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Wherein Sparr completely burns a bridge that was already burnt more than he realized. [Mar. 3rd, 2012|02:30 pm]
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Eleven years ago I had a job at Dell Computers. I worked at the desktop computer assembly factory in Lebanon, TN. My job involved working on the assembly line in various positions ranging from low skill (installing motherboards) to almost completely unskilled (putting parts on the conveyor belt). One day our positions were shuffled and I ended up putting computer cases on the conveyor. It wasn't backbreaking work, but it was more physical labor than I'd done (lifting 20-30 pounds from ground to waist height, 2000 times in a shift), and I didn't last. About halfway through the shift I told my supervisor that I couldn't keep going; my arms and back were becoming more painful than I could handle. He insisted, and then brought his manager in to confirm the situation. When I didn't continue they took me for a meeting with someone from HR. I was told in no uncertain terms that being able to do that lifting was part of my job description and that if I couldn't do it then I wasn't meeting their requirements of me. I made some objections regarding bias in placement on the line, which were waved aside. They told me to go home and think hard about my situation, and to only come back if I could do the job they'd hired me for. I didn't come back, and dealt with my severed employment as I got the paperwork from them (they wanted me to re-affirm my NDAs, non-compete, etc).

Fast forward 11 years. I'm on the hunt for a systems administration or software development position. I've applied at a few dozen places, perhaps ten of which are solid leads from friends, the rest being from job postings online. I interview for a couple of jobs in Atlanta, fly to Boston and interview for a half dozen jobs there. Once all the interviews are over I've got a few offers on the table. All are good fits for my skills and abilities. The offer from SecureWorks (recently purchased by Dell) is a bit light on compensation, but ideal for my personal situation and offering the most career opportunity. After some negotiations with the SecureWorks recruiter with whom I'd been dealing we come up with some numbers that make us both happy and he makes a formal offer. I accept, first verbally and later in writing, and make the calls and send the appropriate emails to decline the other offers that I was considering.

SecureWorks orientation happens every two weeks, and I missed one by a day with my offer acceptance, so I had a two week delay between accepting their offer and starting work. I filled out all the documentation they needed, including tax paperwork, benefits documentation, confirmation that I'd read the company policies and procedures and vision and such, etc. I filled out the authorization for a background check, and went to a local lab for a drug test. All of that took a few days. Afterward I called my recruiter to let him know it was all done, and emailed my new HR contact as well. I was certain the drug screen and background check would be fine, so I just sat and waited. Friday rolled around and I called in to check on things, the drug screen and background check were still pending. Monday arrived and I heard that everything had come back clear. I got some emails with details on my orientation location and time, etc.

On Wednesday I get another call from the recruiter. He says he noticed on my paperwork that I used to work for Dell, and could I confirm that. I did, and confirmed that the details on the paperwork were as accurate as I could recall (I put the location and dates, which turned out to be off by a year). He told me they would be looking into it and I'd hear back. On Thursday he called to ask if I went by the name Bill (my middle name is William) in 2001. I confirmed that I did, but that my official paperwork would have been as Clarence, as always. He said they'd found me, and that they were reviewing the records. This was ominous, but I kept high hopes considering how far in the process I'd already come (to the end, I'd thought...).

On Friday, around noon, less than half a working day before I was due to start my new job, he calls me for the last time. He tells me there's bad news, that my employment offer is being rescinded. He says he can't go into the details, but doesn't deny when I suggest it's related to how I left Dell previously. I ask him who the decision rests with. He says my manager-to-be (with whom I've had phone calls and emails and an interview with already) and that person's manager (who I haven't dealt with). I thank him for his efforts along the way.

I did not use any favors to get this job. I like to think I'm qualified for it and got it on merit. I do, however, have a lot of long-time friends who have worked at Dell for many years, and friends and acquaintances at SecureWorks for less time. I contacted all of them. Every reply said they were willing to stand behind me and help resolve this. One with the most far reaching contacts even got ahold of a friend of his in the Atlanta office to make some inquiries. I sent an email to my manager to be, and left a voicemail for him, in an attempt to open a dialogue. I never heard back, and my friend's friend hasn't made any headway either.

At this point I can say this is certainly the most unprofessional and unexpected turn of events I've encountered in the job market. I am very disappointed in Dell, and less so in SecureWorks, over their poor handling of this matter at every turn. Dell corporate could have denied my application the day it arrived, if I'm on some sort of internal employment blacklist. Failing that, surely they should have made this decision around the time that I was getting the employment offer. Waiting 2-3 more weeks past that, all the while assuring me that I had the job, is the most thoughtless and cruel way they could have possibly handled this.

Unfortunately all of the other opportunities that were available three weeks ago (when I declined them in favor of this position) are no longer open. Dell has cost me 5 weeks of job searching time, and I'm starting all over again. I've started the embarrassing and arduous process of re-emailing all of the companies that have responded to me in the last four weeks, whose advances I declined due to already being committed to my then-current round of interviews. I'm beginning to send out resumes and applications for newly posted positions, and am sending follow up inquiries on the applications that I did not hear back on last time. I've got two interviews in the Atlanta area coming up, hoping to establish more here before visiting Boston for another round of first and second interviews in 2-3 weeks.
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: vortex
2012-03-03 10:09 pm (UTC)

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That is the most messed up job search situation I have ever heard!

There must be something you can do, like taking them to court, do you have any labor law friends?

What did you do when you left Dell years ago? Did you slash tires?...
[User Picture]From: sparr0
2012-03-03 10:27 pm (UTC)

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Court probably isn't the answer. They cost me a month of job hunting, but no matter how screwed up that is I don't think they are liable for it.

I didn't do anything. I left when they asked me to leave, didn't come back, and filled out the post-employment paperwork. No fights, no revenge, no pranks.
[User Picture]From: seferin
2012-03-04 06:52 am (UTC)

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He refused to be exploited. I am in a similar boat with my employer. Cuts were made on the order placement end, with the work going to India. It was irritating but we dealt with the work while the new hires were being trained, going above and beyond. They hires new Indians after a year, and there was another six month period of picking up the slack. They now turnover Indians every six months at the long end, and my de facto job description involves doing someone else's job. My choices are to shut up or quit, and I was told not to go to HR.

The exact words from my lead were "I would not go to HR for anything less than being raped at the office", due to the pushback from our manager.

Employees who expect to be treated with respect are either management, in a concrete contract, or delusional.
[User Picture]From: cos
2012-04-19 02:38 am (UTC)

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I notice this post is public. Does that mean you're comfortable with it being shared out to wider audiences?
[User Picture]From: sparr0
2012-04-19 02:48 am (UTC)

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Yes. It's sure to do some harm when some future interviewers of mine read it, but if it does any good it will be very good (either for me in an interview, or for some other hapless future Dell applicant).