Friday, July 22, 2011

Milk Campaign

Thursday, Bloody Thursday:

The New York Times ran an article yesterday describing a failed advertising campaign run by the California Milk Processor Board that was intended to promote their claim that drinking milk can help alleviate the severity of PMS.   The ads were created by the Milk Board's advertising agency, Goodby, Silverstein & Partners.  You can read the full-text of the article on the New York Times website here.
Kids, these things were called newspapers.

A site was setup at, which is no longer active and, based on my searches,  can't be found cached on Google or in the Internet Wayback Machine.  According to the New York Times, "The content of the microsite included 'preapproved apologies' from men to the women in their lives with PMS like 'I’m sorry for the thing or things I did or didn’t do' as well as features like an 'emergency milk locator."

Apparently, a few people found the the concept of an advertising campaign aimed at telling men that the best way to quiet the monthly torrent of incessant criticism coming from the mouths of their bitchy girlfriends is to force feed them milk offensive.  Go figure.
The Milk Board and their ad agency view PMS 
the way I imagine having an episode of 
"Keeping up with the Kardashians" playing out 
in real life inside my home would feel.

Both the California Milk Processors Board and the ad agency Goodby, Silverstein & Partners apologized for the campaign.  But that's not what makes this article noteworthy for me.  The way Steve James, Executive Director of the California Milk Board, phrases his apology in the followings quotes from the New York Times article bothers me (italics below are my edit):

"The goal now is 'to turn down the heat,' Mr. James said. 'There’s no sense in keeping up a Web site that’s like waving a red flag to some people.”
Pad seen here the only thing I could possibly think
of when I read an article about a PMS related
issue that mentions the words "red flag".

"Taking down is 'not a failure in any way,' he added. 'I don’t see it as ending it or pulling the plug.”
(Tampon not drawn to scale)

Perhaps Steve James should contain his similes and metaphors to baseball references.  For example instead of "waving a red flag" perhaps he could mention that "it's like the site is being sent down to the minors for retooling".  Instead of describing taking down the site as "pulling the plug" perhaps he could say that they're "trying a different approach at the plate in hopes of hitting one out of the park!"  Using baseball in figurative language is safe and when speaking to men it builds a connection between speaker and audience.  I have no idea what the female equivalent would be but I'm fairly sure that in this case it doesn't have the word "red" in it.

Wealth?  Career?  Firmness of ass?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Job Interviews Part 3 of 3

The recruiter I spoke with originally to setup my third interview mentioned that the dress code is business casual.  Wear slacks and a button up shirt or even a suit he suggested.  This recruiter had an out of state area code and during the course of the conversation I was able to confirm that this recruiter worked out of a different office than the one where I would be interviewing and possibly working.  While I certainly don't know every aspect of the culture, I've been around San Diego long enough to know that a suit is rarely appropriate.  If a family of four in San Diego hosted the President for dinner, I would bet that at least one family member would be wearing sandals.  I decided on wearing slacks and a button up shirt, which is at the low-end of appropriate according to the recruiter.

Before I went to my third interview, I reviewed my list of Frequently Asked Interview Questions.  Over the course of a discouragingly large number of unsuccessful job interviews, interviewers have asked me the following questions, or slight variations on them, most often.  I suggest having answers to these questions ready so that you're prepared when they are asked.  I'll  read through this list of questions and think about how to tailor my answers to fit the job I'm interviewing for and trying to create mnemonic devices to remind me of the answers and things that I would like to emphasize during the interview.

  • Tell me about yourself. - Stick to your professional accomplishments and educational background.  Leave the information about your pets, your lunch and how your day is going for the next time you talk to your Mom.
  • Why did you leave your last job?  I'm always asked this question.
  • What would you say are your greatest strengths?
  • What would you say are your greatest weaknesses? Resist the urge to mention that "More than one young lady has complained about me being too big, if you know what I mean."
  • What in your past work experience would you say you are most proud of doing?  Or, what is your greatest accomplishment?
  • Describe a difficult situation that arose with a customer and explain what you did to solve it.
  • Describe a conflict you had with a co-worker at your previous place of employment and what you did to resolve it.
  • What's you favorite book? - Back when I was interviewing people at one of my previous jobs, I would ask applicants what was the last book they read or what they were currently reading.  I imagine that the interviewers that have asked me this question are trying to determine the same thing I was trying to determine, which is if the person I'm thinking about hiring is more interested in the cast of the Real World or things that matter in the real world.   
The building where I interviewed was an upscale three story office building in a fairly new business park- big on glass and clean round lines with palms trees dotting the perimeter of the building.

