The interviewee steps tentatively into your office, hat (figuratively or literally) in hand. You offer your hand and his sweaty palms shake it a little too hard. You beckon him to sit, and he does ever-so-gingerly, as if he could break your chair if he’s not careful. His eagerness to please seems to be making him extra nervous, even jittery. (At any rate, you’re hoping that’s the only thing making him jittery!)
After a few surface pleasantries, flowered with plenty of ‘sirs’ (or ‘ma’ams’), you inevitably get to the question that brought him to your office in the first place: “So, what kind of work are you looking for?”
And so the dance begins.
“Oh sir, I’ll do anything, anything at all. I’ll scrub toilets if I have to. You give me a toothbrush, sir, and I’ll get on my knees and wash your baseboards. Heck, I’ll even wash your car. There’s nothing I won’t do if you’ll just give me a job. All I need is a chance!”
Wow! It sure sounds like this guy really wants to work. I mean, he’ll do anything, right? You take a look at his work history …
“I see you worked for two months at McDonald's last year. What prompted you to leave?”
“Well, sir, I wasn’t getting enough hours over there,” he said.
“Even though you didn’t have a job to go to?” you ask, spotting the gaping three-month gap after his McDonald's stint. You can’t resist adding, “Wouldn’t a few hours be better than none at all?”
“Well, I figured I’d find something pretty fast, but there’s just nothing out there!”
Despite the fact that during the three months that there was ‘nothing’ out there for this guy, you have been practically looking under rocks trying to find qualified people to fill your job orders, you decide to give him the benefit of the doubt.
Moving on …
“Before McDonald's, I see you worked at ABC Industrial as a packer for four months. On the ‘reason for leaving’ section you put ‘disagreement.’ What was that about?”
“I busted my butt for that company, but the managers there were real jerks. They didn’t know how to treat people. I mean, I was their best employee. I knew how to run every machine there, but when I asked for a pay raise they didn’t give it to me, so I quit!”
… and took a job at McDonald's.
OK, so his history is sketchy and there are a few red flags, but he seems so desperate and eager to please. He proceeds to remind you that he would, indeed, be willing to detail clean your office with spit and a handkerchief if only you would be willing to give him a chance, just one chance …
Never mind the half a dozen ‘chances’ he’s had in the past two years (during which, according to him, he was by far 'their best employee'). He needs a chance from YOU, and that could make all the difference.
Your new best friend looks at you with those pleading puppy-dog eyes. He’s got five starving kids, two dogs, and three cats at home, not to mention a baby on the way, all depending on him to provide food on the table and, if there’s anything left, a couple of wooden toys from the Salvation Army. (You notice the cigarettes in his front pocket, but choose not to go there ...)
Heartstrings effectively pulled, you decide ‘what the heck, why not give him a shot at that temporary job order you’ve been trying to fill?’ It’s only for a week, but you explain that if he does that and does well, it could lead to something better in the future. He practically falls over himself thanking you, and leaves your office with lots of promises of you not regretting your decision.
He shows up at work the next day. So far so good …
Then, a couple of hours later, the supervisor calls to inform you that Mister-Just-Needs-A-Chance has walked off the job. You are annoyed, but somehow you aren’t surprised.
When you call he doesn’t answer the phone, but you can bet he’s at the office on payday to pick up his wages for that two-hour gig. (Hey, that’s at least a pack of cigarettes, right?) He won’t look you in the eye, but you ask what happened anyway.
“Oh, that was just going to be a temporary job, and I really need something full time.” Then, apparently with cojones the size of bowling balls, our former employee then proceeds to ask, “Do you have anything else?”
We in the staffing industry call this ‘The Law of Desperation.’ (Well, not yet in so many words, but maybe it’ll catch on.) It’s counter-intuitive, because on the surface one would think that the more desperate people are for work, the more they would appreciate and work hard at the opportunities they are given. But, at least insofar as people are willing to express that desperation to us, this doesn’t seem to be the case. It seems that the more people verbally pander to us, the more likely they are to wash out in one way or another (failed drug test, not showing up, walking off, etc.).
Of course, it’s not 100%. But for us, at least, it’s a high enough percentage to make us very un-surprised when it happens, and to wonder why. Is the over-stated begging and pandering a learned behavior that habitual job-hoppers have quickly realized they must use to convince dubious employers to give them a shot? After all, anyone who has managed to convince six employers in two years to give them a job must have done SOMETHING right ...