What Could I, a Career Counselor, Have Done Not to Get Fired?

Physicians get sick. Attorneys lose cases. Auto mechanics’ cars break down. Locksmiths break keys in their locks. Dry cleaners stain their clothes and can’t get the stains out. No professional is perfect. The important thing is to always learn from the experience.

As I wrote elsewhere, I recently took a job as a career coach at a New York City university, and, after only a few weeks was fired for being politically incorrect. What could I have done differently?

Well first, clearly my method for securing a job offer works. The cover letter did its job; my resume was read. The resume did its job; I was interviewed. My interviewing strategy worked, I was offered the job. So at least as far as getting a job goes, I know what I am doing. So what went wrong?

I am not going to rehash what I have written previously. (Sorry, but you will have to read my two previous posts.) One thing I did not mention previously was that when the program’s executive director began to give me the details of the charges against me he started by saying that my accusers did not like the article I had written where I advised half a dozen women to remove their very large engagement rings prior to their job interviews. The program director immediately cut him off after I said that I had written the article months ago. He said it was not relevant and I let it go.

But I think it was relevant. I am proud of that article. I chuckle that almost a year later it still is being commented upon. Long story short, my advice worked, something my critics ignore.

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If I may be permitted a brief aside, a few days ago I received this letter from a reader:

Hi Bruce,

I read your article on LinkedIn about ditching the engagement ring on interviews… and trust me, I completely agree. I did not wear my engagement ring to the first or second interview. When I was asked about my personal life I did not mention my fiancé, just that I enjoy spending time with my family. 

At the end of my second interview the employer makes a statement, “so you’re just living life and single.” This completely threw me off…. I laughed and said yes. Technically I am single, not getting married till …. 

Well, I got the job. The employer who interviewed me is actually my supervisor and we will be working together everyday. But what do I do now? Wear my ring and say.. “oh yeah I’m engaged by the way!!”

I really need some advice and tips on how to approach the situation….

Please get back to me when you can, I would really appreciate it.

If you are interested in my response, let me know; I’ll be happy to respond in a separate article.

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One of my accusers actually interviewed me for the job. She apparently did not prepare very well. The article is easy to find on my LinkedIn profile and my Fox Business Network interview appears on the home page of my website. If there was a problem she should have either disqualified me or asked me about it. But my guess is, she did not do her homework.

I, on the other hand, did my homework. I researched everyone who was going to be interviewing me. From their reactions, they were surprised by the depth of my research. The executive director, for example, was surprised when I asked about a job he had had decades ago. The program director seemed surprised when I asked why the program had received absolutely no press coverage. In any event, I asked each of them two questions in particular:

The first question, which I always ask, is, Who succeeds here? This goes to culture. I believe that cultural fit is the most important component of a successful hire. No one said to me that they were extreme proponents of political correctness believing, for example, that God should never be mentioned because it could offend atheists. And, of course, I would not have thought to ask the question. Who would?

The second question was, If I get the job, how will I be able to make your life easier? Basically, they all said, just do your job.

There is a question that I think employers should ask candidates at the start of an interview: How did you prepare for this interview? The answer will tell a great deal about the candidate. On the other hand, I suggest that candidates, when given the opportunity to ask questions, should begin with, Why did you want to interview me? What did you like about my resume? This way the second part of the interview, when the candidate becomes the interviewer and the interviewers become the interviewees, begins on a positive note. It works. (And, in my case, I did not have to ask because they told me: my in-depth experience.)

But on reflection, I think I should have asked the interviewers the question they should have asked me but didn’t. Perhaps if I had asked them what they had done to prepare for my interview and, if they had said that they had only reviewed my resume, I may have suggested that they read some of my articles, media citations, and watch or listen to my television and radio interviews. Maybe that would have avoided future developments.

One other serious mistake they made, assuming I am correct and they did not research me as I did them, was that they did not check my references. Never a smart move! I doubt that in this case it would have made a difference. But still, it is good policy which all employers should follow.

And with that, my saga comes to an end. As one woman commented on a previous article, it is strange that readers are not leaving comments. (I am receiving private messages of support and am grateful for them) She thinks that people may be afraid. She may be right. I hope she is wrong and that readers will start commenting. This is an important topic. Political correctness, as I think I clearly showed, can give young people – university undergraduates – a warped world view. That will not serve them well. I have done what I can to stem the tide, now it is up to others, particularly the parents of the students, not to mention higher education professionals. As I asked previously, do we want a Godless, nationless, raceless, genderless society? I hope not. It is our differences that make us who we are.

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Bruce Hurwitz is an executive recruiter and career counselor. He has helped scores (thousands if you include attendees at his presentations) of people, including veterans, not only change jobs but, on occasion, change careers. Having successfully transitioned from academia to non-profits to the recruiting industry, he has been there and done that!

Bruce is a recognized authority on job search and career issues, having been quoted in over 700 articles, appearing in some 500 publications, across the United States and in more than 30 foreign countries. His posts on LinkedIn have been read over 350,000 times and have garnered national and international media attention, including television appearances on Fox Business Network and Headline News (CNN).  Visit his website to learn about all of his services, view his most recent videos, and to take advantage of his free Library. Follow him on Twitter at @HurwitzStaffing.

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