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How I Didn't Get Hired at Macy's

Applying for jobs ain't what it used to be.

Being a writer I'm used to rejection. Getting my hopes up and feeling the gut punch when things don't work out in my favor. Putting in blood, sweat and tears on a script only to have it end up on a shelf. Making spaghetti without sauce.

Yep, the life of an artist is filled with heartbreak. Wah, wah, wah. Who cares. I get it. I signed up for it.

But nothing has been more shocking, more confusing, more "how the hell did that not work out" than this last week when I found out I didn't get hired as a sales clerk in the children's department of Macy's.

Talk about gut punch.

Here's the story. A few weeks ago after another long, humiliating day of dragging used clothing across town only to make a few bucks, a semi-failed attempt at a garage sale to try and get rid of these clothes that I have now collected from friends and family, and a doctor's bill for my upper respiratory infection visit I came to a realization...

THIS ISN'T WORKING, IS IT?

So, after finishing a day at the school talent show rehearsal (where I'm certain I caught that upper respiratory infection) I took my girl to Macy's to shop for a dress that she could wear on the day of the big show.

At 9 years old it seems she outgrows her clothes between the time I drop her off at school and the moment I pick her up. Shoes aren't fitting, shorts aren't buttoning, even her underwear is too tight.

She had worked so hard on her song I knew she wanted something new and special to wear for the day of the show.

We went straight to the sales rack and grabbed a few possibilities and, success, she found one she loved. What was even more exciting  was when the sales lady rang it up it cost less than the sale tag said—sweet!

While the woman was putting the dress in a bag, and I was feeling the rush of good luck from the extra savings I said, "You wouldn't happen to be hiring right now, would you?"

Now, I didn't go to Macy's planning on asking for a job. Nor did I think being a sales person was something I wanted to do. But while I was standing there, watching her in the this calm, air conditioned, quiet section of the store, folding clothes and scanning items it really looked like something I had no doubt I could master.

That...  and I was broke and desperate.

She smiled enthusiastically, "We are, actually. If you go online to our website go to the job opening section and you can fill out an application. Good luck!"

Wow, the days of filling out an application by hand with a pen in a corner of a store sweating as you try to remember the zip code of your previous residence and the phone numbers of employers from seven years ago are over.

I thanked her and off we went. Hannah looked up at me, "Mommy... you want to work at Macy's?"

Once again the look of disappointment that her mother was giving up on her artistic career of choice came over my kid's face.

"Honey, mommy needs a job."

"You have a job. You're a writer."

"No, a job is something that can add sauce to our spaghetti."

I gave her a hug and told her I think working at Macy's would be great.

That night I went on-line to the Macy's website, clicked on "jobs" and started filling out my application. The first part of the application was standard; previous jobs, previous income, education, etc. I filled it all out -- the shows I wrote for, the development deals, the script options.

I was almost done with the application when I came to one last section... a 12-page questionnaire that seriously read like something out of a psychiatric exam. 

It was bizarre. The questions were all about conduct, personality, thought process, mood swings, character, motive and you were given multiple choice answers in the form of "true, semi true, not true, never."

I seriously felt like I needed to call my therapist about some of them.

"Hey, Paula, would you say I'm a leader always looking to change and fix things for the better?"... "Am I moody in the workplace if something in my private life has gone wrong?"... "Do people perceive me as ambitious?"... "Am I perky?"

Honestly, I thought I was just signing up to try and sell kids underwear but apparently Macy's really likes to know the inner workings of their employees psyche.

I tried to answer the questions as best as I could, but the writer in me couldn't help but over-analyze them.

"Well, it depends. What happened the night before that might have led up to a morning where I'm not my usual perky self?"or "How do I know why a customer was rude? Maybe he was raised in a violent home, taken away, lived in the foster care system where he was mistreated and therefore no one ever respected him or listened to him and he's got anger issues he hasn't dealt with?" or "I can be social but if I'm talking to a bigot I might find myself not wanting to engage in pleasant conversation..."