It was more impressive in real life, I assure you.

Inside, I read the directory and found that all the floors were rented out to multiple tenant except for the top floor, which was all rented out by the company where I would be interviewing.  I took an elevator up to the top floor to find two young women sitting at a large frosted and etched glass reception desk that would look at home in the lobby of an Intercontinental Hotel.  Two flat panel monitors running promotional videos for the company flanked the reception desk.  

I introduced myself to one of the receptionists who buzzed the person I was to meet with and let him know I was there.  I had arrived ten minutes and killed time by watching the videos.  While I sat waiting, several employees, all wearing jeans, walked around.  I made a mental note that were I to be hired, jeans would be the appropriate attire.  Still, I felt confident that what I was wearing certainly well within the range of appropriate attire given that I was inside an upscale, modern office building interviewing for a full-time job at a company that employs tens of thousands of people in nearly 100 offices around the world.

Ten minutes after our scheduled appointment time, or 20 minutes since I arrived, I sat down with the person that I would be reporting to if got the job.

I don't think I've ever heard more jargon used to describe a fairly straight-forward job function.  It seemed that the person I was interviewing with was intentionally making everything as difficult as possible to understand.  It threw me off a bit to not quite understand the lingo used in their office.

Once I waded through the jargon, the position seemed straightforward enough.  Basically, they have a sales force.  That sales force generates money by selling advertising that runs in thousands of locations nationwide.  If hired, I would be setting up and monitoring those ads.  These two flowcharts make it even more simple:

Nothing to it.

The slightly longer version of the job description is that I would be in charge of making sure that the data from all those advertising campaigns are being properly being fed into the company system.  About the most challenging thing about the position is that there is a large volume of advertising campaigns, each with hundreds or thousands of data feeds to setup, and to red-flag any of the feeds that aren't profitable.    

To me, it sounds like they need a system that will monitor for any advertising campaigns that are more than a couple of standard deviations different from the mean.  The sales force would probably like to know about those campaigns that are significantly out-performing those run anywhere else as that might be a good way to get clients to open up their wallets to run more ads in those markets.  What I imagine is the more frequent outcome, the markets that aren't generating sales need to be flagged and the ads pulled before the client's dollars disappear without any return on their investment.

Based on what I've done in the past and what I would like to be doing in the future, I believe I would be a good fit and I think I did a good job of making my case to the interviewer.

I noticed that the person conducting my interview and the person I would be reporting to, was wearing an untucked slightly wrinkled shirt, wrist watch and jeans.  In an era when everyone has a cellphone that doubles as a calculator, calendar, holder of contact information, and, of course, clock, I don't understand why anyone feels the need to lug around a wrist watch.  Shortly before things wrapped up, he mentioned that I was "really overdressed".  I thought about mentioning the old saying about how "Great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, small minds discuss people" and ask what he thought about what that means for those who discuss what people choose to wear.  I also thought about saying that I would have worn a bath robe if he would feel more comfortable interviewing a guy that showed up looking like he didn't give a shit about being hired.  In the end, I kept my comments to myself and decided that venting my frustrations via blog later would be more appropriate.

Sadly, it has been about three weeks since this interview took place, which leads me to believe that I won't be hearing back with positive news.  I'm thinking about calling or emailing this interviewer and the people from part 2 of this series to ask for an update.  I'm not holding my breath about securing either of these jobs anymore but there is always a chance.  Plus, I might get some feedback about why they didn't hire me, which might help in landing another job in the future.

My hunt continues.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Hope Solo

While the U.S. prepares to take on Japan tomorrow in the Women's World Cup Final, I would like to take a moment to introduce Hope Solo, the keeper for the American team and the latest object of my desire.

I only just discovered Hope a few days ago during the American victory over the French women's team.  I managed to save the following screen caps of Hope Solo from the U.S. v. France broadcast, which, sadly, aren't the most flattering:

Pay for high-speed cable internet, get blurry images


"I'm excited too but you don't see me screaming in your ear."

I pulled the rest of these images from the internet:

If you want to go to dinner with me tonight, 
just keep smiling that row of pearly whites.

Great, I'll pick you up around 7 p.m.

She's already into wearing gloves and playing inside a net.
How tough can it be to transition that into handcuffs and ropes?

