom is to send a thank-you note after an interview. I interviewed about 60 people. I got one thank-you note.

      And, yeah, the follow-up phone call to a resume drop moves you to the bottom of the pile. Tell your mom I said so.

      1. I’m a manager at a fairly large nonprofit, and I’ve hired about a dozen people in the past six years (for different positions–I just realized that makes me sound like an atrocious manager with a really high turnover). I don’t think I’ve ever hired anyone who hasn’t:

        (1) Been courteous and friendly to the person at the front desk.

        (2) Sent a thank-you note (email is fine).

        (3) Been able to succinctly describe the mission of my organization during the interview.

        (4) Asked a few (or preferably more) thoughtful, interesting questions.

        That said, I don’t have any entry-level positions in my department, so candidates tend to be experienced interviewees and the interview experience itself is rigorous. I’d imagine that the above would help candidates stand out in an entry-level field.

        I think what applicants either don’t realize or forget is that interviewing and hiring is really very stressful and time-consuming, so nagging the hiring manager will, as you say, drop the resume to the bottom of the pile. I appreciate that being unemployed is far more difficult, and that people are often desperate (especially in this economy); however, a little courtesy will go a long way toward endearing you to an overworked, understaffed manager whose ten-hour days aren’t enough anymore and who’s taking work home to make up for the time spent reviewing resumes and conducting interviews.

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