You see my problem with this. Life is way too complicated. This is why I was a sucky student in high school and did crappy on tests. To me there is always more than one answer.

But, as midnight rolled around I finally finished the damn application and sent it in.  And waited... and waited... and waited.

Well, as you know already I didn't get the job. I received an email from Macy's simply thanking me for my interest in a career at their store but that I didn't have the qualifications for the job.

At 16 years old with zero life experience other than figuring out how to smoke pot out of an apple and French kissing without banging teeth I could get hired at any mall in town! But now, at my age, with all that I have done I'm NOT QUALIFIED?!

Okay, so maybe writing for Californication doesn't mean I can sell clothes but surely shopping for and dressing my kid for nine years should mean something!

And then I obsessed on that damn questionnaire. Did I answer wrong? Am I unstable in Macy's eyes? Do they think I might not handle Memorial Day sales well?

Needless to say one person was thrilled I got rejected. My daughter. She literally beamed when I told her Macy's didn't want me.

I, on the other hand, panicked. If I can't get a job at Macy's surely Nordstroms or Bloomingdales is totally out of the question.

And then, I went to the mailbox. There, in-between the Penny Saver and my electric bill was a small, but unexpected check in a Writer's Guild envelope. It was a residual for one of the shows I used to write for.

Thank you, God.

Hannah wore her new, pretty Macy's dress for the talent show and for dinner that night I made us a big batch of spaghetti...

With plenty of sauce.

