The candidate seemed like a good fit for the position we were advertising. She was a new graduate, had the requisite college degree, and impressed the Human Resources phone screener. She was punctual for her interview, had obviously researched our company online, gave appropriate answers to our questions, and asked the right ones of her own. The reference checks were all positive, and after a bit of salary negotiation, she accepted our offer. We welcomed her to the fold.
The first week seemed to go well. Corporate orientation, the lab orientation, review of our electronic Standard Operating Procedure Manuals, shadowing of co-workers–all the usual. Even a perfect score on our (admittedly simple) open book test on lab techniques. So I was not quite prepared…
I walked into my office at 6:00 a.m. Monday morning. Less than 30 seconds later, she was telling me “I need to tell you that this job is not a good fit for me. I am resigning.” It was an out of the blue stunner. In a bit of a pique, I asked her to leave immediately and let her know NOT to use us a reference. And in a flash, she was gone.
Later that day, after I had cooled off a bit, I emailed to ask her what she meant by “it was not a good fit.” She responded promptly that she had not anticipated that she would have to do the same thing every day. This surprised me, as the duties had been pretty much laid out during the interview process. We are a diagnostic laboratory. Every day we get specimens, every day we process them. Everyone is free to make suggestions for changes in our processes, but the daily requirement doesn’t change.
In retrospect, she was probably over-qualified (my bad) but what entry level job isn’t repetitious or not quite the perfect fit? The new associate in a law firm does the scut work, a sales person sells every day, the beginning of my pathology residency was autopsy after autopsy. But aren’t those great chances to learn work etiquette, teamwork, and inner resolve?
The same day, I read an article in the New York Times, “On Campus, Failure is in the Syllabus.” Smith College has found it necessary to teach their students what it means to screw up. Many of them have never had to deal with failure, and just don’t know how. A sequela of the participation trophy era? As I grew up I earned plenty of academic honors but flopped miserably when trying out for any basketball, baseball or football team. I dealt with it and moved on. It was what you did. It seems students at Smith and other colleges just don’t know about that.
We will interview more candidates. I will be sure to make crystal clear that the job “is what it is.” And I think I will add in a new question. “What have you failed at.” Because there will be days when the specimen delivery is late and the formalin spills and label machine jams. I don’t want it to be the first time our new employee has ever experienced a setback or ever missed a deadline! I will want to know they have the fortitude to keep on going. It’s what you do!
The opinions expressed are those of the author and not the opinions of UroPartners, LLC
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