Fears of the 1994 Employer

fearHave you ever tried cleaning out an office used by several people before you (one of which I’m pretty sure filed everything he ever did) for a decade or so? It’s a lot of work. I mean, I understand the importance of hanging on to things when they’re important or sentimental, but do you really need the minutes from team meetings that are over 10 years old?

As you may have guessed, cleaning out my office is exactly what I started doing yesterday. Not because I’m leaving – in fact, it’s quite the opposite. My name’s been on this office for a year now, but it still doesn’t feel quite mine. A big part of that reason is that there’s so much junk in here from previous residents. So, in anticipation of the Fall semester, with so many new beginnings for so many students, I decided to clear the junk out, starting with the massive filing cabinet on the far wall.

While 99% of what I found ended up in the scrap paper pile or recycling bin, I did find one absolute gem of an article dating back to 1994. After showing it around jokingly to a couple of colleagues, one suggested that I write an article about it – so here it is (thanks, Penny)!

The article in question was written in 1994 by a gentleman named Philip Whitford. The title at the top of the page dictates in big, bold print:


The general thrust of the article is that employers make many hiring decisions based on fears (i.e. of wasting time/money, alienating employees/friends, or hiring a bad candidate) rather than something else, like – heck, I don’t know – due diligence, or a desire to hire someone great. Some of the article’s suggested fears seem contradictory (they’re afraid of wasting time and money on a thorough search for candidates, and afraid of hiring someone who will under-perform, or worse), and others are laughably outdated (fear of the “superman/superwoman” candidate – more on this in a second). Still, this was 17 years ago – so I’m willing to concede that Mr. Whitford wrote the article with solid intentions and that many readers found it useful at the time.

The one thing employers in 1994 feared most - qualified female employees

Watch out, super job seekers!

Your skills are too threatening, your qualifications too extensive, your achievements too vast! You are clearly on a vigilante super-mission to infiltrate the companies of the world and supplant their secretly less-than-capable leaders!

Yes, they’re on to you! You and your secret league of unemployed super hero university graduates have only one thing in mind: the creation of a new society in which (gasp!) people are properly qualified for their jobs!

The horror… the horror….

Employers are on to your little scheme. So, lest you become cast from the ranks of the employed indefinitely, it’s probably best to keep this plan from your prospective employers. Better to let them think you’re merely average – that way you’ll put their nightmares of being displaced by new hires to rest.

I do  love a bit of good old hyperbole from time to time.

*Cross-posted at the Career Services Informer.