I certainly hope that if the American women win the World Cup tomorrow, Solo will at least consider celebrating the way Brandi Chastain did when she won the Women's World Cup:

Just a suggestion

TL;DR: Hope Solo, the keeper for the American Women's Soccer (Football for all you non-American folk) Team, caught my eye recently.

Also, if anyone is wondering, I haven't forgotten the third and final Job Interview post, which will be coming up next.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Job Interviews Part 2 of 3

Next, I found a job posting that screamed for my application.

Hmm, it seems they might be trying to tell me something.

Naturally, I was excited.  So I applied.

Rectangles clearly represent the back of a netbook monitor.
Also, I forgot to draw my large beard again. 

Less than one hour after I emailed my cover letter and resume, I got a call from a woman that sounded excited about setting up an interview.  I've never had someone respond so quickly to an application and only the people that have actually hired me in the past have been so upbeat.

Why are we using phones when we're nearly touching?

I scheduled an interview with the woman who called, who works as the Office Manager, and the General Manager, the man who would ultimately be making the decision about hiring me or not.

Thinking that my Tom-Hanks-In-Castaway-Before-Rescue-Beard had perhaps cost me the previous job and because this is a full-time job that I would really love to have, I decided to shave.  

With the beard gone, I rediscovered my mouth.

On the day of the interview, I load my car with a simple navy blue folder with pockets that hold three extra copies of my resume and a typed sheet of questions designed to make sure I'm covering all my bases during the interview and to prevent me from drawing a total blank when the interviewer asks if I have any questions for them.  I remember when I was interviewing people at my first real job, I would knock them down a point or two for not being inquisitive when presented with a great deal of new information.  I've compiled these questions from a number of articles that provide tips about the interview process.  I tailor these questions and things that need to be covered to each interview but the points that are common to most interviews are:

General Conditions
  • Who would I report to?
  • Who would I be working with?
  • Would anyone else have the same/ similar job functions?
  • What are the typical hours?
  • How many people work in the office where I would be working?
Past Performance
  • Why is this position available?
  • What have been the primary reasons for people leaving this role?
  • What are some of the difficult problems one will face in this position?  How do you think these could best be handled?
  • How is one judged?  What accounts for success?
Interviewing the Interviewer
  • What do you like most about working here?
Before Agreeing to Start Working
  • Salaried or hourly?
  • Agree to an hourly or annual rate of pay before agreeing to start
  • Agree to start date, time and location
  • Optional - Ask for a business card (It's always wise to put important agreements in black and white, i.e. the start date and time so that you're covering your ass right from the start)
  • 100% commitment (especially for full-time positions, I usually like to mention something about how I really dedicate myself to the work I have been hired to do and will exceed expectations.  There must be a way to say this without sounding lame.)     

Usually most of these questions, except for the one about what the interviewer likes about working at that company, have been discussed during the interview and before the Q and A at the end.  This question doesn't really apply when the person conducting the interview is also the owner of the business, so it's a good idea to come up with a few job specific questions to have ready to go so that you have something intelligent to ask about before the end of the interview.

I also have a list of interview questions to be prepared to answer, which, if you're good, I'll touch on next time.

On the scheduled Friday, I drove about 45 minutes to their office.  I sat in my car with my blue folder and felt nervous and anxious despite the fact that my bank statements have been increasing insistent about the necessity of income and the fact that in the past I've convinced myself that I'm not in the least afraid of contacting anyone.  I thought about driving away and getting a cup of coffee instead of going into the interview at all. I thought back to a time when I actually had a full-time job and was not hesitant about meeting with strangers in unfamiliar and uncomfortable settings to discuss problematic and uncomfortable things.  For a few minutes, I felt just how extraordinarily awful and small it makes one feel to not have a well defined role in the world.  Finally, mastering my anxiety and mustering the same courage that has sent men off to do far more bizarre and dangerous things throughout history, I stood up and marched into the office reassuring myself with the notion that "It can't be that bad."

Unfortunately, right at the beginning of the interview, something told me that this experience might be that bad.

I suppose I would be upset too if someone had neglected to include
two simple vertical lines that would allow for breathing and eating.

The Office Manager was convinced that I would do well.  The General Manager apparently hadn't bothered to look at either my resume or cover letter until I was standing right in front of him.  The Office Manager and I tried to convince the General Manager that I was the best person for the position, which is an odd thing in an interview.  Occasionally the Office Manager would answer questions posed by the General Manager before I could respond.  Still, I did manage to project myself in as positive a light as I know how and was able to answer all the questions posed to me reasonably well.

