Brief interviews with HR

March 2, 2019 (1060 words) :: A series of imaginary conversations with HR at various unnamed tech companies.
Tags: big-tech, startups, david-foster-wallace

This post is day 61 of a personal challenge to write every day in 2019. See the other fragments, or sign up for my weekly newsletter.


(Continuing the theme from yesterday’s post: imaginary conversations with HR in the style of David Foster Wallace’s Brief Interviews with Hideous Men.)

  1. I’m sorry, but I’m afraid I can’t help you. You’re not employed here.
  2. Well, yes, you’re working on our premises, but we’re not technically your employer. Your employer is the staffing agency we’ve contracted this work out to. You’ll have to take up any workplace issues with them.
  3. I’m sorry to hear you’ve been having issues with getting in touch with your employer’s HR department. But like I said, I can’t help you.
  4. I don’t see anything in your file about converting to full-time. Did your manager tell you this was a guarantee, or a possibility? Did he put it in writing?
  5. I understand that your contract ends in two weeks, but whether it gets renewed is up to your employer, not us. We have no control over this.
  6. Well, if you’re having so much trouble with your current employer, you could try switching to a different staffing agency.
  7. I don’t know if there’s an easy way to do that, no. It was only a suggestion.
  8. Well, yes, we are the ones who have hired your employer, but it is still their responsibility to inform you about your terms of work, not ours.
  9. I’ve told you multiple times: I can’t help you in an official capacity since you’re not employed by us.
  10. You’re more than welcome to apply for a full-time position once your contract runs out. But you should know that they’re very competitive.

  1. Look, I’ll get straight to the point. Your performance has not been in line with expectations, and we think it would be best for everyone if you moved on.
  2. I understand that you’re upset. But this can’t come as a surprise. You didn’t hit any of your KPIs last quarter, and it was irresponsible of you to take such a long leave of absence when everyone else was working nights and weekends trying to get the new version shipped.
  3. Well, “unlimited” doesn’t really mean unlimited, you know. We still need you to work for us. We can’t have some people hanging out in Hawaii while everybody else is pulling all-nighters, ha ha.
  4. That was just a joke about Hawaii; I’m sorry if I offended you. I see it says in your file that you requested a 2-week vacation because your daughter passed away, which must have been tough. But, you know, I heard Elon Musk’s first kid died when he was 10 weeks old, and now he’s got five more!
  5. I apologise if that came off as insensitive. The problem is that your performance just hasn’t been what we need right now. We’re growing so much - it’s like a rocketship right now, and we need people who are hungry, who get shit done. It’s an all-hands-on-deck situation right now, you know?
  6. What do you mean, mixed metaphors?
  7. I’m not saying that it was a requirement for you to work nights and weekends. I’m saying that everybody else on your team was staying nights and weekends because they’re dedicated to the cause and frankly, they haven’t been seeing a lot of dedication from you, lately. You weren’t being a team player.
  8. Well, you know, sometimes you have to sacrifice things for the greater good. We’re building a really revolutionary app here—we’re completely disrupting the home equity loan market—and if you’re not ready to give it 110%, then that’s your problem, not ours. You should have a long and hard think about the person you want to be.
  9. That’s just how startups are. If you don’t like it, go get a job at Google.

  1. I’m glad you could make it in today. This seemed like a delicate topic so I thought it best to discuss in person, rather than over email. Tell me exactly what happened.
  2. Just to be clear, this happened off-campus, correct?
  3. But it wasn’t an official work event, correct? It was just casual drinks, unofficially organised by your team?
  4. Okay. Continue.
  5. It sounds like you’re being a little presumptive here. You should try giving people the benefit of the doubt sometimes. I feel like a lot of the “me too” movement is just people being too sensitive. My wife agrees with me.
  6. Maybe he’s just a footwear enthusiast. I don’t see why you had to pour your drink on him. That could count as assault, you know. He could press charges.
  7. Well, you chose to wear high heels, so you shouldn’t be surprised if someone notices them.
  8. Okay, but if he only touched your shoe, and not your foot, why are you so upset? He didn’t even really touch you, just the shoe. I’m sure he was just being friendly.
  9. None of these other women have come to me with their complaints, so I can’t corroborate your claims. I really think this is just a misunderstanding - I’ve known him for years and I’ve never seen him behave in an unseemly way toward anyone.
  10. Look, what do you want from me? You already made him look bad in front of everyone else on the team. I’m sure he’s very embarrassed, and won’t be doing it again. Isn’t that enough punishment?
  11. That’s out of the question. He’s a high performer, and the CTO specifically put him in charge of this team because of how important it is. We’re not going to ask him to switch teams just because you say you don’t want to work with him, when you’ve only been on the team for six months. He’s been a massive asset for the company, and forcing him off the team would only hurt us all. Is that what you want?
  12. We can switch you to a different team, if you really need. You might have to take a pay cut, because the only vacancy right now is for a role a little below your current level.
  13. Please, keep your voice down.
  14. If you’re really this upset, then sure, go file a lawsuit. But I’ll tell you something, honey, you’re not going to get very far in this industry if all you do is go around pointing fingers. Look at Ellen Pao, for instance.
  15. If I were you, I would get back to work. And I would lighten up a bit.

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