Jeffrey June 21, 2011 at 06:54 PM
Michael, Please stop trying to embarrass your teachers. That Ms. McMartin writes about not getting the job because she may have 'flunked' the psych portion of the application is a funny take on the situation. A much more probable reason for the standard rejection email is that her application would appear to come from someone who would leave the job as soon as a writing opportunity came up. This would be costly for the organization and seems to be something most of the people commenting get. I would also take you up on your bet. Even if Susan was eliminated because of the psych test it doesn't mean that it flagged something wrong with her. Organizations that receive a lot of employment applications tend to use a variety of mechanisms to reduce the pile into something more manageable to go through to pick an employee. These techniques can be somewhat arbitrary but it doesn't matter because firms believe that what is left will yield new hires that are 'good enough'. Examples of these include a college degree, GPA (for people right out of school) and personality tests. I will also throw in that contrary to what the consultants selling the tests claim, there are serious validity issues with the tests. [sorry for the mini-lecture but I am a professor of management] Susan - I enjoy getting to know you through your blog. Remember that having an interesting life tends to be a contact sport.
Susan McMartin June 21, 2011 at 07:48 PM
jeffrey, thank you so much for you comment. and "having an interesting life tends to be a contact sport" is a fantastic quote! michael's opinions really have only led to wonderful comments, insights and quotes! thank goodness for the "michael's" after-all! ;-)
Cathy Flynn June 22, 2011 at 02:24 AM
Granted, many of the Macy's employees are great, but some of them couldn't have passed the fifth grade. A lesson in social interaction, the knowledge to calculate the amount of change without a calculator, and the ability to figure out who really is next in line would have been more appropriate than this lengthy questionnaire. Don't worry, Susan. I'm sure your skill set is way above the average Macy's employee. Please don't become disheartened and start considering a job at McDonald's. Then you'd be working and still not afford the sauce.
tracie June 23, 2011 at 04:08 PM
I am sorry but that was stupid to do. Guess you didn't really need the money or you would have answered like everyone else, only postive answers and what you think they wanted to hear. Instead you came off as a smart ass. They probably thought you would take the job as seriously as the application., a smart ass bitch.
Chapen June 25, 2011 at 09:43 PM
I want to say sorry for not getting the job, but it sounds like it would be a crappy place to work based on their hiring practices, and crappy if you had to help people like Michael all day. So I want to say congrats on not getting the job, but that doesn't really work either #1 because it is a form of rejection and #2 almost any job is a good job if you need to make ends meet. You're a very good writer with a great sense of humor. Keep on keeping on and you will wind up where you want to be and where your skills and personality will be appreciated.
Susan McMartin June 26, 2011 at 01:25 AM
thanks, chapen! really appreciate your comment. thanks so much for reading!
Susan McMartin June 28, 2011 at 01:06 PM
too funny, chris! thanks for sharing your story and insight!!
Marlena July 06, 2011 at 06:47 PM
Michael is obviously projecting, which a therapist will tell you is pretty common, especially in any forum where one can comment anonymously. Most corporations use filters to sift through the thousands of applications and if you don't have certain words in your resume and/or application such as customer service, retail, etc. the computer will automatically send you a generic e-mail stating you're not qualified, regardless of your life experience. Some companies set up their computer system to send a rejection letter a couple weeks after you apply, so it looks like you were carefully considered, but it's likely no human ever looked at your application. People who know about the filters will add words to their resumes to get the job but may have no actual experience which explains the lously employees you see from time to time. That's the world we live in unfortunately.
Jason July 12, 2012 at 07:16 AM
I know it has been about a year since the last posting, but this article that Susan has written for us really seems to relfect the changes in society. Its funny, I aspire to be a writer myself but i havent gotten far with my novel. I do apologize for your experience i am heading to an interview later today for a commissioned sales assoicates for the "woman's shoes department' . On a personal note, these psyche exams are just ways so the company can legally say they screened their employees and escape liabilities. I am not a lawyer, or anything spectacular, just an SSI recipient (begrudingly) who craves going back into the workforce. My life has had its ups and downs, I got married in 2007 to my boyfriend who was an alcoholic, and I had to seperate from him in 2009 to come to Washington State from Massachusettes. Jobs are rough especially if the Writer's Guild doesnt provide a cushion for their members. I do want to personally congradulate you on your check that you got in the mail when you need it. I always try to live my life through the examples brought by "The secret" It falls along the lines of "Anything is possible, if you want something just ask the universe for it and keep it in your mind and use visual representations in order to promote this thought, and soon enough it will materialize." Never give up hope Susan... I suffer from neurological problems but yet I still strive to be normal.
Lynnece Richards July 20, 2012 at 09:38 PM