Sadly, the interview was short, about fifteen minutes, which gave me the impression that I won't be hearing back with positive news.  Please keep your fingers crossed that I do!

After it was over and I had returned to the familiar environment of my car, I thought about practicing answering common interview questions with another person to get their feedback on my responses and body language.  I also thought about filming myself answering such questions so that I could make adjustments before I go into another interview.  Then, I thought to myself that I'm not applying to be the CEO of Coke and that this seems like a helluva lotta effort to get a job suitable for someone with 4-5 years of experience.

Will I get the job?  Can my anxieties be better managed?  Will Batman foil the Joker in time to save Gotham?  Did anyone else watch Dharma and Greg specifically because they found Dharma's above average height, face and figure attractive?  Tune in next time to hear the thrilling mundane yet hopefully informative conclusion to this exciting space-filling three part series about the fascinating world of job hunting!

TL;DR: I interviewed for a job that I am very well suited for doing and share my Questions for Interviewer sheet.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Job Interviews Part 1 of 3

Recently, I've had three memorable experiences interviewing for work.  What I've found is that it's stressful to visit someone else's office and go through the process of trying to convince someone that you're a good fit for doing a job they want done.  I've come up with a system to take as much of the stress out of the process as possible and to do everything I possibly can in advance so that I'm not in a rush on the day of the interview.

First, I'll walk you through my boring pre-interview process and then I'll get into the marginally less boring experiences I've had recently while interviewing for work.  When I speak to the person setting up an interview, I pull the following information up on my computer screen and am sure to fill in their information for all of the blank spaces or am sure that the information is being emailed to me.  

First and Last name of the Person I spoke with: ___________    __________________
Address being emailed? If not, take it down:__________________________________
Phone Number: ________
Interview Time: ________
Interview Date: ________

As soon as I get off the phone with the person or receive the confirmation email from them, I look up directions to the office where I'll be interviewing.  If I'm not familiar with the area, I'll often look at the Google Street view image to help orient myself when I'm driving to the office on the day of the interview. Then, I email myself the directions to the office so that I will have them on my phone the day of the interview.

On the day of the interview, I pull up this short checklist to be sure that I have everything i need for the interview:

  • Directions to job location
  • Name and number of the person I will be meeting with
  • Shave your face
  • Wear appropriate clothing
  • Blue folder
  • Two extra copies of your resume
  • Pen
  • Copy of your interview questions

My first of three recent interviews was with a company looking for someone to work for them part-time taking data from various sources and converting and entering the data in a proper format inside of Excel.  The data would then be run through a program to insert all of the fields I would potentially be entering in Excel into the blanks of a form letter which would then be emailed out to people to drum up business.  

I applied for this job because I kick ass using Excel. I can type quickly and accurately, know the ins and outs of the formatting paintbrush, can sort multiple columns to put data in the proper order, can turn huge lists of data into useful, digestable information by setting up Pivot Tables and have picked up on all the ways to get things done quickly and effectively using Excel. In short, I am an advanced Excel user so a job that requires heavy Excel use is something I would be well suited to do.

I went to the interview and met with two young women who told me that 99% of the job would be using Excel and, after a half hour of discussing my background and skills, agreed that I would be a great fit for the other 1% of the job as well.  The words that came out of one of their mouths verbatim were:
This seems encouraging...

Then, one girl said that she would sit next to me while I performed a series of tasks inside of Excel.  If that test were a woman, she would have been delivering a diagonally cut a roast beef sandwich with fresh romaine lettuce, tomatoes and onion that she just prepared and placed on a plate, which she then carefully balanced on her back and crawled on all fours to my spot on the sofa to deliver.  When I take the plate from her and smack her on the rump to say thanks, the test would say on her knees at my feet with her eyes downcast to avoid making eye contact with me.  In other words, I made that test my bitch.  My misogynistic fantasy life aside, the young woman that was administering the test really did say the following:

I forgot to poorly sketch in my very large beard and the 
fact that the woman interviewing me could actually 
see what was taking place on the monitor.  Opps.

99% of the job is Excel, which according to the person conducting the interview, I am better at than anyone else that applied and I am a great fit for the other 1%. So it came as a surprise when I got an email a few days later saying that they had gone with someone else.

Tune in next time to read about quickly scroll past the somewhat exciting tale of my second of three job interviews!

TL;DR: Despite my excellent ability at using Excel, I failed to secure a job that required heavy Excel use.