Susan...Don't feel bad as you are not alone. I too applied (online) to work at Macy's, as I am in need of some gainful employment while I sort out my teaching career (another story). My application was processed and I received an email that invited me to interview for a part-time Cosmetic Rep./Advisor. In my enthusiasm I promptly scheduled my interview and when I arrived they informed me that due to familial association (sister-in-law works for Macy's front office) they would not even be able to conduct the interview let alone hire me. Long story short I divulged the information of the family ties in my application process and their system still pushed my application thru and when the office in which she (my sister-in-law) works got my application for interview they did not even do me the courtesy of calling and canceling they made me come in and then hit me with the "we can't conduct this interview which their own screening process selected you for...." And to add insult to injury they thanked me for "showing up and being on time as most of the people who schedule these interviews are either late or no shows...and rub it in more that they are not going to hire me...they further informed me that they are under staffed at this location (four employees are out on leave). There is more but, I think I have said enough..just wanting you to hang in there and know you are not alone.....!
Susan McMartin July 21, 2012 at 04:45 PM
thank you, jason. hang in there -- life really is a one day, one minute at a time. anything can happen and often does!
Susan McMartin July 21, 2012 at 04:47 PM
lynnece, thank you for your comment. that is just awful how they handled themselves. please know that a week after i got rejected from macy's i got hired to write for 'two and a half men'. everything happens excactly how it's supposed to. something is waiting for you around the corner. keep walking. ;-)
Brian September 13, 2012 at 11:44 AM
Same here about Macy's! Applied the other day for a sales position, that I am way overqualified for and could be the Manager. I have a Bachlors degree in business, about 7 years sales experience. I have taken many of these test for other large corperations and passed with flying colors. The truth is, Macys and many others post these jobs, even interview and hire no one, why? To show government they are adding jobs to the economy. Look at ADP, they have been calling me for years about open positions and they report job growth to the DOL? Go to a temp agency, it's OK sometimes and you build internal contacts, that is what is working for me.
Kimbirdie2 September 27, 2012 at 11:30 PM
Thank you for such a insightful article, Susan. Honestly, I came across this article when I Googled "failed questionnaire from Macy's" because I was pissed when I received an email telling me I'm not qualified for the entry level sales position. I knew it had to be the psych test because my resmue shows 10+ years of retail sales/management experience. I was totally disappointed but enjoyed reading your experience and learning I am not the only one that got turned down for a job I am beyond qualified for. I have taken numerous courses about psychology testing and couldn't pass that one. FYI: I think my honest answers about how I try to see the good in mostly everyone makes me sound too trusting. Next time I will try to remember all the negativity in our socitey. I may be pretty old school but I don't like the online application process that some many larger retail companies require. I miss the days you went inside the store to fill out an application and maybe meet with a manager. Sometimes those few minutes with a manager was enough time for him/her to determine whether you were a possible job candidate. The truth is that that position would've been a dead end job especially for an artiste like yourself. Best of luck in your writing and motherhood!
Burt October 24, 2012 at 03:14 AM
I applied today :/ now I feel confident that I didn't pass the test.
Susan McMartin November 05, 2012 at 03:09 PM
thanks, brian. i hadn't even thought of some of those points. i'm grateful to have a job today, but i never want to forget what i've walked through. hope you're doing okay!
Susan McMartin November 05, 2012 at 03:13 PM
kimbirdie2 -- thank you for your comment. i too miss the old days of job interviews as well. you're right -- those few minutes of face to face time makes all the difference. i hope your job search is going better. a week after this happened i got hired to write for "two and a half men" and, as my daughter said, "see mommy, you weren't meant to work at macy's... you're a writer." grateful.
Susan McMartin November 05, 2012 at 03:14 PM
burt, you never know. but if for any reason you didn't pass now you know NOT to take it personally (but i hope you did!). good luck and thanks for reading!
Bill November 05, 2012 at 05:01 PM
You are over qualified for such and time will prove me right!! God Bless!
Susan McMartin November 05, 2012 at 05:12 PM
helen, thanks for your comment. if it's any help or hope to you, one week after i got rejected from macy's i got hired to write for "two and a half men"... we just never know what the plan is. hang in there!
Susan McMartin November 05, 2012 at 05:14 PM
bill, thank you. actually, i wrote this column a year ago but wanted to re-post it as a reminder to myself of where i've been. one week after being rejected from macy's i got the job of my dreams. we just never know, right? i'm grateful for being willing to do the footwork and know the results are always out of my hands. thanks so much for your comment!
John J. Nazarian November 05, 2012 at 05:51 PM
Ah phooey, just add 'ian' or 'yan' to your last name......LMAO it would appear to many that you almost have to be Armenian to work at any local Macys. And if this group is passing these test, almost anyone should do well in taking and passing them. John Nazarian
Kate November 30, 2012 at 03:46 PM
I applied for Macy's part time seasonal position in Cosmetics. First of all, I have to say that cosmetics is my passion, indeed, plus, I have some retail experience from the past and now I am kind if "selling candidates for jobs and jobs for candidates" - a recruiter. degree in Psychology, and I work with people for all my life! I sent an application and then they called with several behaviour questions.....over the phone! For instance, I am a visual type of person, and it is easier for me to get the information when I see it rather when I hear, so that's why I think that they need to do this in written form online..... Anyway, I tried to be as relevant as I could and tried to think the answer the very second the question was asked, but today I got an email from them that I am not qualified. Ha! I really wanted that job. So I am disappointed with Macy's hiring process. I think that they need to be more personal. However, I truly believe: whatever happens - happens for the best.
Debbie Niemeyer December 05, 2012 at 05:46 AM
I recommend people read Barbara E's book, "BrightSided" she speaks to the issue of companies, like sales/marketing industry types, constantly trying to hire "happy, bright" folks for profit, yet constantly hire the same "personality types" which comprimises diversity and "genuine" attitudes. I applied for both Macys and Blooingdales took a rediculous NAZI FASHIST personality test and was never hired even with positive sales references/exp. America is becoming a robotic, socialistic, fashist retard...and so is the marketing industry.
Dalymomma January 10, 2013 at 01:21 AM
I applied at Macy's also (Sherman Oaks, CA). Finally had an interview with them yesterday. The woman interviewing me said I was great, she loved the way I interviewed, and I have open availability so that would be in my favor! Well, I hoped and prayed last night that I would get this job in the cosmetics department. Something I'm experienced in, truly love, and am passionate about doing. And what do you know? This morning I get an email saying that my credentials and employment experience is strong and they will consider me for future opportunities. Mind you, I've been applying at Nordstrom and Macy's since 2008 and I receive that same little aggravating email "We're going to move on to other candidates." I suppose it takes a girl getting out of high school to work in the cosmetics department of Macy's. Go figure. It must be a sign, I'm simply not meant to work for a department store. Anyways, here I am still broke and jobless, contemplating selling the last of my designer purses. By the way, I'm a 23 year old mother trying to make a living. Anyways, great writing! I was truly intrigued and I feel for you. I hope your writing is bringing in a steady income. Sincerely, the over-qualified, jobless mom. XX
Dalymomma January 10, 2013 at 01:21 AM
I applied at Macy's also (Sherman Oaks, CA). Finally had an interview with them yesterday. The woman interviewing me said I was great, she loved the way I interviewed, and I have open availability so that would be in my favor! Well, I hoped and prayed last night that I would get this job in the cosmetics department. Something I'm experienced in, truly love, and am passionate about doing. And what do you know? This morning I get an email saying that my credentials and employment experience is strong and they will consider me for future opportunities. Mind you, I've been applying at Nordstrom and Macy's since 2008 and I receive that same little aggravating email "We're going to move on to other candidates." I suppose it takes a girl getting out of high school to work in the cosmetics department of Macy's. Go figure. It must be a sign, I'm simply not meant to work for a department store. Anyways, here I am still broke and jobless, contemplating selling the last of my designer purses. By the way, I'm a 23 year old mother trying to make a living. Anyways, great writing! I was truly intrigued and I feel for you. I hope your writing is bringing in a steady income. Sincerely, the over-qualified, jobless mom. XX
Susan McMartin January 10, 2013 at 05:31 AM
dalymomma, thank you for your comment. i think it does help for all of us to know we're not alone in this process. if it gives you hope, one week after i got rejected from macy's i got hired to write for 'two and a half men' and have been steadily employed as a writer on the show since. so, a true gift. miracle. hang in there -- you are young, smart, and a mom -- keep doing the footwork and the right thing will come your way!
Heather Jones October 21, 2013 at 06:25 PM
Be happy you didn't get a job at Macy's. Working for that company would have damaged your soul, I know from experience. All the questions and talk of integrity is a ruse so you do not see it coming.
Madeleine R February 13, 2014 at 01:02 PM
Susan, thank you for writing about this! I thought I was alone. I was hired as a seasonal position for Macy's. I was complimented by many managers for my good work. When seasonal position ended, they let all seasonal employees go. I immediately applied for a permanent position when Macy's was doing a hiring event. I received an email asking me to make an interview appointment. During my interview, I answered truthfully, made good eye contacts, smiled, etc. I honestly thought I pleased the manager. I even worked with him several times. I thought he knew my work ethics. However, I received an email 3 days later, saying, "Unfortunately, we do not have a position for you." I was shocked! I thought, "What must I've said that was wrong? What happened?" Then a few weeks later, I applied for another location. This time, I prepared well for the interview. I even had a friend helped me with practice interview questions. Again, the same email message was sent to me this morning. I enjoyed reading your post, by the way. Keep it up! Best wishes.
Ashley Renae Kempke February 28, 2014 at 11:22 PM
Sorry to say, all jobs now days ask you to do that, even Wal-Mart. They do it as a pre-interview interview.

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